Pete’s Puppy Principles is a three part series discussing how to leverage a puppy’s instinctive behaviors as part of your pet’s training regimen.
REACTION TO BEHAVIOR
DICTATES FREQUENCY FORCED FOCUS
HIGH VALUE REWARDS
EXTINCTION OF BEHAVIOR
#1 REACTION TO BEHAVIOR DICTATES FREQUENCY:
This is one of the most important principles in teaching your puppies behavior. All puppies are born with the instinct to survive…..every breed, mixed breed or even feral pup. What this means that as a pup explores his universe at that young age he is essentially on a constant path of “testing waters”. If a behavior, in any way, benefits a pups existence or experience, the chance of repetition of that behavior goes up. Survival dictates that anything that gets you a positive response is now key to your survival and should be repeated until shown otherwise. Perfect example: Puppy jumps on you. If the first time they jump, you turn and walk away, paying the pup no attention, he may try again. But if that same response happens again, that jumping behavior will start to automatically diminish as survival dictates NOT to waste energy on behaviors that are non productive. This principle involves the entire environment if the puppy is to see this as a true rule. If reactions are not consistent, then neither will your pup’s behavior. You are his teacher(s) and you all must teach the same thing.
#2 FORCED FOCUS:
I love this one!! It is designed mostly for “walkies” and teaching better manners on leash. Here is where you make your puppy pay attention to you by doing simple things that cause the puppy to CHOOSE to focus on you without you soliciting them directly. Here’s how it works: Say you are taking your dog for a walk on leash. As you walk the pup is all over the place like they just smoked crack. Do any and/or all of these things:
1) Change your walking speed to one faster where the pup thinks you are playing. If the pup has no idea when that running game begins or ends, he is forced to focus on you in anticipation of that game.
2) Carry treats on your walk but keep them hidden in your pockets. As your pup pulls out in front of you, back up and call the pups name brightly and when the dog comes back (incited by your backing up movement) ask for a sit and IMMEDIATELY reward with a treat. Do this little movement without rhyme or reason but at least every 10 steps. Now the pup is FORCED to anticipate the treat and watch you closer during the walk waiting for the treat.
3) Go to your local Home Depot and buy a bunch of those small orange construction cones. Lay them out in your yard. No particular pattern is necessary. Now take the pup on out and again have treats in your pockets that are easily accessible. Clap hands and get dog to watch you….feed dog treat. Take leash, move briskly AROUND cones. It is imperative that you keep your movements spontaneous and navigate around the cones with no pattern. This again FORCES the dog to watch you and focus on your next move because you will be using intermittent sits to reward the pup.
4) Toys. Take your pups favorite toy on your walk. At unannounced intervals take out this high value reward and play with your pup vigorously, so the pup is totally focused on the game. Now hide the toy and walk 10 steps and repeats. Keep this up and the pup will not take their eyes off you or they might miss their toy.
The point of forced focus is the concept of making yourself more interesting than the environment around the dog. There can be no focus on anything that does not excite the pup. You must assume the responsibility of being more interesting than any place you bring your pup to attain and maintain his attention on you.