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  • Judy Bernard

Now what do I do with my dog?


OK, so you’ve finished the puppy kindergarten class you signed up for and maybe you even attended a follow up course – that’s GREAT! You’re feeling pretty good about your puppy now, and you should! You’ve gotten your new dog/puppy off to a great start and they are probably really good at a couple of things, chances are they are either fully or well on their way to being house trained, maybe you always make them sit and wait for their dinner, maybe they are generally pretty good around people, the nipping and jumping is far less than it was when you first brought them home, and maybe they are generally quiet and don’t bark a lot – all great things. You should be proud of what you’ve done. At the same time, you may still be seeing indications that some of the training hasn’t quite made it to the level you’d like, especially things like walking on leash in distracting areas, the down/stay or other impulse control cues and the recall cue (come) which may work great in non-distracted areas but not when you really need it! You may also be experiencing the dreaded phase of adolescence, where sometimes the dog acts like they’ve never heard any of these cues you’ve taught them. Do not despair!

The biggest thing to remember about your young dog is that it is NOT a computer where once you’ve got the settings and switches adjusted to the way you like it you are done. A dog is an ever changing organism (sorta like children) that continues to learn new behaviors every day, both good and BAD. That means that to some extent, training must continue throughout the dog’s life. It doesn’t need to be as intense as it was when you first brought them home, but if you don’t continue to reinforce the behaviors you want they will eventually disappear! At the same time, we have to understand that every interaction we have with our dog is a learning opportunity, and sometimes they learn stuff we don’t like.

For the larger breed dogs, this may mean things like jumping on counters or pulling on the leash, for all dogs demand barking, begging at the table and exuberant greetings can all be problematic behaviors that adolescent dogs are prone to. Remember the secret is the prevent problem behaviors before they become problematic and reward behaviors you want the dog to do instead! So, if your dog is an exuberant greeter, be sure they are on leash EVERY time someone greets them, AND reward them for holding a sit, or at least keeping all four feet on the floor. Hint – if you reward them by tossing treats on the floor their focus will be down instead of up!

Then, there are some people who actually find training their dog is a fun and rewarding activity and something they want to do more of.

Whether it is to continue to work on getting your dog’s basic behaviors fluent in more distracting situations or pursuing some dog sport or obedience activity, continuing with training can be fun and beneficial for you and your dog.

Here is a description of some of the classes we offer at Proper Paws that you might want to consider.

Graduate Puppy – If you have taken a Puppy Kindergarten class, your next step is the Graduate Puppy class. Unlike our Puppy Kindergarten which was focused on teaching all of the basic skills with no distractions, Graduate Puppy is where we begin focusing on a more ‘real world’ approach. That doesn’t mean we take the pups to the fields or work outdoors, but we do begin working with a greater level of distraction (no more walls!) and asking the pups for more with each behavior. We do a lot of leash work, as well as practicing impulse control behaviors (wait/stay), recalls from across the room and we teach new behaviors like ‘leave it’, ‘go to mat’ as well as some tricks, just to keep things fresh. This class is often referred to as my ‘practice class’, and many people repeat this class one, sometimes two or even three times. I have also had people stop training for a time and come back to the Graduate Puppy class because it touches all the cues and offers enough distractions to be challenging without being too hard for the dogs to succeed. As a result, we often have a variety of ages and skill levels in this class which make the class much more interesting.

Wag it Games – Wag it games is a great class to take as a break from basic obedience. It is a pet friendly version of Agility, Rally and Nose Work and incorporates aspects of all those sports into a fast paced, fun, friendly environment. I am always amazed at how dogs will learn to pay attention to their owners even with other dogs nearby if they are engaged in learning new things.

Master Puppy – Once you have mastered Graduate Puppy and all of its challenges, you are probably ready for the next level. Master Puppy offers the opportunity to practice in the real world. We take our dogs out onto the sidewalks of West Concord, practicing greetings at the Train Depot, Recalls at Rideout and Long Down Stays at Dunkin Donuts! It gives you the chance to really proof behaviors in the real world and your dog an opportunity to learn that even with people and other dogs around they need to attend to you when they are on leash! This class is only offered in the spring, summer and fall.

Rally Obedience -is a fun version of the old fashion obedience trials the American Kennel Club (AKC) and is designed for those that are interested in doing more with their dogs without having to be devoted to a dog sport. Rally allows the handler to encourage the dog verbally throughout the test and is more relaxed than obedience, with tests primarily focused on heeling skills on and off leash. Rally is offered in the Fall, Winter and Spring.

Adventure Class – This is often the pinnacle class for many people as it involved taking your dog into the conservation lands in and around the area and getting them off leash. Dogs must be comfortable with other dogs and have at least a 60% recall. Our goal is to make your dog reliable at off leash recalls as well as proof impulse control behaviors and teach trail etiquette. This class is offered in the spring, summer and fall only and is a 6 week class (no rolling admission).

Canine Good Citizen Class - This class is all about taking and passing the CGC test as offered by the AKC. The Canine Good Citizen test is a 10 part test that measures your dog’s ability to do basic obedience. It is the entry point of most AKC obedience activities. The CGC class is typically offered in the Winter.

Tricks Training and other Special Classes – Periodically, I offer special 6 weeks classes that focus on things other than the ‘regular’ classes, in the past this has included Tricks Training, Canine Sports Survey, Fear Free Veterinary Visits and Recall Class. If you are interested in learning about a particular aspect of canine obedience and don’t see a class listed, let me know, I am always open to new ideas. Also, keep an eye on my web site, or subscribe to my blog or FB page, this is where I typically announce new classes!

Whatever your interest or training goals there is likely a class available for you. Please subscribe to my blog or like my Facebook page for updates on upcoming and new classes. Right now, the Fall classes are posted and available for registration.


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