Top 5 Dog Training Tips
by Clare Benson of Dogs Inc
When I start working with a new puppy and their pet parents, my focus is on building responsiveness, developing the human/puppy bond and setting both puppy and parent up for success . The key is to keep it simple; puppies only have a
very short attention span so sessions are short, rewarding, fun-filled and motivating.
Look at me
Eye contact is probably the most important cue to teach your dog as it’s helpful in so many situations. Puppies are easily distracted and find it difficult to respond to you if you’re out of their line of sight. Teaching ‘look’ will help to positively interrupt your puppy from unwanted behaviour or to redirect their focus back to you. It’s a great way to get a moment of calm in an excitable or fearful situation and can help to reset your puppy if they’re having an emotional reaction to something. I also use it as a way of getting a dog to say ‘please’. Pup wants to go outside? Ask for eye contact before opening the door . Time for dinner? Ask for eye contact before putting down the meal. Teaching eye contact is simple, you can capture your pup looking at you by saying ‘yes’ then giving a treat, or use a treat between your fingers to draw your dog's gaze toward your face, again say ‘yes’ the moment your pup looks at you then reward with a treat. After a few repetitions you can remove the treat lure and just use your hand signal. Once the pup is easily offering eye contact you can add your verbal cue ‘look’.
Teaching your puppy not to snatch food from your hands is a great impulse control exercise. Have a high value treat in your hand and get the puppy interested in it. Close your fist so the puppy can’t get the treat out but allow the pup to mouth your hand. Wait! As soon as the puppy gives up trying to get the treat and backs away, say ‘yes’ and release the treat in your hand. After a few repetitions your puppy may offer a sit as well. Bingo! Puppies will soon learn they need to sit nicely and not lunge for the treat in your hand.
The name game
Grab some delicious treats and hold them out of sight behind your back. Say your pup’s name, then immediately deliver a treat. Make sure your pup isn’t looking at the treat when you say the name, the treat should appear immediately afterwards. Repeat a few times. That’s one session. After a few days you should notice that your pup immediately turns to look at you when you say their name, Say ‘yes’ to mark this attention followed by a treat reward. This is a great game to play if you have more than one dog as they learn each other's' names and to take turns.
I love this game, it’s so easy to teach and so much fun for your pup. I use it in many situations when I need my pup to be happily distracted. Simply throw a couple of treats down on the floor in front of your pup. Say ‘find it’ as you throw. Your pup will do exactly that. Repeat many times gradually increasing the distance. Once your pup understands that ‘find it’ means there are treats on the floor you can throw further away and in harder to find places so pup has to search.
Ditch the bowl
Measure out your pups food for the day then add a handful of delicious treats. Use this mix to fill various food dispensing toys and puzzles to give to your pup throughout the day. There are so many great products on the market but you can also use items you already have at home such as empty water bottles with holes poked through, ice cube trays (dry food mixed with peanut butter or cream cheese and frozen), rolled up towels and the cardboard centre of the toilet paper. This keeps your pup busy, provides essential enrichment and most importantly - lets your dog be a dog. It also teaches your dog to chew on toys that you provide them and not on your furniture, shoes and ankles.
About Clare Benson
Clare Benson has been training dogs since 2013 and runs Dogs Inc — a fully licensed home boarding service. She believes in the fear-free philosophies of positive dog training, which includes socialisation, exercise and enriching activities for canines.
Through positive reinforcement-based training methods, Clare improves the bond between humans and your furry companions, while providing a home away from home experience with daily hikes and adventures during boarding.
Clare has been a Sai Kung resident for over 20 years. She is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA), karen Pryor Academy Graduate and is an active member of both the Hong Kong and dog training communities.