In class we were using orange cones, but at home you can use absolutely anything, and feel free to mix it up. Once you pup is comfortable targeting different objects, it quickly become easy to teach more complex skills such as Ringing-A-Bell to go outside, closing doors, picking up dropped objects...the list is endless!
- Make three small piles, containing 5-7 treats, and place them within easy grabbing distance.
- Start by holding your chosen object in your right hand (or left if you're left handed), and your clicker with your first pile of treats in your other.
- Place the object on the floor, your puppy will quickly approach and check it out - be ready to "click" as soon as your puppy's nose makes contact with the object and quickly follow-up with a treat.
- Wait for your puppy approach the object again, click and repeat.
- Use all your cookies from the first pile, once that pile is empty promptly pick up the object from the floor and have a short break. Repeat with the two remaining piles.
Note: If your puppy is weary of the object you have chosen don't worry, this can be a great socialization game. Go through the same steps as listed above, but instead of waiting for your puppy to touch the object with their nose, you can instead click and reward for them "looking" at it, "choosing to approach", "sniffing", and then finally touching.
Once your puppy is comfortable being close to the object you can place the treat next to/on top of it, this way the treat is coming from the new scary object on the floor, instead of directly from you. You'll be amazed at how quickly your pup will gain confidence.
This same technique can also be used for scary things you encounter on your walks.
Start with your puppy in a Sit. Placing a treat in front of their nose, move it down to the ground in between your puppy's paws. Wait for your puppy's elbows to touch the floor, then Click and reward.
If your puppy is standing, use the same luring motion, but this time Click when your puppy's bottom makes contact with the ground.
Puppy keeps moving? Break the process up into small pieces. Instead of Clicking for the end result, you can and click and reward for an in between position. For instance, their bottom is still on the ground but their elbows have yet to touch the floor – they look a little bit like a hunched over bunny rabbit. Click it. Reward it. Next time aim for a slightly less hunch bunny.
Once your puppy is reliably follow your hand signal you are ready to add the cue “Down”, but not before. After a little practice you can start to increase the Duration, Distance and Distractions around you, and replace the Clicker with your release word “Okay”, just as you did with Sit.
Sit: Adding Distance
Once your puppy is happily sitting on cue, be it a hand signal or “sit”, we are now ready to add a little distance.
The first step is often the hardest, so take your time, and set your puppy up for success.
Cue your puppy to Sit, then take a small step backwards, pause briefly, then return to your puppy before releasing with “Okay” and rewarding. Review the Release Word tips from our second class if needed.
If your puppy got up as soon as you stepped back, break your movements down. For example, keeping your body still, move your feet without stepping away, then release and reward your puppy for staying still. Next, take a small step back with one foot, then return to your puppy before releasing with the “Okay” and rewarding.
Progress to 3-5 steps in a low distraction environment. Remember to always go back to your starting position in front of your Pup before releasing.
Set yourself up to succeed. There are an endless number of ways to get your puppy to come to you, so, keep it fun and simple.
Only use the word “Come” if you are 80% sure of success. If the odds aren't in your favour, improve those odds.
Pick your window: wait for your puppy to pause if playing with another dog.
Squeal. Clap your hands. Run away. Make chasing you the game of the moment.
Get closer, but don't chase them....that becomes a whole different game!
“But how do I know if I'm going to be 80% successful?” Great question. The best way to gauge if the odds are in your favour is to get eye contact.
If your puppy is distracted, call their name. If they ignore you, then I'm pretty sure they will also ignore you when you call “Come”. Don't set yourself up to fail. Improve your odds first, as listed above.
Call their name. Once you get eye contact ask them to Come (in a happy, cheerful voice) while moving away from them.
Body language is important. Moving away from them, though it may seem counter productive, will help to draw them towards you. The faster you move, the quicker they will run after you.
The hand signal I use involves slapping my thigh, but I also follow up with a hand lure, wiggling my hand in front of me as if I am holding a toy. This gives your puppy something to focus on, and helps them to avoid further distractions while they are coming to you.
As your puppy approaches stand up straight, lifting your hand a little. This will help your puppy into a sit position. Wait a couple of seconds then release them with the “Okay” and follow up with a reward (toy or treat).
Drop/Tug Of War
Give the command “Drop”, while placing a treat in front of your puppy's nose. When they let go of the toy say “yes”, offer them the treat, and while they are distracted hide the toy behind your back.
Using “Drop” as part of Tug Of War. Ask you puppy to sit. Release with “Okay” and reward your puppy by allowing them to chase/catch the toy. Don't let go of the toy for now, your puppy may running away with it.
Allow your puppy to tug a little then give them the cue “Drop” and reward with a treat.
As well as a Sit, you can practice Stay, Down, Come, Touch, each time rewarding them with the toy/tug, before asking them to Drop. Your pup will love this game.
The Magic Cookie
It's time to start fading-out the visual cue of the food, and instead create the illusion of the Magical Cookie! To do this we want to progress from luring the puppy with a treat into a Sit/Down/Come, to using a simple handsignal...no cookie present.
Once your puppy is comfortably offering the desired behaviour with the treat visible, pinched between your fingers, try the same hand motion but keep the treat hidden. Your fingers are still pinch, they still smell of cookies, but this time the food is safely hidden in your other hand.
Your puppy shouldn't notice the difference. As soon as they have offered the behaviour, Make It with a Click,"Yes" or "Okay" and promptly produce the hidden cookie as their reward.
The next step is to move from "pinched fingers without a cookie" to your simple hand signal, each time marking and rewarding with the hidden cookie.