Marsha Houston’s 2-minute dog trainer — STARTING YOUR PUPPY

The Dog Agility Bloggers’ Event topic for March 2014, addresses the topic STARTING YOUR PUPPY and I’m very excited because this is a topic dear to my heart! To view all the posts go to <http://dogagilityblogevents. puppy/>

Many years ago I developed a couple of handout packages for the “2-Minute Dog Training” protocols. I’ve tested these protocols with hundreds of clients’ dogs and a dozen or so dogs in our own house.

First, basic dog-training protocols for house manners in puppies or adult dogs — four modules cover:  1) attention to name and recall,  2) greeting strangers by sitting for attention,  3) walking on a loose leash, and  4) basic house manners.

Second, sport foundation training protocols for the agility, rally, or obedience puppy — eight modules cover:  1) come to front,  2) stay in sit or down, including an essay on start-line stays for agility,  3) stay in stand,  4) standard and wing jumps,  5) tire jump,  6) weave entries,  7) unambiguous contacts, and  8) heel position.

To purchase the sport foundation package click on <;

I have used mealtime training whether starting a puppy OR introducing an adolescent or adult rescue into my home. There are many reasons we recommend this type of training:

A)  mealtime training establishes structure in the regimen of both the dog and the handler and this structure begins to define their working relationship.

B)  training addresses a range of non-instinctive behaviors and introduces what will be expected in more advanced training. Companion dog sports are accessible to dogs of all breeds and mixes, and do not (generally) rely on instinctive behaviors in the judged performance (versus herding, earthdog, lure coursing, hunt testing, drafting, etc., which are limited to specific breeds or mixes and rely on the instincts bred into the dog).

C)  my relationship with my dog begins to form when daily mealtime exercises become our regimen. She learns how I operate and begins to discover how our training will be based on consistent application of reward for cued behaviors.

D)  my dog becomes confident in her ability to control her environment, to ask for attention, and learns to understand cues for a variety of behaviors.

E)  we form a partnership, and we learn to read each others’ body language and cues.
When I start my own puppy I don’t necessarily start with the really easy stuff. I want to make sure everything is safe for the tiny puppy, but complex tasks are easier than you’d think for your new puppy.

For example, the first agility obstacle my puppy learns to control and dominate is a wobble board. I want her to boldly enjoy and manipulate any sort of movement in her environment.

I began using my office footstool for this training over 10 years ago and that footstool has trained a bunch of puppies!

I don’t insist on a specific performance at first, just tossing food back and forth and allowing the puppy to interact with the wobbly footstool. If she acts surprised about the movement I don’t make a big deal about it, I just keep tossing food and let her figure it out.

It takes just a few minutes to begin shaping (either with luring and feeding, or click and treat) the puppy actually climbing over the footstool.

My goal is to have my puppy confidently slamming the footstool down with her front feet, climbing the footstool with all four feet, riding the footstool down as it drops, and any variation of that list of behaviors.

My puppies learn quite early to enjoy movement, banging, and wobbly footing. Once they’ve completely dominated the footstool a nap is often forthcoming.IMG_0306


This footrest (wobbly, noisy equipment) training has become the first agility training I do with my puppies!


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