Puppy Kindergarten Training Class in Holbrook, MA: Now at a New Time!
By popular request, we have changed the time of our Puppy Kindergarten group training class in Holbrook to 11AM on Saturdays! If you have a puppy between the ages of eight weeks and five months of age that needs training, come join us.
Our Puppy Kindergarten class combines basic manners and obedience training (sit, down, come when called, loose leash walking) with socialization opportunities (puppy playtime, novel objects, and body handling) to help your pup develop into a companion you’ll enjoy for years to come.
Puppy playtime is one of the fun activities in our Puppy Kindergarten group training class!
Join our Puppy Kindergarten Class!
Like all of our group training classes, Puppy Kindergarten is open enrollment which means you can start immediately as long as there is a spot open in class. We limit our classes to just four students each, to make sure everyone gets plenty of one-on-one instruction. This is not one of those big-box-store free-for-alls – you will get the attention you deserve!
Ready to join us? Enroll online today! All of our classes take place at A Dog’s Day Away, 440 Weymouth Street, Holbrook MA.
Dog and Puppy Training Classes in Holbrook, MA
Want your dog to learn something new this year? Our free dog training orientation class in Holbrook, MA is just for dog owners who want to know more about training dogs.
About Our Dog Training Classes in Holbrook
Meet our instructors, learn about our methods, and find out how our training program will improve your dog’s behavior at home, on walks, and around the neighborhood.
Talk with our trainers one-on-one after the program to find out which class is right for you, or if private training lessons in the comfort of your own home are a better option.
We use clicker training and positive reinforcement to create real behavior change. Our techniques work for dogs of all ages and all breeds. Whether you’ve got a playful puppy nipping your hands and clothing or peeing on the carpet, or an adult dog dragging you down the street or lunging at strangers, our training program can help. In addition to teaching group dog training classes in Holbrook, we also offer dog training in Milton, Dorchester, Randolph, and surrounding towns.
Free Dog Training Orientation
Start Smart is a no-strings-attached opportunity to learn more about us. We know you have a lot of options when it comes to dog training. Meet us in person, get to know us a little bit, and ask us questions. We love questions! We understand our methods inside and out and want to help you achieve success with your dog.
Ready to get started? RSVP online to reserve your spot at our Start Smart orientation. All classes and orientation take place at A Dog’s Day Away, 440 Weymouth St, Holbrook MA 02343.
Contact us today. We look forward to helping you with your dog!
What Makes a Good Foundation Agility Class?
In my earlier post about Puppies in Agility Classes, I laid out an informal definition of a foundation agility class. To elaborate on that, here’s what I think a good foundation agility class should encompass:
A good foundation agility program should grow the dog and handler’s teamwork and communication first. Only then should the team move on to building confidence and competence on agility equipment. My goal is to keep the dog safe and happy while sparking the handler’s interest in what’s to come as the dog progresses.
A good foundation agility class should not focus on the actual pieces of agility equipment, but on building the skills the dogs and handlers need to teach those obstacles safely and easily the first time, hopefully eliminating the need to “re-train” anything during the dog’s lifetime.
What skills are necessary?
For the dog, they include:
Focus is an important foundation skill that should never be taken for granted.
And for the handler:
- Offering behavior. If the dog approaches a novel object it should try a variety of behaviors to earn rewards – looking at it, climbing on it, walking around it, picking it up in their mouths, etc.
- Focus on the handler, even in the face of distractions. Agility classes and trials are very busy places and it’s easy to lose a dog’s attention. “Focus” is a behavior that needs to be taught and maintained, not taken for granted!
- At least twenty seconds of stillness, which evolves into a start-line stay, table position, and contact position.
- Relaxation in a crate. Agility dogs spend a lot of time in crates. The sooner they learn to chill out and take a nap, the better.
- Sit and down promptly on one cue.
- Solid clicker training skills: timing, criteria, reward placement, record keeping.
- Patience and ability to free-shape a behavior. I’m not totally against luring, but I find most new students use it as a crutch and try to lure the dog on/over/around/through everything, which later interferes with independent obstacle performance.
- Basic performance of front, rear, and blind crosses. These will be explained in depth in classes that include sequencing, but I find they can be very challenging to some handlers so I like to give them a head start.
- The ability to motivate their dog using a variety of rewards – play, treats, toys, and games.
The Big Picture
When I teach foundation classes, every step of the way I explain or show how the skill we are working on ties into the “big picture” of competing in agility with our dogs. I explain these skills as part of the dogs’ future warm-up routine or as a prerequisite for a particular piece of equipment.
In the spirit of “positive reinforcement for all”, pieces of agility equipment are introduced after the dog and handler have trained the necessary prerequisite behavior. As an example, students that come to class having practiced “down” and stays all week get to train on the table at class.
It’s Not That Boring
This may seem slow when its written out like this, but most adult dogs only need one, six-week session of a foundation class before they’re ready to tackle agility equipment. It really depends on the dog and handler team and what they have learned before they join class. If the dog has only received punishment-based training and the handler has never heard of clicker training before, they will need more time at this foundation level as compared to an experienced hobby trainer who has competed in other sports and is now dabbling in agility.
If you’ve taken a foundation agility class, I’d love to hear from you in the comments. Was it a good experience for you and your dog? What do you think makes a good foundation class?
ClickerExpo 2013 Recap
I am dreadfully behind in blogging! March was a very exciting month and I’m eager to share the highlights with all of you.
Strata and I attended ClickerExpo 2013 in Stamford, CT. This was my third ClickerExpo and every year it just gets better and better. It is such a positive experience – three hundred clicker trainers in a hotel together is a guarantee of a low-stress environment that is perfect to learn in!
I started the three-day weekend with a session called “Advanced Shaping for the Agility Trainer” by Eva Bertilsson and Emelie Johnson Vegh. My partner in crime was Casey Lomonaco from Rewarding Behaviors Dog Training, a fellow Karen Pryor Academy graduate from New York. She and I were asked to bring our dogs to demonstrate some of the techniques. We had a blast breaking down the skills for both dogs and handlers. I attended a lecture taught by Eva and Emelie on Sunday as well, and have already started incorporating their “stationing” technique into my classes.
This was followed by a lunch for KPA graduates, students, and faculty and it was great to hear what other Certified Training Partners are up to! There are over 500 graduates worldwide now, involved with many species and using clicker training in a variety of applications including competitive animal sports, service dog training, TAGteach (clicker training for people), horseback riding, and veterinary care. I was honored to be in such great company!
Another highlight of my weekend was attending a lecture and hands-on training lab with Michele Pouliot about “Strategic Reinforcement”. Michele is a champion canine freestyle competitor, and her “day job” is working with Guide Dogs for the Blind, a service dog organization which has switched from “traditional training” (using physical corrections) to clicker training with outstanding results. I always learn something new from Michele and this was no exception.
Strategic reinforcement refers to what you do after the click and how that can influence training. It seems counterintuitive at first – what you click is what you get, right? Yes, but how and where you reward the dog (or cat, or horse, etc.) can set the dog up for the next repetition for the behavior. Not planning a reinforcement strategy can hinder your training by making it harder for your dog to repeat the clicked behavior. (If you’re familiar with Alexandra Kurland’s “loopy training” philosophy, strategic reinforcement and loopy training are like peas in a pod.)
I had a “lightbulb moment” during the training lab. I have worked on competition obedience behaviors with Strata in the hopes to title him in AKC and UKC obedience, but I was having trouble perfecting heel position (where he stands at my side). Just by changing where I presented his treat, I was able to set him up for the next repetition perfectly. In one five-minute training session at Expo, I was able to teach Strata the behavior we had struggled with for weeks. And it “stuck” – he offered it later that night, and again during our training sessions at home!
Other sessions and labs we enjoyed included Ken Ramirez’ “Effective Non-Food Reinforcement”, where I had another “lightbulb moment” on the use of toys in training (specifically, why toys seem to be rewarding to dogs), and Kay Laurence’s “Connected Walking”, which is a philosophy of teaching dogs and owners to enjoy walks together.
If you’re thinking about attending ClickerExpo next year, I highly recommend it! Every year I learn new things and leave feeling energized about training both my own dogs and my students. The east coast location next year is Norfolk, Virginia, March 28th-30th. As long as it doesn’t interfere with AKC Nationals, I will be there! (And if it does, I might just fly out to California for the west coast ClickerExpo.)
My next “catch-up” post will be about AKC Agility Nationals in Tulsa, OK. Stay tuned!
Show Dog Skills: An Overview
Last night I took Spark to his first ever breed handling class. We’ve been practicing our ring routine daily at home, and I wanted an opportunity to work him in an unfamiliar environment and around strange dogs to see how his skills would hold up.
A variety of skills are necessary for a dog to do well in conformation shows. Here’s an overview:
Gaiting: The dog must be able to move around the ring at a trot. There are a variety of “patterns” the judge might ask for, but they can essentially be broken down into these elements:
Spark practices stacking on the table.
Teaching a dog to gait isn’t much different from teaching loose leash walking. I click and treat Spark for walking politely at my side. Unlike in obedience, my goal is that he does not look up at me while he walks; rather, I would prefer that he looks straight forward. I can click for this, and I can also make sure that I feed him with his head straight rather than curled toward me.
Stacking: The dog needs to be able to stand in a specific way – more or less square, though some breeds (German Shepherds) have their own special stance. Stacking can be further split into:
- Straight lines
- The go-around (running along the perimeter of the ring counterclockwise)
- About turns (handler and dog both make a 180-degree turn to the right)
My goal is to shape Spark to free-stack himself both on the table and on the ground. He is already comfortable being hand-stacked on the table. (Shelties are not traditionally hand-stacked on the ground, though it is permissible for young puppies like Spark.) There are many elements to training a dog to free-stack, and it will take some time to teach them all!
I was pleasantly surprised by baby Spark’s behavior in class. He performed most of his show ring behaviors correctly, with just a bit of goofiness during gaiting. I learned that his about turns and straight lines really need work, more so than I originally realized.
At this point, his stacking looks pretty good. He’s getting better about allowing me to hand-stack him on the table, though he occasionally decides not to let me place his front feet – I lift one up to place it in the correct spot and he stands there with his paw in the air, refusing to set it back down. (I got some great feedback on fixing that.)
In the coming weeks, I’ll share more info on what Spark and I are working on to get him ready for his show ring début, which is just over one month away!
- Free-stacking, where the dog sets himself up in the correct stance
- Hand-stacking, where the handler gently manipulates the dog’s legs to help him be in the right stance
- Additionally, both hand-stacking and free-stacking can be done on a table or ramp. Small dogs are judged on elevated tables so the judge can more easily examine the dog. (Shelties are a table breed.)
Does Your Dog Have Self Control? (Plus: A Secret!)
For the last six weeks I have blogged about the topic of self control at Dog Savvy, my WickedLocal community blog. These blog posts and accompanying videos discuss jumping on people, climbing on furniture, and stealing food. Here’s the full list:
Self control vs. imposed control for dogs: “Leave It”: ““No!” “Leave it!” “Off!” These are three cues that are more familiar to most dogs than “sit”, “come”, and “good dog.” Surprisingly, they often work against dog owners and serve to reinforce the very behaviors the owners are trying to punish…”
VIDEO: Teaching self control around food: “As promised, here is a video clip demonstrating how I teach dogs to exhibit self control around food.”
SELF CONTROL: Don’t jump to conclusions: “Last week, I addressed the topic of self control around distractions, specifically food, and the ubiquitous “leave it” cue. This week I’ll address dogs that jump up on their owners and on furniture – another aspect of self control…”
Training how-to: Teaching ‘Hop Up’ and ‘Off’: “In my last post, I explained how shouting at or pushing away a dog that is jumping up on you often reinforces that very same behavior. Inconsistent training from people who interact with the dog further builds the dog’s desire to jump up on everyone. My solution to this problem is to teach the dog to listen for a specific cue that means it is now acceptable to jump up, and to only jump up when he hears that cue. Here’s how you teach it…”
VIDEO: How to train your dog to get on and off of furniture: “After some technical delays, at long last, here is the video clip I promised. This is the technique I use to train dogs to get on and off of furniture on cue. Enjoy!”
I feel like I have been neglecting this blog a bit, but I’ll make up for it now by letting you in on a little secret. This month I’ll be blogging about trick training over at Dog Savvy. If there is a particular trick you would like to know how to teach, tell me in the comments and maybe I’ll write a tutorial on it!
How to Get Behavior: Targeting
Now it is time to wrap up my series on “How to Get Behavior” with targeting! Targeting is like a hybrid between the three methods I have already explained: luring, capturing, and shaping. Here’s why.
Strata performs his hand target behavior.
How to Target
First, you must use capturing and/or shaping to teach your dog to touch or follow a target object. One example of this is hand targeting, which I teach in almost all of my dog training classes. The dog touches his nose to his owner’s hand when presented with an open palm.
When the dog understands that targeting behavior, you can then use it to train other behaviors by using the target as a lure f or the dog to follow. For example, I teach dogs to get on and off of furniture on cue by first teaching the dog to hand target, then using that target to lure the dog on and off of furniture.
There are lots of variables with targeting. You can use any object as a target, and popular items include wooden spoons, sticky notes, and plastic lids. I have a how-to guide for creating duct-tape targets on my website, which are very versatile. The dog can be taught to target with a different body part. For example, hand targeting requires the dog to use his nose, but you could also teach the dog to target an object with his paw, chin, or entire body! In a way, mat behavior is like a full-body target.
Why not just lure?
How is targeting better than luring with food? I prefer to use a target, particularly a hand target, when possible because I find it is easier for my students to fade a target than a food lure. It seems to me that the dog can focus more on the task and what his body is doing and not just blindly following food. Additionally, when using a hand target as a lure, the hand target can very easily evolve into a hand signal for the behavior. All three of my dogs will dismount furniture if I point to the ground; this was taught first by hand targeting them off, then clicking them for jumping on the floor (but before they could touch my hand). Then I simply changed my hand signal from an open flat palm to a pointing index finger.
Targeting can be used for so many behaviors, but here are some ideas to get you started…
- An over-exuberant greeter can be cued to hand target when meeting a new person
- A hand target provides a visual target to drive towards during a recall
- Prevent your dog from counter-surfing while you’re in the kitchen by having her lie on a mat (full-body targeting)
- Teach your dog to spin to the “left” or “right” by having him follow a target stick or wooden spoon in a tight circle
How to Get Behavior: Capturing
Over the last few days, I have written about shaping and luring here on Spring Forth Dog Blog. My next topic is capturing, which is a pretty simple, straightforward way to get behavior!
Clicker training allows you to capture a behavior, like this terrier's adorable tilted head, so you can put it on cue in the future! (Photo Credit: Mike Weston)
How to Capture
Simply put, capturing involves waiting for the dog to do the ENTIRE behavior you are looking for by himself (no prompts from you), then clicking when he does so. Capturing is the best way to get more of those charming little behaviors that your dog does spontaneously, such as tilting his head or licking his lips.
Capturing can also be used to teach a dog to sit or lie down on cue. I do this with some dogs that never offer to lie down in a training session no matter how much luring we try.
To capture a behavior, you must keep treats in your pocket & a clicker handy. Observe your dog closely and be ready to click when he happens to do the behavior! Then give him a treat.
Chances are, the dog will have no idea what earned him the click and treat the first time, but if you stick with it and continue to watch the dog for more examples of behavior, you will notice the dog doing that behavior more often.
I suggest that my students keep a log where they write down when they were able to reward the dog for doing that behavior. On the first and second day, it might only be twice a day, but by the end of a week, they’re capturing it a dozen times a day! Clearly the dog is learning something.
Practice Makes Perfect
Capturing requires a lot of patience as well as good timing from the trainer. Remember: training is a mechanical skill, just like learning to ride a bike or play an instrument. It takes a bit of time to get good at it! Practice your timing and observation skills away from your dog first, before trying to capture a new behavior.
How to Get Behavior: Luring
Last week I started off my series on “How to Get Behavior” with shaping. Now I’m going to explain a bit about luring and how to use a lure to teach behavior.
The term luring refers to the use of a desired reward to coax the dog into achieving the desired behavior. The “desired reward” is nearly always a food treat, but toys are another choice. Luring can be used to teach many behaviors, including sit, down, loose leash walking, and a lot of tricks.
Most dog trainers use treats as a lure, but toys can also be used. (Photo Credit: Lulu Hoeller)
How to Lure
I use food lures in my group training classes unless the owner is very concerned about the dog becoming dependant on a food lure. (More on that below.) I teach “sit” by showing the dog a piece of food, moving it right in front of his nose, and lifting that piece of food up and towards the dog’s tail. This lifts the dog’s head up and back, resulting in his weight shifting from his front legs to his back legs. Nearly always, this causes the dog to sit. I then click and give the dog the treat.
After doing this three or four times, I get rid of the food lure. This is the most important step, yet it is the one that most owners skip! As soon as the dog has an idea that “bum on ground = I get the food”, I lure the dog with an empty hand, pretending that I have a cookie. The dog is now busy watching my hand as it goes up and over his head, and he sits. I click and give him a treat from my pocket or bait bag. The dog now understands a hand signal for “sit”. My fingers pinched together above his head, moving towards his hindquarters is the “green light” to sit.
As the dog becomes more proficient, I alter my hand signal to make it more and more obvious that I don’t have food until just lifting my hand up, palm facing up, cues the dog to “sit”. I can then add a verbal cue, if I am so inclined.
There are several things to keep in mind when luring. It’s not the right solution to every training problem. Here are some of the potential pitfalls…
Becoming dependent on food being visible. This is the number one issue with luring. Owners complain, “My dog only sits if I have a treat in my hand.” The good news is this can be prevented: as soon as you have the behavior, get rid of the food! Re-read my paragraph above: I only lure the dog three or four times before switching to an empty hand.
Scaring the dog. Simply put, it is unfair to lure a nervous or frightened dog. For example, when I teach agility classes, new students almost always try to lure their dogs over the agility equipment when the dog is clearly afraid of the obstacle and is not sure what to do. It is only okay to lure a happy, relaxed dog into something he is physically and mentally capable of doing. If the dog is unsure about how to walk on a narrow plank, your best bet is to shape the dog to walk on it literally one step at a time. This will build the dog’s confidence up about that obstacle.
Although I do use luring with my students, it is an approach I use rather infrequently with my own dogs. I am patient and possess the timing skills necessary to shape most behaviors with my dogs. There are some behaviors that I think can be trained faster and more easily with a lure, such as teaching a dog to “spin” in a tight circle, but for most other behaviors (including sit and down) I choose to capture them instead. More on that in my next post!