INSIDER TRAINING: Setting Your Pup Up For Success
Here at PUPS, we want to give your dog a paw up when it comes to his or her development and socialization. In the second article in our INSIDER TRAINING series, Senior Trainer, Sam Lacy, demystifies the process of setting up for success. What you do now can either help or hinder your pup over the long term – let’s help!
Slow and Steady: We know your dog is a “good boy.” Giving your pup space to learn doesn’t diminish how good he is. But shooting out of the gate too fast can impede progress. Sam sees it time and time again. She encourages parents to think of training like a video game: Don’t jump from the first level to the 10th. Build from an easier level to a gradually harder one. So, it looks something like this:
- “Level No. 1” is the easiest; work with your pup in your distraction-free apartment.
- “Level No. 2” might involve easing into the hallway, with more distractions from the likes of passing people.
- “Level No. 3” is a trip to the lobby, home of your dog’s favorite doorperson and myriad other distracting sights, sounds, smells and sensations.
Repetition, Repetition, Repetition: Man’s best friend. But your “best friend” during training is going to be rinsing and repeating. Step back. Practice more. If problems arise when moving from Level 2 to Level 3, Sam encourages parents to identify the sticking point. Is it the elevator? The door leading to the lobby? Remember: Your dog likely isn’t “ignoring you.” He likely doesn’t know what to do. If he’s confused, pause, reflect and practice. Maybe your treat is not “high value.” Introduce a new treat when getting your pup to walk calmly from apartment through hallway to elevator. Maybe he needs more time to get accustomed to the environment – the sensory overload that comes with moving from suburb to city. Consider the situation. Adapt accordingly.
Stress in the City: Members often seek Sam’s expertise when their pup is pulling or being “reactive” on the leash. Intense excitement or overwhelm can manifest as undesirable behaviors. As your pup develops, introduce a steady variety of new experiences. Do not, for instance, send pup out the door with a dog walker before he or she has been gradually introduced to Chicago’s stimuli. Easing into a stimulating environment prevents the city surroundings from becoming a source of stress.
Training in the Time of COVID: Like a ping-pong ball, many PUPS members have bounced back and forth between working from home to working at the office and back again. Sam reminds us to be ever mindful that doggo doesn’t need to follow you to the bathroom. She doesn’t have to be in your space 24/7/365. In fact, Sam encourages parents to be intentional in making their pups “sit” or “stay.” Work on place training. Use the crate as needed when your pup craves a nice, soothing, cocoon-like retreat from the world. This approach is great for both you and your dog’s mental balance!
In the next article, we keep the momentum going with effective ways to correct lingering undesirable behaviors – and how NOT to reinforce them.