What is the first thing I should teach my puppy?

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What is the first thing I should teach my puppy?

Teach your poodle to look at you.


A dogs natural inclination is to smell, they smell the ground, the air around them, your shoes, bushes, trees, furniture, yummy things in the kitchen, the list of good smelly things is endless. Smelling is the way a poodle or any dog collects information, more so than sight.


When a poodle is busy smelling or looking around they usually tune you out. You have to teach your dog that you are more interesting than all of those other things. When our dogs are very young, less than 7 weeks old we start to teach the cue “look”. You can use any word you want, look, watch me, etc. Just be consistent. You can use a clicker to mark the behavior (clicker work effectiveness is dependent on your timing) or a verbal good boy/girl.


Set your puppy up for success, all training should begin in a room with very little distractions, not other dogs, not their food bowl or toys on the floor. You will work up to training with distractions but it takes time and a puppies maturity. Start with a handful of treats. Treats can be their daily kibble if they are food motivated. If their kibble doesn’t excite them up the reward to something they love. When your puppy looks at you say good dog (or click)  and give it a treat. When puppy looks at you repeat good dog and give it another treat. Now you have it’s attention, haven’t taught it a cue but puppy understands there are rewards. The second step is to say look and wait for puppy to look at your face. For attention pull the food from the puppies nose to your face. As soon as you make eye contact say good dog or click and reward immediately. Poodles are smart and they can learn this very quickly. Repeat until the puppy will look at your face without food being drawn to you. You will be a treat vending machine while they learn this. When they look away say look and immediately treat when they look at your face.  Eventually your puppy will wander off, try saying look and getting their attention. Don’t forget to reward immediately. Keep your training sessions short.  A few minutes multiple times a day is better than 15 minutes all at one time.


The key to any training is timing, you must mark the behavior as quickly as possible. At first asking for a short look and then add a little time. Add time as your puppy is capable of paying attention. The goal is to set them up for success, teach them you are interesting and to pay attention.


Treats should not be thrown on the ground! This teaches a dog to do a behavior and then look at the ground for it’s reward. Treats should be handed to them or if a dog is old enough and capable enough thrown into their mouth. You want the puppies eyes on you not the ground. Every action you have teaches a puppy something whether intentional or not.


You are on your way to success. You can practice this any time even for just a few minutes. I keep treats on the counter to practice training.


More on clicker training coming soon.



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