So as most of my friends, family and customers know, seeing as I haven't stopped shouting this from the rooftops for the past 3 months, in less than 2 weeks Pete and I will FINALLY be getting our puppy 'Lexie'. I say finally as we have wanted a puppy for 6 years and an Alaskan Malamute puppy for 3 years, so it feels like we've been waiting an eternity!
Anyway, lots of people have been asking what we'll be training our little Lexie to do first. I'd be a pretty bad dog trainer if I didn't start where I advised my customers to start, which is with Name Reflex and Eye Contact exercises. What are these I hear you ask? Well read on for a brief explanation on what these simple training exercises are, how to do them and why...
What: Name Reflex is the reaction you want your puppy to have to its name. Every time you say your puppy’s name, you want it to look at you instinctively.
How: Simply say your puppy’s name and give it a treat. The treat needs to be given regardless of whether your puppy looks at you or not. This may mean that you have to walk up to physically place food in your puppy’s mouth. It will be easier to have a handful of treats when you start this exercise, rather than rustling the bag each time for the treat so your pup knows her name precedes the treat not just the rustle of the treat bag!
Where: Practice continually in a lot of different environments, in lots of different positions (eg., standing, sitting, walking).
When: This should be practiced continually in short bursts, either a 5 minute session or a handful of food at a time. Little and often is key.
Who: All the family or household, friends, strangers if you can get them to!
Why: You are teaching your puppy that a good thing always, without fail, follows its name being called. With repetition when you say your puppy’s name, they will instinctively, reflexively look for you. This is an excellent building block for recall and distraction.
What: Eye contact is when your dog looks at you instead of the reward you are offering, such as a treat, dinner or chew.
How: Sit facing your puppy. Take a treat and place this in your tightly closed fist, let your puppy see this. Place your fist in front of your puppy, preferably at eye level so it doesn’t jump up too much and scratch you. She or he may mouth, paw and lick for the treat, ignore all of this and do not move your hand much as this will be too distracting for your puppy. If he or she gives you even a flicker of eye contact, say an emphatic ‘good’ and give her the treat immediately after the ‘good’. Be patient, if after a while you get nothing or he or she gets bored, you can make a noise to try to attract their attention to your face. Try not to get into the habit of always calling for eye contact, you want her to look at you because he or she understands this is how they get a treat, not because you called for attention (like in name reflex).
Where: Initially practice this in a low distraction environment, such as the puppy’s room at home. When the puppy gets good at this, then move it to new environments with more distractions.
When: This should be practiced continually in short bursts, either a 5 minute session or a handful of food at a time. Little and often is key!
Who: One person should practice this at a time, when your puppy is getting the hang of this, then you can get more people to practice with your puppy.
Why: You are teaching your puppy that in order to get what it wants it needs to look at you, rather than fixating on what it wants. This forms the basis for all training and is great for when your puppy is out and about with you!
These simple exercises are really the foundations for all the training we'll do with our puppy Lexie. Of course we'll also be doing Sit, Down, Stay, Loose Lead Walking and so on, but these will all be made much easier by having these basics nailed. If you'd like some help on how to train your new arrival, then get in touch with us via email asap, we can arrange a consultation with you and help you to start off on the right foot with your pup!