Puppy training homework

Weeks 1 to 6 puppy training homework

Puppy homework sheets that accompany the puppy training classes which are hosted by Minds Alike & The Wheelhouse Dog Training School.

We highly recommend you save this page in your Favourites so you can easily refer back and keep practising your training at home.

You can follow along with your classes and take it week-by-week or you are welcome to look ahead – we know some are super keen! 😉 

Remember, any questions or concerns please do email us at office.mindsalike@gmail.com.

Have fun training! 🙂

Week 1

Practice the following:

(Click the link for the relevant videos)

Remember:

Try to practice all these in various rooms in your house and in your garden.

Helpful training tips:

  • Dogs learn visual cues faster than they learn verbal ones. For example, many people teach sit by accident. During feeding time you may hold your dogs’ food bowl up high. He would like to look at the food so he sits down as this is a more comfortable position to view it from. The human likes this, so give him the food, and before you know it you have taught the visual cue of a raised hand as the cue for sit.
  • Be patient! Some dogs will need to stay on stage 1 for several sessions, some dogs will stay stuck on stage 2 and get very confused if you try and move onto stage 3 too quickly. If your dog is stuck, just be patient, whilst questioning if there is anything you could do to make it clearer.
  • Some dogs will get it very quickly, and some dogs will struggle to co-ordinate. Think of this as a puzzle game – you are providing the information and your dog has to figure out what you want.

A word of warning! Common mistakes:

  • Moving your hand signal too quickly so your dog has nothing to follow to help him work it out.
  • Moving your hand away as it reaches the floor – this will make your dog stand up to try and follow the treat.
  • Repeating the word ‘down’ over and over again – say your command once only.
  • Give your dog time to process it all, and stop and do something else after a maximum of x5 repetitions.

Step-by-step guide:

This is a great exercise to get your puppies ‘warmed up’ for training.

  • Start by getting ready with your treat in one hand and clicker in the other.
  • Say your dog’s name
  • When they meet your gaze mark and treat
  • Make sure they look directly to your eyes and not watching the treat.

Tip: hide the treat behind your back if your puppy struggles to focus on you.

Stage 1 – Sit with a lure:

  • Hold a treat on your dogs’ nose and slowly lift it back over his/her head (slowly enough for him/her to follow) 
  • When his/her bottom hits the floor mark and release the treat
  • Repeat until s/he is confident

Stage 2 – Sit with no lure:

  • Clasp your fingers as if you were holding a treat and bring your hand over your dogs’ head 
  • When his/her bottom hits the floor mark and reward Repeat, and when s/he is confident with this start to say the word ‘SIT’

Stage 3: Sit with no lure and phasing out the hand signal 

  • Repeat stage 2, but gradually bring your hand signal to a higher position until eventually you don’t even need to bend down at all

Stage 1: Down with a lure

  • Start with your dog in a sit as it will be easier for them to lower themselves from this position. If this is still quite new to them then be sure to reward it. If they are confident sitting on command then move straight into training the down.
  • From a sitting position, place a treat on your dogs’ nose and SLOWLY move it down towards the ground
  • When your dogs’ belly is touching the ground mark and reward 
  • Repeat until s/he is confident with this

Stage 2: Down with no lure 

  • From a sitting position, pretend to hold a treat on your dogs’ nose and SLOWLY move it down towards the ground 
  • When your dogs’ belly is touching the ground mark and reward 
  • Repeat until s/he is confident with this, and start to say the word ‘down’ 

Stage 3: Down with no lure and phasing out the hand signal 

  • Repeat stage 2, starting off with your hand signal going all the way down to the floor 
  • Once confident with this try with your hand signal 5cm off the floor
  • Then 10cm, 15cm, 30cm, 40cm…etc. Until you can just say down with a downward hand signal and verbal command without having to bend at all.

Now is the perfect time to start to teach recall 

  • Find a helper and stand 5-10 metres apart in your living room or garden 
  • Call your dog between you (‘COME’) 
  • Each time s/he comes he gets a reward 
  • Repeat 

Remember! Use exciting voices and inviting body language to help him learn what you want.

Week 2

Practice the following:

(Click the link for the relevant videos)

Remember:
 
You are doing so well, and your puppies are gaining in confidence.
Those of you who are finding your puppy are a little nervous, please just break everything down into baby steps and try to avoid putting too much pressure on them.
 
Raising a puppy is a journey, not a process. Everybody’s journey will be a little different, and sometimes small successes can mean a great deal.
 
Helpful training tips:
  • If your dog pulls, plant yourself. If your dog is in a good walking position by your side with a slack lead, mark and treat. This will be a test of your patience and perseverance, but it will be so worth it!
  • Set yourself goals – aim to really concentrate on this exercise between one landmark to another, and then stop so both you and your dog can have a break. Do not under-estimate how much self-control and concentration it takes for both of you. Duration of any trained behaviour must be built up slowly, and concentration levels may be limited, especially for puppies. 
  • Think about when you need to stop e.g. at a roadside – give your dog plenty of warning and ask for their attention or a sit at least 4 steps in advance of the road, so they have time to listen, process and perform the task in time. 
  • Think about when you may need to turn – give your dog plenty of warning, exaggerate your body leaning to give him/her the idea that you are turning, and use your hand (which by this point they should be very interested in) to guide them to stay by your side.

**If s/he is turning on your outside this is quite clear – as you turn lean away from her/him and pat your thigh to encourage her/him to come with you.**

**If s/he is turning on the inside, lean into her/him and your hand may need to come back behind your bottom a little to encourage him/her to get behind you.**

Practice exercises for your garden: 

  • Weaving around cones/plant pots 
  • Figure of 8
  • ‘Look for cars’ – Practice stopping and reward your dog for stopping with you 
  • Turns – Practice turning around an obstacle and keeping your dog at your side 

A note on luring and loose lead walking:

If luring with a treat helps them to learn, this is fine, particularly for turns or for distracting situations, or if your dog is nervous. However, I am not a fan of constantly luring as I feel it leads to frustration. I would rather the treats were held high up in your hand, in your pocket or in a treat pouch and were handed down to your dog in a timely manner after a marker signal. 

**Luring is like following a sat nav – they get to the final destination but don’t always remember how they got there!**

Step-by-step guide:

This is a nice trick to get your dog interested and following your hand without a lure. 

  • Present the back of your hand 
  • Your dog will likely approach it to sniff 
  • As soon as his nose touches the back of your fingers mark and reward 
  • Repeat, holding your hand at different angles each time so your dog has to orientate to your hand. 

***Never push your hand to your dogs’ nose, as this defeats the purpose of the exercise.

(Hand target trick to bring dog close to your leg from the side) 

  • Hold the lead, treats and clicker (if using one) in your opposite hand to the side you are aiming to work your dog on 
  • Position yourself side on to your dog 
  • Present your hand closest to your dog, and whilst taking a side step away from your dog, use your hand to draw your dog in towards your leg 
  • As soon as they are by your leg mark and reward
  • Repeat 

(Hand target trick to bring your dog from the front to your side facing the right way for walking) 

  • Hold the lead, treats and clicker (if using one) in your opposite hand to the side you are aiming to work your dog on 
  • Start with your dog facing you 
  • Draw a ‘u’ shape with a treat to lure your dog to your side (away from you, behind your bottom, and back in towards your thigh). So s/he essentially turns in a semi-circle beside you. 
  • As soon as she is by your side facing the correct way mark and reward
  • Repeat 

(Using Hand target, Close and Finish and putting it all together) 

A note on loose lead walking – How to hold the lead:

How you hold the lead becomes the cue for heelwork (you can say the verbal command and eventually it will be learnt, but the fastest thing the dog will learn is the visual cue). 

I recommend holding the lead in the opposite hand to the dog so it is hanging loosely across your body. The first reason for this is safety: if you suddenly needed to bring her/him in short it will only take placing your hand on the lead near her/him to do so.

The second reason is the lead will stay slack and you will be less tempted to hold her/him in with a constant pressure, which makes it very difficult for her/him to relax the tension (and therefore learn loose lead walking). Ultimately, it is up to you how you hold the lead, but it is important that you have a system that you and your family can be consistent with. 

I also recommend choosing the side you would like to train your dog. Your dog can learn both sides as long as you are co-ordinated enough to adjust your signals, but I find for human and canine learners alike it is easier to start with one side consistently. 

  • Hold the lead, treats and clicker (if using one) in your opposite hand to the side you are aiming to work your dog on 
  • Get started on the right track by ensuring your dog is by your side (i.e. use your finish to manoeuvre them there, or position yourself by your dog). 
  • Walk, and when your dog is by your side with a slack lead mark and reward 
  • Keep marking and rewarding intermittently so s/he gets the idea that her/his task is to stay in that place.
  • If s/he pulls, STOP and use your finish signal to ask him/her to come back to your side.

**Initially this might mean every 2 steps – don’t be alarmed!**

**If your dog is confident with what is being asked, you may wish to delay the reward until they have walked with you a few steps again.**

**If they are still a little unsure of what is being asked of them, reward them for listening to the finish signal AND then reward them when they are walking with you again**

Week 3

Practice the following:

(Click the link for the relevant videos)

Please continue to practice:

  • Attention
  • Sit
  • Down
  • Hand target
  • Close
  • Finish
  • Walking nicely
Remember:
 
Again, well done for your progress!
 
A note on recall:
 
Hopefully you have all had fun with the Recall Relay and Elastic Recall Games.
Some of you may be getting to the point of trying these at the park, or maybe you are considering giving your dog some more freedom. 
  • A Long line is a really useful tool to give your puppy some freedom whilst building your confidence with your recall. 
  • Recommended is Clix (Company of Animals) 5m or 10m long lines – as they are light and a good material. 
  • For stronger dogs I may suggest a Shires Lunge Line. 
  • Using a Long Line (video)
Helpful training tips:
  • If you notice any tension please speak with your trainer.
  • If your dog goes wrong and pinches the item, stay calm, recall them and reward them for coming and start the exercise again returning to an easier step. 
  • Leave is for out of bound items, so do not do this with things which your dog is normally allowed to play with.
  • In everyday life – if you notice your dog has stolen something – do not chase them or make a drama out of it, as this could teach them that it is a game, or something they need to guard. 
  • Instead, calmly recall them or distract them and pick the item up.
  • Possessive behaviour is part of a dogs DNA and vital for survival and it is also learned based on their observations of the behaviour of those around them. If, you are calm and non-reactive, they shouldn’t learn any bad habits.

Step-by-step guide:

Stage 1a:

  • Present a closed fist of food.
  • When your dog backs off mark and reward (other hand).
  • Present an open hand of food. When your dog backs off mark and reward (other hand).
  • Take your food hand up to your shoulder and present it on your knee (open hand).
  • Start to say the word ‘leave’ as you present the food. When your dog backs off mark and reward.
  • Repeat this for a few sessions.

Stage 1b:

  • Then try this with food on a surface. Manage it initially with a hand over it, building up to trying to leave the food open.
  • When your dog backs off mark and reward (other hand).
  • Then try this with food on the floor. Manage it initially with a hand over it, building up to trying to leave the food exposed.
  • When your dog backs off mark and reward (other hand).

Remember – Reward with other hand:

  • The reason that rewarding with your other hand is important is so that your dog does not learn that he can go and get what he is being asked to leave at any point.
  • The reward comes from elsewhere (i.e. YOU).
  • This is important in order to be able to utilise this training in real life situations vs party trick situations.

Next stage:

  • You can also practice leave with taboo items, to help to devalue them and have your dog interacting with them in a different way.
  • Please be very careful with this exercise.
  • Never do this with items that are unsafe if your dog were to pinch them, or items which you feel they may be aggressive over.
  • Start by holding the item against your leg. Say ‘leave’ and when your dog backs off mark and reward.
  • Repeat with the item in different places in relation to you, gradually getting lower to the floor, but you still holding it.
  • If your dog is relaxed and leaving reliably, try placing the item on the floor under your foot.
  • If they back off mark and reward.
  • Build on this until you feel you could leave the item unmanaged on the floor. If they back off mark and reward.

Challenge:

  • If you really fancy a challenge – try dropping or throwing the item gently, building the exercise up slowly to become more challenging.
  • As always, if your dog backs off mark and reward.
  • Try a different item each session utilising safe food packets, recycling, slippers, children’s toys etc.

This is a fun game for the garden and the park (use a long line if it is not yet safe to allow your dog off lead).

  • Eye contact 
  • ‘Good boy/girl’ and reward by throwing some chicken 
  • Allow your dog to go and chase it and eat it 
  • Move away 
  • Say ‘Come’ in an exciting voice and with inviting body language and reward your dog with a treat or play
  • Repeat

Week 4

Practice the following:

(Click the link for the relevant videos)

Please continue to practice:

  • Attention
  • Sit
  • Down
  • Hand target
  • Close
  • Finish
  • Walking nicely
  • Recall
  • Leave
Remember:
Hopefully you are all feeling like you are on the right track with your puppy, and gaining in confidence in terms of handling.
Don’t forget, if you are struggling please do call us, email us or request a 121. We are here to help.
 
A note on play:
Play is such an important element of bonding with your dog, and can also be used as a reward. But in order for this to happen we need our dogs to learn to play nicely without getting too excited and hurting us. We also want them to see dropping and giving toys back to us as a good thing. This can take time for some dogs, so be patient.
 
Helpful training tips:
  • Only say the cue once and say it confidently. If your puppy gets up too early, simply ask them to return and try again. Maybe this time break the training down into easier steps. 
  • Some dogs will be nervous about you moving away, so don’t push your distance too early. Build up your distance gradually to increase your dog’s confidence. 
  • Once the foundations are solid, it is time to work on the Three D’s Distance, Duration and Distraction 
  • Practice getting toys off your puppy using the drop cue, as was shown in class.
  • Don’t snatch the toy. 

Tug of war is such a great game for: 

  • Teaching self-control 
  • Teaching the dog not to bite hands or play with clothing 
  • Teaching your dog to control excitement levels – s/he can get excited but needs to be able to calm down again when asked. 
  • Teaching a dog that dropping and letting go of toys leads to more games, not the end of fun. 
  • Bonding and enjoying spending time with you 
  • You will find if he ‘wins’ the toy he will come running back to you for more. This is because it is not about winning for dogs, and they understand if they want the play to continue they have to make it fun for everybody.

Some older books say never to play tug-of war as it will make a dog aggressive or dominant which is simply not true. Many gun-dog schools discourage tug-of war too in fear that it will effect a soft retrieve. I disagree, believing that dogs can learn to tug, and dogs can learn to retrieve and drop under two separate cues (and dogs which are inclined to shake a bird probably won’t end up in the gun-dog field collecting valuable pheasants anyway so don’t worry about it!).

Cheat way to teach drop – suitable for children 

  • If your dog is holding a toy or stolen item – close a treat in your hand and hold it up to your dog saying ‘drop’ 
  • As soon as they let go ‘good boy’ and open your hand and allow them to have the treat 
  • Calmly remove the item

Step-by-step guide:

  • Ask your dog to sit. Verbal praise ‘good boy/girl’ or treat if you feel they need the encouragement 
  • Ask your dog to ‘stay’ with a flat hand signal (think stop if you were a traffic warden) 
  • Take one step backwards 
  • Immediately return to your dog, mark and reward
  • Repeat

Note:

  • If your dog gets up to follow you, you may need to break this down into even smaller steps (i.e. shaping).  For example, just lift one leg, or just rock back.
  • Once you have mastered one step back, your dog should be starting to get the idea that they have to stay in a sit and you will come back with the food.
  • Now try one step to the right or left.
  • Next I would try building your distance to a few steps (gradually).
  • Next I would try moving right/left or half turning your back on your dog.
  • Return, mark and reward.
  • Lastly I would try fully turning your back on your dog.
  • Return, mark and reward. 

Building for the future:

Once the above steps are mastered the challenge is to build on: 

  • Distance – Stay away from your dog for gradually increasing distances, building (slowly!) up to what you feel you would need or expect in real life situations. This will mean different directions, turning your back on your dog, and maybe even going out of sight! 
  • Duration – Stay away from your dog for gradually increasing amounts of time, building (slowly!) up to what you feel you would need or expect in real life situations.
  • Distraction – Examples of distraction in early training could be to practice with other things going on in the distance, practicing in various environments, moving your arms or legs in novel positions (e.g. hands on your head or stand on one leg), involving movement (e.g. do a little dance or a star-jump) and bending to tie your shoe lace.

Remember!

  • If your dog goes wrong, just start again and reduce the challenge.
  • Some dogs will get this very quickly and be very relaxed about you moving away, but for some they may feel anxious.
  • Take your time, and only work at the speed that your dog is comfortable learning.
  • If you push for more distance and duration than your dog is ready for, they will only get up leading to frustration for you and your dog.
  • I focus on getting a reliable and confident stay at a reasonably close distance, working on duration and distraction, before worrying about distance.
  • This is more relevant to real life scenarios in which you will use your stay.
  • Ask your dog to sit (or at least just ensure they are not jumping for the toy).
  • Invite them to play with the words ‘lets play’ and an excitable movement with the toy.
  • Ensure the toy is kept low so the dog is not needing to jump for it, and move in fluid movements from side to side to ensure you don’t strain the dog’s neck.
  • Also ensure to match their strength i.e. only pull as hard as they are – this doesn’t need to be super competitive.
  • (For some dogs, you may need to build up their interest – snake it along the ground like a cat toy, allowing them to chase it, or hold it steady for them and move backwards allowing them to come towards it.)
  • Once you have played with your dog for 30-60 seconds, slip your hand under the collar (to stop them from continuing to tug backwards) gently and go floppy with the toy, subtly scrunching it up in your hand so they have less to hold onto.
  • Wait patiently, avoiding eye contact (so as not to be threatening).
  • As soon as your dog lets go ‘good boy’/girl’ and start again.
  • Repeat 2-3 times before having a rest (let them keep the toy, or put it away).
  • Once they are confident with this, and are letting go readily – start to introduce the word ‘drop’.

***This is not suitable for young children

***For any dog which shows high-arousal or aggression around their collar being touched or items being taken off them – please speak with your trainer for individual advice.

Week 5

Practice the following:

(Click the link for the relevant videos)

Please continue to practice:

  • Attention
  • Sit
  • Down
  • Hand target
  • Close
  • Finish
  • Walking nicely
  • Recall
  • Leave
  • Toy play (Tug of war) & drop
  • Stay & return
Remember:
You are all doing really well. Please remember to talk to us if you are struggling with anything. 
 
Your puppy’s are growing up. In some ways things may be getting easier because you have made progress with toilet training, and teaching them not to puppy bite.
However, in some ways, they will start to get more tricky as they build in confidence and get more independent.
 
During adolescence they can get particularly difficult, and sometimes it feels like your training has gone out the window. Don’t worry, it hasn’t! Just like human teenagers, during adolescence they can be easily excited, easily distracted, mentally preoccupied and sometimes more anxious. It is just a phase.
 
Keep training and you will get through it and come out the other side with a model citizen adult dog. (Adolescence starts at around 6 months for smaller breeds, and 8 months for larger breeds.)
 
A note on play:
Play is such an important element of bonding with your dog, and can also be used as a reward. But in order for this to happen we need our dogs to learn to play nicely without getting too excited and hurting us. We also want them to see dropping and giving toys back to us as a good thing. This can take time for some dogs, so be patient.
 
 
What’s next for your training?
With next week being the last week you may wish to think about what’s next. We’ve got you covered.
We offer the following courses to help keep you and your dog on the right track:
animal training dog classes

Step-by-step guide:

By this point, you should be able to leave your dog in a stay for a few steps backwards/right/left as you have already done the sit, stay and return exercise from last week. 

  • Ask your dog to sit. Verbal praise ‘good boy/girl’ or treat if you feel they need the encouragement.
  • Ask your dog to ‘stay’ with a flat hand signal and walk away for whatever distance you know your dog is comfortable with. 
  • Pause and then call them ‘Come’ in an exciting voice with inviting body language.
  • Repeat.

***If your dog gets up early – do not reward him/her but start the exercise again, making it a little easier. 

Building for the future:

Once the above steps are mastered the challenge is to build on:

Distance – Stay away from your dog for gradually increasing distances, building (slowly!) up to what you feel you would need or expect in real life situations. This will mean different directions, turning your back on your dog, and maybe even going out of sight! Remember to take your time. 

Duration Gradually increase the length of time in which you stay away from your dog, building (slowly!) to what you feel you would need or expect in real life situations. A two second pause before your recall is a good place to start. 

Distraction – Examples of distraction in early training could be to practice with other things going on in the distance, practicing in various environments, moving your arms or legs in novel positions (e.g. hands on your head or stand on one leg), involving movement (e.g. do a little dance or a star-jump) and bending to tie your shoe lace. 

Remember! 

  • If your dog goes wrong, just start again and reduce the challenge. 
  • Only build distance and duration at the speed that your dog is comfortable learning.
  • If you push them too soon, they will go wrong, leading to frustration for you and your dog.

Choose two toys that your dog may enjoy playing with.

  • Get your dog excited about the toy by getting it moving near them.
  • Throw it for your dog and allow them to chase it (only a short distance)
  • They may pick it up and bring it back, bring it slightly closer or just pick it up and immediately drop it again – whichever place you are starting at – give them lots of praise and immediately throw a second toy as a reward.
  • Repeat this exercise.
  • With repetition, your dog should start to bring the first toy closer to you, until they are dropping it at your feet.
  • They will learn that retrieving and relinquishing the first toy, leads to more play with the second toy.
  • Once they are dropping reliably add in the word ‘drop’ just before they do so. 

Remember: 

  • Never chase your dog to try and get a toy back. This will only encourage them to run away.
  • Be patient: some dogs have a stronger instinct to possess items than others.
  • It is instinctual to want to chase and pick up toys. However, dropping them requires training. 
  • If they have stolen a non-toy item, do not over react.
  • Instead, get another toy and work on encouraging your dog to come towards you.
  • Ask them to drop the stolen item, and as soon as they do so reward them by giving them the other toy.

Week 6

Congratulations!

Well done for all your progress over the last 6 weeks!
 
Keep going!
This training needs reinforcement, your dog’s will not forget, but their responsiveness will diminish if you do not repeat the training, and start to intertwine it into everyday life.
 
What you have learned:
  • Attention
  • Sit
  • Down
  • Hand target
  • Close
  • Finish
  • Walking nicely
  • Recall
  • Leave
  • Toy play (Tug of war & retrieve) & drop
  • Stay & return
  • Stay & recall

We hope to see you again in our follow on class:

  • Intermediate Life Skills and/or a Walk N’ Train group. 
For the future:
  • Scent-work classes
  • Fun Gun Dog classes
  • Dog Club: Pick N’ Mix classes 
  • Webinars, seminars and work-shops
We really hope you have enjoyed your training and hope to see you in the future. 
 
If you have any trouble Laura Ward can see you for behaviour issues or one of our trainers can see you for 121 training.
 
Like our Facebook Page to get information on events and classes.
 

Further training:

Intermediate Classes | hosted by The Wheelhouse Dog Training School & Minds Alike

This 6 week course  is a perfect follow on for the puppy course, or for those dogs who are entering training classes at older than eight months.

We will strengthen and build on the skills learnt in the beginners course and help you to understand how to apply your training skills in the real world, by challenging your dog to work around distractions, increase impulse control and practice calm controlled behaviour in an exciting environment.

We also work on your skills as a handler, ensuring your handling and direction is becoming clear and fluid and work on new exercises, including obedience,  target training and retrieval exercises to help to develop these training skills.

Book here:

Walk ‘n Train – Social & Recall Course | hosted by Minds Alike

This 4 week course is perfect if you struggle with recall and keeping your dog’s attention whilst around other dogs. It is also great for socialisation purposes.

We will look at how the dogs are interacting and walking together, what is (and isn’t) appropriate play and socialisation, and learn to read the dogs’ body language and understand their interactions.

This also a great opportunity to meet other like-minded owners, who may become future walking buddies that also want to instil good training and behaviour!

 Please note:

  • The class will be between 45-60 minutes, depending on the dogs present.
  • Dogs must be friendly with other dogs
  • Dogs must have had their primary vaccinations 
  • This is appropriate for dogs from 3 months old. If we have any large breed dogs (i.e. Labrador or larger) we will be mindful of their age and not wishing to over exercise their joints.

All training is carried out by qualified and accredited instructors (APDT) using kind, fair and effective methods.

More information on training locations can be found below:

Book here:

 

This curriculum is owned by Minds Alike | Animal Training & Behaviour and may not be used or shared without consent.

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