Thursday, January 6, 2011

Fun and Games at Puppy Class

It's a new semester of puppy class, and the dogs are learning some new behaviors.

The puppies in training are going to start working the cue "paw," where the dog calmly places his paw in his handler's hand. On the surface, this seems like it's just a cute trick, having the dog shake hands. However, it can be very important for nail clipping. All of our dogs must be comfortable having their nails cut, and "paw" can be used to have the dog give his handler his paw so his nails can be cut.

The puppies are also learning to use a target stick. A target stick is a piece of duct tape at the end of a wooden dowel or some sort of stick. Goal is to have the dog calmly touch his nose to the duct tape. This teaches the dog to target duct tape with his nose, and we can then use this skill to teach more advance behaviors, such as pushing a button to open an automatic door or touching a person's leg to alert them to a sound.

Watch SSD Rio touch the target stick with her nose.

Loose leash walking is one of the most important skills a service dog can have. The dog must learn self control to walk nicely beside his handler with the leash in a loose J shape. There are many methods of teaching loose leash walking, and the method you use depends on the situation. In the new method we taught last night, handlers walk backwards while the dog walks forward on a loose leash. Handlers click and treat the dog for walking on a loose leash. This method is often successful because the dogs are not used to pulling when they're walking toward you, so they should be walking on a loose leash.

Watch SSD Sienna, SSD Zappa and SSD Nubble, who joined us from the Northeast, demonstrate the new method of training loose leash walking.

Although loose leash walking is an extremely important skill for service dogs, it's not the most exciting skill to teach. To make it more fun, we played musical hoops. Musical hoops is a game similar to musical chairs, only we substitute hula hoops for chairs. The hoops are arranged in a circle and while the music is playing, the dogs must walk around the circle on a loose leash. When the music stops, each dog must sit with at least two paws in a hoop. Of course, there is one less hoop than there are dogs. The dog without a hoop was eliminated from the game, we removed one hoop, and the dogs continued walking on a loose leash. We continued playing until there was only one dog left. All of the other dogs practiced very nice down-stays.

Watch SSD Jagger, SSD Nubble, SSD Taz, SSD Topaz and SSD Yukon play musical hoops.


  1. Go Nubble and Donna! Looks like class was really fun! Everyone looks great!

  2. Class was very good!! All of our raisers are doing such an amazing job!! And it was a great first class for Nubble and Donna - keep up the good work!

    -Rebecca Lamb

  3. It looks like a fun class and the dogs are doing great. Thanks for posting the videos!

  4. Musical Hoops is a lot of fun for the handlers and the dogs. It's actually one of the games we play at PawsAbilities. If you and your dog want to try it, come to PawsAbilities on March 12-13 at the Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg!