"Advice please. I'm trying to train (the dog) on recall in puppy school but I have a problem bending and walking backwards whilst trying to entice her over for the recall. Does anyone have any ideas or suggestions please." From Positively Q&A Group

Rio and Harvey have questions they want answered

 

What's the best age to start training my puppy?

Right away! Pups start learning pretty much as soon as their eyes open, they're certainly learning everything very quickly by the time they turn 7 weeks, arguably this is their very fastest learning period of life. This doesn't mean they can concentrate for very long, it does mean you can teach them little bits about dealing with the big wide world (seeking your vet's advice about what's safe and what isn't), all before they go out for their walks.

Our Web Course and Owner Training Session (The Big Brain Bit) means we can help you with this very early training before you come to class - maybe even before you've brought your puppy - maybe even before you've chosen your puppy!

Our Puppy Classes have a maximum start age of under 18 weeks because that's the age that puppies start to turn into teens and their training needs change from needing lots of socialising to needing lots of control. It's linked to the cutting of adult teeth.

The evidence for the onset of adolescence varies depending on which expert you're talking to, but 18 weeks is a good guideline and it's the one we've chose to plump with. Individual dogs and breeds also mature at different rates so it really is a judgement call when your dog's puppyhood ends and his teen months begin.

Saying that, always the earlier the better. We'd be the happiest trainers ever if we could speak to everyone as soon as they get their pup/rescue or even before they've chosen him.

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My puppy doesn't have any problems, why should I come to class?

Puppy Class is about prevention much more than it is about cure. Meeting the other owners and their families, learning how to play with other pups, learning when it's okay to play and when play needs to stop, teaching him things you might never have thought about at home. All that is very difficult to do if you don't come to class.

We do let pups off-lead to play but we're very careful how we do it. We like games to be balanced, we like owners to be developing control of their pup while he's loose, we like pups to learn how to greet each other nicely both on and off lead.

For example:

  • We teach that pups should only "Go Play" on owner permission.
  • If pup is shy (or tiny!) we do everything we can to make sure he decides who he wants to speak to, we never force these dogs.
  • If pup is confident (or huge) we do everything we can to make sure he remains as calm as possible when greeting other dogs, for example by letting him play on a long-line.
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When Harry met Specs

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My dog doesn't have any problems, why should I come to class?

No such thing as a perfect dog. But training isn't for the owners of dogs with problems, it's for owners who want to learn more, improve their control, give their dog more to think about. And that's all of us!

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Why no Kennel Club Good Citizen?

We think Good Citizen is a great step forward for the Kennel Club and we support it. However, the contents of our courses don't match Good Citizen exercises, and we like our syllabus better!

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What if I want to take my training further?

We have Move-on courses for all starter courses which gradually improve his skill set until he's as good as you want him and as good as he can be (or as good as we think he can be!)

If you want to look at dog sports such as agility, gunndog training, we're very happy to advise. Also, lots of the exercises we do in Move-on support the exercises you need for such sports. For example: wait training for agility, retrieve/directed retrieve for gunndog.

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What about punishment? How do I tell him when he got something wrong?

We always do everything we can to teach him using reward before even considering the idea of punishment.

It usually is enough for reward-trained dogs to not get their reward for getting a behaviour wrong and we do talk about this, mainly in Move-on classes.

Our policy is to use punishment as a last resort unless the dog's behaviour is life-threatening for him or otherwise very dangerous. But it is vanishingly rare that we've considered aversives in class or advised their use at home. And we'd never do anything to your dog you're not 100% happy about.

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I'm not sure about clicker training, must I use a clicker?

Yes and no.

No, you don't have to use a clicker. But we'd really prefer that you did because it really is the clearest way to communicate to your dog exactly which behaviours you like and you want more of. Clicker is to improve your training and your dog's learning, and it's easy and it's fun.

Yes, we would like you to have a clicker at class because we do some exercises where students click for each other so to fully take part in what we do, you do need to be able to click, even if you decide not to click your own dog. Clickers are provided as part of your course.

And we won't tell you off for choosing not to use clicker.

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I'd like to try agility, can you help?

We'd love to. And at the time of writing, we're trying to find the time and space. However, we do have local trainers we can point you to while we're in the planning stages.

Same advice as above though, please do visit agility class before you take your dog along. Possibly even more important you get agility right than your pet training because the equipment can be dangerous.

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Do you check vaccination certificates?

We used to, but so many people simply forgot to bring their cert and it was taking ages during class time to check so we stopped. If a dog isn't vaccinated, the risk is to that dog not to others who are vaccinated, so we trust students to be responsible and to follow their vet's advice.

Please do make sure you vaccinate and booster as your vet advises.

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I've never left my dog on his own before. What do I do when I visit or come to The Big Brain Bit?

It's good dog training practice to teach your puppy/dog to be left alone in the house. Contact if you'd like extra help with this.

We don't like dogs left in cars in warm weather, even for short periods. If the weather is chilly and he has a secure cage in the back of the car, we'd say that's fine to leave him there. Really is simpler, however, to leave him at home.

If you really can't leave him yet, we suggest you arrange a sitter for him. It's worth it for you to get started on sorting the kind of problem that means he can't be left in the first place.

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How can I be sure your classes are for me?

Visit us.

And if you're considering another trainer, visit them too. No good trainer would deny you this. It really is best practice to allow students to see what they're going to be doing with their dog before they sign him up.

  • We welcome visitors to any class except The Big Brain Bit.
  • Please be patient with us if we can't look after you as well as we'd like because we're concentrating on the dogs in the class.
  • You need to visit without your dog because a new dog in a previously existing group can upset the concentration of the dogs who are working.
  • You might want to contact to make sure the class you've chosen to visit is running (we sometimes take a week off!)

Timetables

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Why doesn't Positively Pets do one-to-one or home visits?

We used to, but we feel our time is best spent helping as many people as possible by teaching in class and supporting students online. We feel these services would suffer if we spread ourselves too thinly, and we'd rather do a few things well. We do think home visits have a place though, and if you think your dog would benefit, please contact because we may know somebody else who could help you.

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What rewards to you recommend I use to train my dog?

All of them! Well, almost. We talk about rewards in detail during The Big Brain Bit.

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What if  me or my dog can't make a session?

If it's The Big Brain Bit, we can book you onto another one. It is best to come to The Big Brain Bit in advance, but you'll still gain a lot if you come down the line.

If it's an ordinary training week, you're welcome to make that session up from another course.  For the sake of dogs already in class though, you'd have to leave your dog at home.  It can upset the group to bring a dog in part way through a course or that course may already have the maximum number of dogs attending.

If it's just your dog can't make it, please do come along to the session without him.  You'll be surprised how much you learn just by watching.

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I can't see the need to come to The Big Brain Bit or work through a Starter Course.

I'm worried I might have to speak in public.

We won't make you speak in public during the handler training session if you don't want to.

Are you sure I won't just be bored?

The commonest comment we get as people go home after The Big Brain Bit is how much they enjoyed the session and how surprised they were at how much they learned.

I've missed The Big Brain date for the current course, I'm worried my pup's going to be too old if I wait for the next one.

We do occasionally accept dogs into class whose owners choose to do handler training after they've started their pup so we can get their puppy started as young as possible. And we would never leave a new starter unsure of what to do next, an assistant will come over to help straight away. Still best to book in time to get the full course in the right order though, please don't wait till he's 12 weeks.

I've trained in a class before, can I start at a higher level?

Yes and no.

Yes, if it's obvious you and your dog know what you're doing, we wouldn't give you the same level of exercise we give those who've never trained before.  We treat all owners and dogs as individuals and we will work to give everyone the level of training that serves their dog, even in the starter courses.

No, we don't start new dogs at Move-on level.  All trainers teach a different set of exercises and use different techniques and all dogs take time to get used to a new environment, so it really wouldn't help you to start at Move-on level.  We all have things to learn from all trainers.

We have found when people miss The Big Brain Bit or come straight into a Move-on Class, they struggle, even if their dog is very good. Especially if their dog is very good! Imagine, we set you up to do an exercise that everyone else in the group knows how to do and you sit there, feeling embarrassed because you're the only one who has no idea what to do next.

Good trainers are happy to start each new skill-set from the foundation level, drilling the basics is the secret of super-performance.  Our Masterclass students/staff always start back in Puppy Class with their new babies, they use the space to socialise and drill the basics to a much higher level than those who haven't trained before.  What we can do is improve your dog's performance at the foundation levels, give you extra homework, answer your questions about more advanced exercises.

Move-on Classes

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Presentation session is a must as a lot of important info can be missed while puppies are barking and excited and trying to keep puppy under control in this environment is often impossible. I would say the only time to miss first session is if you've already done it recently with another dog. I personally think the 2hr week one is a brilliant session having done both the old way with puppy and the new way without puppy distraction. I also think that some people may not realise that it is the human who is being taught how to train their dog. Customer Feedback from Walkie Talkies Group