Phase 1: Get Started

Practice your training mechanics with these simple homework exercises. Yes there will be a test!

click here for a pdf version of these steps

Step 1: Practice Training Mechanics

Your training will not progress efficiently and effectively if you can not see, mark and reinforce accurately and quickly. Just practice these exercises at home and you will be much better prepared to communicate with your dog.

It is easy to anticipate seeing what you want to see, get excited, and mark behaviors before they happen, or mark behaviors you don’t really intend to, or mark any and all behaviors instead of differentially marking the ones that you really like.

Practice using a clicker in both hands as well as your verbal marker. I use “yes” because it is short and the “s” sound is fairly consistent.

Practice getting treats out of whatever container you will use to hold them - if you use a bait-bag, then make sure you can get your hand into it and a treat out of it and into the bowl without futzing or delay.

Check out the puppy foundation pages and FAQ section for further tips on basic training.

Step 2: Practice Training Something Like a Contact Behavior

OK, go get your dog and their dinner, a clicker (if you use one) and some kind of prop and teach them to offer to engage with that thing.

Practice using your training approach. Practice communicating with your dog. Practice timing and placement of rewards. Practice making it fun for your dog to learn. Practice your observation and problem solving skills.

Ready, steady, go!

Step 3: Practice Training Something Even MORE Like a Contact Behavior

If you ran into some training issues - good! Much better to identify them and work through them away from equipment.

Maybe you are confused about when to raise your expectations for performance and you are either expecting too much (rate of reinforcement to low), or too complex (dog has no idea what behavior earns her rewards), or too little (dog gets stuck offering the same thing over and over and over), or too randomly (dog gets discouraged).

Maybe you are overdoing your training sessions, too intense, not intense enough, environment too distracting for optimal learning, rewards too weak, attention and focus too weak...

Hopefully you are learning something about how to work with your dog, where you might have holes in your foundation which are interfering with the efficiency and effectivity of your training, and how fun it is to train 2o2o contact behaviors.

At the same time, your dog is learning some skills that will enable them to later learn their 2o2o behavior with more precision, less stress, more independence, and more speed.

The more you work out away from equipment - the better your actual contact training will go and the better your competition performance will ultimately be as a result.

Now what would I do? I would....

- Move my box to new places (outside, living room, park, agility class....)

- Give my dog the opportunity to go there from farther and farther away (up to 36 feet)

- Encourage my dog to go there with more speed and enthusiasm (better rewards, more play, hand-in-collar, ready/steady....

-Encourage my dog to choose to go there despite other temptations and distractions (other dogs running, toys laying about, things in the way of the box (for example, jumps or tunnels)
 -Teach my dog to choose to go there even if I... hang back, run with, overshoot, pull off laterally, cross ahead, cross behind, throw the toy, leave some treats 10 feet past it
 -Teach my dog to choose to stay there even if I... do all of the above