This page discusses and gives video examples for how to have a successful start in positive reinforcement puppy training. The puppies in the videos are between 6 weeks 6 days and 7 weeks 1 day and have only been in training for about a week.
Not only are these videos informational and educational, the puppies in our early training videos are super cute to watch. In fact, I think these videos are some of the cutest we’ve ever made.
On this page, we discuss the four key internal qualities that must be built into a puppy in order to prepare a puppy for life. Our primary focus in training these puppies is internal qualities. However, we are also training three important life skills in these videos as we build these internal characteristics. Read on to learn what these internal qualities are and how to build them into your puppy while you are training the most basics of good behavior.
Listed below are the behaviors and the internal qualities that we are addressing in the videos on this page.
Teaching Puppies Good Behavior
- Sitting on command
- Learning to get into a down with shaping rather than luring, and
- Learning to stay in a down position.
Building Internal Qualities in Puppies
- Confidence (in both themselves and in their person)
- An ability to focus on a task instead of on a food reward
- An intense desire to work for and please a person
Building Self-Control in a Puppy
The first internal characteristic that we will discuss is self-control. A video of a puppy who is currently named Gunner will help me to demonstrate a training session in which the puppy was beginning to learn self-control. Gunner is only 6 weeks 6 days old.
This video shows a typical training session with a puppy this age. Gunner is learning to recognize both the sit and the down without a lure. He is also learning to stay still in the down position instead of simply going down and popping right back up. Gunner is super cute as he puts his all into the training by throwing himself into a down.
Gunner’s video also shows a good example of how positive reinforcement training creates self-control without punishments. Gunner occasionally tries to jump but quickly learns that jumping is not what brings reward. He earns his reward by staying still. Good positive reinforcement training gives sufficient motivation to practice this self-control. See our upcoming page on The Secret to Good Positive Reinforcement Training for more information. Practice is key for building self-control and it can only be learned with the right kind of practice.
The Shaping Game
The next video is of a puppy who is now named Max. He is also only 6 weeks 6 days old. Max is trying very hard to successfully play what he thinks is a game. This game is called shaping and it involves guessing what it is that I want him to do to earn his reward. Max initially guessed that I wanted him to go around behind me and lie down in between my legs. I rewarded this behavior because initially I don’t require perfection.
I reward effort and the dog guessing closer and closer to the behavior I want. Lying down behind me and between my legs may not have been exactly what I was after. However, it was a good first step. Max is indeed getting into a down position. Therefore, I rewarded it.
Shaping and marker training are the training tools that give puppies the motivation and the ability to focus that they need to practice self control. See our soon coming pages on Shaping and Marker Training for more information on these valuable training tools.
Most puppies guess something that is not quite right at first. However, I will gradually shape the behavior into what I want by discouraging the wrong aspects of what the puppy is doing and rewarding his effort and his getting closer and closer to perfection.
You may notice in the video that I am physically trying to block Max from getting behind me in order to keep him successful. The puppy will learn without any punishments that it is easier and more rewarding to simply lie day in front of me.
Building Focus and a Desire to Work for and Please a Person
The game that I use in these videos teaches puppies to use their brains to focus on earning the reward instead of on the reward itself. This is the key to having a dog who loves the work itself instead of being obsessed with the food. Making training into a game builds in puppies a huge amount of focus and a tremendous desire to work for and please a person.
Notice in this next video how I handle it when Bee doesn’t promptly go down when I ask her to. I never repeat commands over and over. Neither do I lure her into the correct position. This is one of the biggest contributors towards a loss of focus and a dog tuning someone out. See our soon coming post on Focus and Doggy Tune Outs for more information.
When Bee doesn’t immediately obey, chances are good (almost 100% if you are training well) that she doesn’t understand what you are asking of her. Repeating the command isn’t going to help. If she didn’t understand the command the first time, she probably won’t understand it the next time. So, what do you do?
Try waiting for a few seconds. You can see in Bee’s video a couple of times when waiting was sufficient. She simply needed time to think about what I was asking of her.
If the dog (or puppy) still can’t figure it out, try verbal encouragement. Verbal encouragement is not repeating the command. It is talking to the puppy in an upbeat tone encouraging her to try something different. You’ll see me using this technique also several times in the video below.
Building Confidence in a Puppy
Confidence is one of the greatest gifts you can give a puppy. Without it, they will go through life unsure of themselves, unsure of their environment, and possibly even unsure of you. See our soon coming video on Building Confidence in a New Puppy for more information.
Notice in the next video that Mr. Orange (whose name is now Frank) is not going into a down in the manner that most of us would expect from a puppy or a dog. However, this puppy is trying hard, giving me his all, and very proud of himself. I wouldn’t dare correct the way he is getting himself down.
It is more important at this tender age that confidence is built than for perfection to be attained. In fact, maintaining confidence should be more important for a dog’s entire life!
The goofy behavior that Frank demonstrates faded within a few days. My family got a good laugh at him and most importantly Mr. Orange never knew he did anything wrong. His confidence grew and 6 weeks later we got word from his new “daddy” that he was heeling with head held high and with good focus down the streets of New York City.
Behavior is important, but developing internal qualities is more important!
Putting It All Together
Mr. Maroon in the video below happened to have guessed correctly earlier than most of the others. He, too, is only 6 weeks 6 days old but look at how good he is already doing!
For More Information
The videos above give a good snapshot of how we train our puppies in the early stages. They also give a good idea of the training that we provide our puppies that leave us prior to 8 weeks of age. See our Training Expectations page for more information on how we train and what you can expect from a Summer Brook puppy at various ages.