Introducing your Puppy to New Environments by Kelly Murrell
Following on from our Getting it Right from the Start Tips Series last week, we’ll be sharing more tips for puppies this week!
So, you’ve practiced your games and skills at home and your puppy is now ready to enjoy learning experiences out and about. Fab!
Pick Suitable Out and About Environments
It goes without saying that when we take our dogs outside we open up a huge world of choices! It’s like Aladdin’s cave! So, it’s important to think sensibly about which environments you want to first introduce your puppy to. We love a quiet car park! Car parks are fab places for those initial new environment experiences and the great thing is, there’s lots of them! So just why do we love car parks?
- The surface is less distracting than say a grassy area
- It’s very unlikely that you’ll run in to an off leash dog while you are practicing your skills
- People tend to leave you alone! They have come to the car park to park their car and carry on with their day!
- Of course, think safety. Use a lead or long line and park somewhere out of the way so that you don’t have to worry about cars driving passed.
Once you have explored car parks, when considering other environments, think about the following:
- How popular are they to other users? Will this be too challenging for your puppy right now?
- What is the environment used for? For example, we wouldn’t suggest that you practice your skills in a busy dog walking spot or a busy beach…..for now!
- What is the surface like? Is your puppy ready to work on grass, for example?
Ultimately, the key thing is to think about the environments you initially go to carefully and to always have in mind that you want to set your puppy up for success.
Management of Choices
As previously mentioned, when we introduce puppies to new spaces and places they are faced with an abundance of choices. We strongly believe that management is part of the training journey so that we can help our puppies with their choice making. So that it is more likely that our puppies make the right choice we have to manipulate our surroundings by doing things like:
- Using a long line. We tend to use a long line and step on the end, rather than holding on to a lead. Holding the lead can become a crutch! Hands free is the way to go to grow a lot of fundamental skills
- Picking an environment that offers easy surfaces and then more challenging surfaces. This means you can start your session on the easy surface, say concrete for example, and once you have got the training juices flowing you can move onto the more challenging surface, grass for example.
- Ultimately help your puppy out initially with their choice making and once you are seeing super success gradually grow the complexity of choice making. As you have set your puppy up for success and restricted their choice making early on and reinforced those good choices, it means it is more likely that they will pick those choices you want more readily when presented with more choices as a history of reinforcement has taken place. You have made those good choices a super awesome deal for your puppy!
We love games that create easy wins for puppies and this is especially important when we have taken them to a brand new environment. Getting it right leads to them growing in confidence and the desire to work and learns increases! When we initially introduce a puppy to a new environment we will always start with a conversation starter.
One of our favourites is 2 paws on an object that we bring with us. This game is first played at home, and as this game is something we have practiced already it brings an element of familiarity to an unfamiliar environment because we are using an object that the puppy has seen before.
Once we have played this game we will then lead the training session into another game, maybe something that requires a little more thought and focus, then we’ll end the session with the easy win, the conversation starter! You leave the session happy as you have achieved your goal and your puppy leaves the session happy as you have made the learning experience fun and achievable.
Work = Play = Work Framework
Once you are on the road to success with taking and training your puppy to new environments and you are both reaping the rewards of gradually increasing the complexity, it is time to give your puppy a little bit of down time within your training session.
- Allow them to go off task and have a good sniff or a little run around, then bring them back to the training session and play another game or build the skill you are working on, and then allow them to go and have a little run around and a sniff again. Ping pong it!
- Giving permission for your puppy to simply be a dog is really important, its creates that all important work = play = work framework. As we all know, a little give and take is important in life and this philosophy should be the same for our puppies too. Getting that balance is key.
Training Should be a Fun Time, not a Long Time
This last tip doesn’t just apply to the context of introducing your puppy to new environments, it should be considered for all training sessions, but especially for when we are introducing new places and spaces.
- Don’t push the session. Even if your puppy is only at that peak performance for 1-2 minutes (or less) end the session there. Don’t fall into the trap of ‘just one more go’. End the session way before your puppy has had enough.
- The length of your training session will depend on your puppy, so be observant. How long is too long? If you struggle to stop (we get it, if you are having fun why would you want to!) set a timer.
- It is best that both you and your puppy leave the session on a high and with a sense of achievement!