New Environments for Puppies or Young Dogs
So, you’ve practiced your games and skills at home and your puppy is now ready to enjoy learning experiences out and about. Fab! This week, we would like to share our tips to set your puppy or young dog up for success when it comes to training in new environments so that you achieving your training goals and you and your puppy or young dog have a simply awesome time together!
Pick suitable 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, our first tip is to think sensibly about which environments you want to first introduce your puppy or young dog to. Where do we start? Well, we love a quiet cark park! Car parks are fab places for those initial new environment experiences and the great thing is, there’s lots of them! Yes, to us, they are a just a car park, but to your puppy or young dog each and every one is a brand new environment.
- 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 or young dog right now?
- What is the environment used for? For example, we wouldn’t suggest that you practice your skills in a busy off lead dog park or beach as these places can be a tad too high energy and sometimes volatile.
- What is the surface like? Is your puppy or young dog 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 or young dog up for success.
Management of Choices
When we introduce our puppies or young dogs 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 and young dogs with their choice making. So that it is more likely that our puppies and young dogs 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 we step on it, rather than holding on to a lead. From the get-go, our goal is that our puppy or young dog is offering what we want without the crutch of the lead. Leads can become a tool that is too relied upon if we aren’t careful! Hands free is the way to go!
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 or young dog 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 or young dog 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 or young dog!
We love games that create easy wins for puppies and young dogs 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 or young dog to a new environment we will always start with a conversation starter.
One of our favourites is 2 paws on an object (we will be covering this game in week 2) that we bring with us. As this game is something we have practiced at home it brings an element of familiarity to an unfamiliar environment because we am using an object that the puppy or young dog has seen before.
Once we have played this 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 or young dog 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 or young dog 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 or young dog to simply be a dog is really important, it’s 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 and young dogs 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 or young dog 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 or young dog 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 or young dog has had enough.
The length of your training session will depend on your puppy or young dog, 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 or young dog leave the session on a high and with a sense of achievement.