Introducing your Puppy or Young Dog to New Environments

So, you’ve practised your games and skills at home and your puppy or young dog is now ready to enjoy learning experiences out and about. Fab! I’ll be sharing my tips to set your puppy or young dog up for success when it comes to training in new environments so that you achieve your training goals. Then you and your puppy or young dog can have an awesome time together!

1. 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, my first tip is to think sensibly about which environments you want to first introduce your puppy or young dog to. Where do I start? Well, I 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! Yes, to us, they are a car park, but to your puppy or young dog each and every one is a brand new environment. So why do I love car parks?

  • The surface is less distracting than say a grassy area
  • Its very unlikely that you’ll run in to an off leash dog while you are practising your skills
  • People tend to leave you alone! They have come to the parking lot to park their car and carry on with their day. 

Of course, think safety. Use a leash 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 parking lots, 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, I wouldn’t suggest that you practise your skills in a busy off leash 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.

2. Management of Choices

As mentioned previously, when we introduce our puppy or young dog to new spaces and places they are faced with an abundance of choices. I strongly believe that management is part of the training journey. This helps our puppies and young dogs with their choice making. In order to do that, we have to manipulate our surroundings by doing things like:

  • Using a long line. I tend to use a long line and I step on it, rather than holding on to a leash. From the get-go, my goal is that my puppy or young dog is offering what I want without the crutch of the leash. Leashes 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.

Initially, helping your puppy or young dog with their choice making aids their skills to grow complex choice-making. It is key to restrict their choice-making early on, as well as reinforcing those good choices. It is more likely that they will pick those choices readily when presented with multiple 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!

3. Conversation Starters

I love games that create easy wins for puppies and young dogs. 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 I initially introduce a puppy or young dog to a new environment I will always start with a conversation starter.

One of my favourites is 2 paws on an object that I bring with me. As this game is something we have practised at home, it brings an element of familiarity to an unfamiliar environment. This is because I am using an object that the puppy or young dog has seen before.

Once I have played this, I will then lead the training session into another game… maybe something that requires a little more thought and focus. Then I’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.

4. 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, 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 and young dogs too. Getting that balance is key.

5. Training should be a fun time, not a long time

  • This last time 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 (I 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.

All of these will help you to develop your puppy into a well-mannered good canine citizen that you can be enormously proud of. Check out more of our Thursday Training Tips HERE.

kelly-murrellAbout the Author: Kelly Murrell helps out with some of the work in the office at Devon Dogs, particularly with marketing and advertising. She used to work in the office at East Bowerland Farm, and recently moved to Vancouver Island, Canada with her husband. She is an avid dog trainer and regularly posts dog training tips for Devon Dogs, Bowerland and Progressive Paws.

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