Wonderful Willow - teaching a puppy to settle

Willow is only 19 weeks old here. She started her puppy training at 13 weeks old and is ridiculously quick to learn; we had only begun training this exercise ten minutes before the video was taken.

Here we are teaching her to settle on a mat. Notice we’re not telling her to go to the mat, to lie down, to stay on there. As soon as we release her she races to the mat and lies down. This is because the mat itself is the cue, it’s what we call an “environmental cue” and here at Mr Bones we’re big fans of this. We don’t have to keep telling the dog what to do, they know what’s desired and what’s going to bring good things. Our aim is to work towards relaxation and building the length of time spent on the blanket before we need to reward Willow. Can you see that, in less than ten minutes, she’s worked out that if she lowers her head to the blanket, instead of concentrating on us, that this brings rewards? The idea is that we can take the blanket with us anywhere, pop it down, and we have a puppy that dives on there to chill out. I’d say she’ll be ready to hit the cafés of Balham in no time.

Puppy Training, Life Skills... and Tortoises!

Barry with Olly the Tortoise

Barry with Olly the Tortoise

As a dog trainer and behaviourist it's essential to keep up to date with the newest techniques, to keep honing our skills and develop our knowledge. In this pursuit, I spent all of last week at the University of Lincoln, renowned as one of the leading institutions in expanding research in animal behaviour. Here they developed the Life Skills for Puppies concept and have worked over the past few years fine-tuning it. I was there to learn what they had developed and how it's implemented. You'll be pleased to hear that some great new techniques are now being integrated into the Mr Bones courses and training sessions.

Among all that intense learning there was still time for some fun. Did you know that, scientifically, all animals learn the same way? The techniques used for dog and puppy training at Mr Bones are also used around the world on wild animals. They are used to teach calm behaviours when blood samples are being taken, injections given or handling is required in conservation scenarios. With this in mind we spent an evening, after class, training tortoises! Within an hour we'd taught Olly the Tortoise to go to the green triangle. We used the word 'good' to tell him that he'd got it right, the same way that we use a clicker in our dog training. He learnt to ignore other shapes and colours as the reward was only delivered for going to the green triangle. Take a look at him go in this short video.

Olly the Tortoise learns that the green triangle brings rewards!

Shut that door...

Sometimes it's just fun to have fun! Our dogs love to use their brains and learn new things as much as we do. Therefore, it's great to teach them something simply for the sheer pleasure, and even better if it makes you laugh.

Clicker training is a great way to teach new tricks or behaviours. It allows us to work in small increments so our dogs stay motivated and keep being rewarded. It is very stimulating for the dogs and will totally tire them out.

Here's Sonny the Pug helping round the kitchen. It took half an hour to teach this. Why not think about booking Mr Bones for a clicker course so you can teach your dog fun, or practical, skills.?