CATCH Canine Trainers Academy Blog

You CAN Get Focused Attention Around Distractions

4 Quick Tips for Connection Outdoors

Check out Lido, the new pup of David, our School Director.  At the age of 3 months, he is already doing great with looking at temptations (like this squirrel) and then looking back at his handler instead of losing focus or chasing.

Advanced Puppy Training

Lido is off to a fabulous start with everything from coming when called to loose leash walking – yes, even in highly distracting environments like NYC’s Central Park (above).  This is all taught with fun relationship-building and rewards.  It’s always best to start with the “blank-slate” of a puppy’s brain, but here are some quick tips if you want to work on focus around distractions with a dog that is not used to doing it yet:

  • Strengthen the Basics:  Make sure you have the basics down indoors first.  For example, attention.  Super enthusiastic head turns from the dog in response to their name are a must. (Use a new nickname if you need a fresh word to rebuild value on a cue for this.)
  • Practice Temptation Work:  Start with basic Leave It exercises and gradually increase their difficulty, then generalize.
  • Train and Use a Release:  Work on duration Sits and/or Downs where you teach the dog a release cue to end that behavior, and once the dog “gets it”, start to use that release cue in lots of different situations as the reward.  For example, release the dog to go outside, or to go sniff the bushes, or to go play with another dog, or to grab a toy you’re holding.  This builds trust and turns the whole world into rewards you can use so that even the outdoors becomes a place worthy of paying attention.
  • Use Treat Placement Wisely:  Don’t always give the reward treat from your hand. Mix it up by sometimes placing a treat on the floor/ground and then walk away to a new area while the dog eats the reward you left behind.  What is the dog likely to do as soon as she finishes eating the treat?  Start looking for you and run over to your new location. When that happens, you can reward the dog again with a treat on the floor/ground.  What an excellent habit to create in the dog!  You’re building a pattern of seeking you out just after being engaged in something else (a distraction).

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If you are fascinated by training, behavior and canine communication – you’ve come to the right place. Our community is “geeking out” on dogs in the best possible way: reward-based training and relationship-building across species.

CATCH courses and workshops go beyond basic obedience to help students work on advanced training concepts and help dogs that have behavioral issues. Many of our students turn their passion for dogs into newfound skills and use them to launch dream careers or fulfill a deep desire for a meaningful way to spend their free time. Get in touch with us to learn more about the ideal studies for you!

The One Thing I Don’t Love About Puppy Push-Ups

Pro Trainer Tip:  Don’t Train a Guessing Dog

“Puppy push-ups” are a popular exercise that started way back in the first positive puppy classes taught by Dr. Ian Dunbar in the 1980’s.  The puppy push-up is a clever and effective sequence of 3 behaviors where the trainer uses a lure-and-reward method to teach pups how to Sit, Lie Down, and then Sit back up again from lying down.*

There is one aspect of this exercise that I teach trainers to beware of – chaining two behaviors together.

When you teach this, you should avoid going from a Sit cue directly to a Down cue.  In other words, you want to avoid asking for Sit, and then following that with asking for Down next. If you do that repeatedly, you will end up training a dog that has a hard time discriminating between the Sit and Down cues. The dog will start to lie down every time you say Sit.

I like my dogs to know the difference between Sit and Down. Take the stress out of guesswork by examining how you train these two behaviors from the start.

Is this a big deal?  Not really.  But it presents an opportunity to be more of a pro trainer and work on clear discrimination (the dog knowing what Sit means, and what Down means – NOT guessing each time they hear the cue).  You will get more accurate responses and it will be less stressful and confusing for the dog, too. That second factor will make your training sessions more effective – stressed/confused dogs don’t learn as fast and aren’t as eager to keep training with you.

There are a few good ways to solve the discrimination issue:

  • Teach Down with the dog starting in a standing position and reward the dog for going directly from standing to Down.  If he sits in between, you ignore that and wait for the Down, then reward.
  • Request Down when the dog is already sitting (without having been cued to Sit) and reward those Downs.
  • If you really want to ask for a Sit followed by a Down, always reward that Sit first, so the dog can more easily see the Sit as its own separate behavior.  But, I avoid asking for Sit right before Down so that the two don’t get chained together.
  • If you have a dog that is already confused between the two (don’t fret – this is very common), work on Sit and Down completely separately never mixing them together in the same session and reward every accurate response.  Then, try a session where you ask for both behaviors in the same session, but not one right after the other.  If you are very clear in your signals and consistent in rewarding the right response every time, your dog will begin to see a clear difference in which cue calls for which behavior.

Have fun helping your dog take the guesswork out of his cue responses.  Discrimination is the mark of a professional team.

*I call sitting up from a down position “Push Up” because calling it Sit is confusing to the dog.  It’s a totally different body movement from Sit. Sit is for the dog to drop his butt from a standing position.  Push Up is to lift your front end up from a lying down position.  Both behaviors end in a sit position, but they’re not the same action for the dog – and the cue should direct an action!

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If you are fascinated by training, behavior and canine communication – you’ve come to the right place. Our community is “geeking out” on dogs in the best possible way: reward-based training and relationship-building across species.

CATCH courses and workshops go beyond basic obedience to help students work on advanced training concepts and help dogs that have behavioral issues. Many of our students turn their passion for dogs into newfound skills and use them to launch dream careers or fulfill a deep desire for a meaningful way to spend their free time. Get in touch with us to learn more about the ideal studies for you!

 

3 of the Simplest, Smartest Puppy Training Tips

Super Valuable Puppy Training

Puppies come at you with a lot to take on!

From the moment you take a puppy home, everything you do is a learning experience that shapes future behavior. Avoid the common mistakes and make a big difference with these tips:

1) Put the pup’s overnight crate RIGHT next to your bed. I literally clear off my nightstand and set it up so that the door of the crate faces my head on the pillow.  We are at eye level with one another. This may sound extreme, but having your pup so close helps form your bond and keeps him from feeling lonely overnight.  Plus you can put your fingers through the crate door without having to get out of bed (to sooth a pup who is inevitably going to start whining about missing his litter mates those first couple of nights).

Keep your pajamas on and be prepared to take the pup out to go potty once or twice during the night.  If you’re lucky they’ll be sleeping through the night within a couple of days, typically a week or two at most.  Then, you put the nighttime crate on the floor and gradually (each day) move it further and further from your bed to wherever you like.

Bonus tip: During the daytime, set up a crate in an area where people are around.  Never isolate a crate in a totally separate quiet room.

Bottom line: A pup that is used to being in a crate near you can easily adapt to separation and learn to be self-assured and restful when you are not together. A pup that is immediately forced to deal with isolation away from you will associate the crate with total separation and fear of being alone. Which leads us to tip #2…

Don’t skimp on the chew options. Those little mouths always need something to work on.

2) Give your pup something to chew on during downtime.  And… All… the… Time.  Want a pup to learn to be calm and quiet in a crate?  Give him something to chew on.  (Not overnight, but ANY other time he is in a crate or separated area.)

Want him to learn not to chew your furniture or your shoes, or your kids?  Give him something to chew on.

Want him to let you pet him all over without mouthing your hands and clothes?  Give him something to chew on.

Want him to give you a break from constant puppy care so you can watch your favorite TV show?  Give him something to chew on.

Want him to rest and assimilate all of the new information you just taught him in a training session?  Give him something to chew on.

You see the theme, right?  Get your house loaded with safe chew items: animal chews, Nylabones, stuffed Kongs (frozen wet food is fantastic in a Kong), tough plush toys, food puzzle toys (Nina Ottoson anyone?), cardboard boxes, plastic water bottles (yes, I am creative with all manner of recyclables as puppy toys, but you do what YOU feel good about).

Bottom line: Providing more than enough “chew-ables” will be one of the simplest, smartest things you can do to raise a great pup.

Don’t feel the need to grab every thing away from your pup. Most of the stuff they pick up isn’t going to hurt them. Just be smart with your judgment.

3) Don’t chase your pup and snatch away objects he picks up.  Make it a game of “Ooooo – what did you find?!?” And trade everything for a good treat (if you need to take it at all). 

It’s completely normal for pups to pick up EVERYTHING they find as they explore the world. Don’t overreact. Pups that have stuff constantly grabbed out of their mouths will soon start to run away from you when they find things. Pups that run away from you will get cornered.  Pups that get cornered become resource guarders and/or scarf things down ultra fast so that you won’t take them away. Making a big fuss when your pup picks stuff up off the floor/ground is a common mistake – and resource guarding (aggressively defending objects or food items) is an all-too-common behavior that results from that mistake.

Don’t turn your pup’s object exploration into a war with you. If you do, you’ll just train a thief that over-values meaningless objects. Do the exact opposite: laugh when the pup picks something up and then calmly trade it for a treat. Each time he grabs something, take it as a lesson to puppy proof the house a little better and keep those things out of reach for now.  At the same time, praise/play with pups whenever they get THEIR toys.

If you do this, you’ll have a pup who grows out of picking up meaningless stuff, or brings it to you playfully, ready to always drop it for you. I even let my pup carry around objects he finds outside (as long as they’re harmless of course). He walks around proudly with sticks, gloves, plastic water bottles – whatever. Eventually, he drops them after getting a chance to hold them for a bit.  If I need him to drop it sooner, I just trade a treat. Later I can put that on cue. This raises a dog who doesn’t guard stuff and instead is great at “sharing”, retrieving, and most importantly – trusting.  Trust goes a long way in a relationship that’s going to last over a decade.  It’s the foundation for getting a lot of the good behavior you’re hoping for in your adult dog: listening around distractions, coming when called, allowing you to handle different body parts for grooming or health, being calm when you leave the house, and so much more.  Trust me – on all of the above!

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Are you a fanatic for learning more about behavior and training?  CATCH courses and workshops go beyond basic obedience to help students work with dogs that have behavioral issues. We find the problem-solving process to be fascinating: from basic issues like jumping, pulling, barking, and house training to learning about the more advanced challenges like fear and aggression cases. Many of our students turn their passion for dogs into newfound skills and use them to work with dogs that otherwise would not have the easiest time finding a forever home. Get in touch with us to learn more!

Backchaining: Train the Last Behavior First

Recall – Break it Down

Backchaining is a very smart technique that you can use for training a variety of more complex behaviors. If you are new to the concept, backchaining is when you teach the last behavior in a sequence first. This makes the learning process faster and the results stronger.

Join School Director, David Muriello, and shelter dog, Hunter, as they illustrate backchaining by breaking down a recall into three separate behaviors:

1. Attention to name
2. Run to you
3. Sit front (Backchaining = Train this behavior first)

Check out this cool training concept in action!

Check back often for more great CATCH Training Tips!

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Learn more about dog behavior and training!  If you’re as fascinated by animals as we are, CATCH courses will fulfill your desire to immerse yourself in dogs and study professional training techniques. We go into basic obedience and beyond: interpreting and communicating canine behavior, solving behavior problems, and more. Our students turn their passion for dogs into newfound skills and dream careers. Get in touch to learn more!

Getting to Know a New Dog

Quick Hands-On Evaluations

As a trainer, when you work with a dog for the first time, there are some key pieces of information that you want to get “directly from the dog”. It’s like an interview where you’re “asking” the dog questions, but it’s not literally asking, it’s keenly observing the dog’s responses during your interaction.

For example: What motivates this dog? How focused is he? What gets his attention? Does he respond to his name? How social is he? Any fears? Any software already installed (basic obedience behaviors)?

Join David Muriello, CATCH School Director, as he meets a local shelter dog, Hunter, for the first time. David will tell you the key observations he makes about Hunter’s behavior as he “auditions” food, toys, and obedience cues to gauge Hunter’s response. Doing a quick hands-on evaluation like this will give you valuable insight on where to start and how to set proper expectations whenever you begin training a new student.

Check back often for more great CATCH Training Tips!

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Learn more about dog behavior and training!  If you’re as fascinated by animals as we are, CATCH courses will fulfill your desire to immerse yourself in dogs and study professional training techniques. We go into basic obedience and beyond: interpreting and communicating canine behavior, solving behavior problems, and more. Our students turn their passion for dogs into newfound skills and dream careers. Get in touch to learn more!

Don’t Judge a Dog by its Looks

Adopt Smarter

When looking to adopt a dog, it’s important not to “judge a book by its cover”. Don’t let a dog’s looks or breed stereotypes influence your decision. Adopt smarter by getting to know the dog’s personality first.

Meet Basic, a 90-pound German Shepherd, who based on looks, you might assume is a big puller on leash and a challenging dog to have in the house. Join our School Director, David Muriello, as you get a chance to meet the “real” Basic – a very relaxed and sweet dog you definitely wouldn’t want to miss out on!

Check back often for more great CATCH Training Tips!

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Learn more about dog behavior and training!  If you’re as fascinated by animals as we are, CATCH courses will fulfill your desire to immerse yourself in dogs and study professional training techniques. We go into basic obedience and beyond: interpreting and communicating canine behavior, solving behavior problems, and more. Our students turn their passion for dogs into newfound skills and dream careers. Get in touch to learn more!

Take Great (but Quick) Notes on Your Training Sessions

Pro Tips For Pro Trainers

CATCH School Director, David Muriello, shares a smart tip for new and established trainers:

Whether you’re working on a team (ex., in a shelter) or as an individual with clients, the more dogs and people you work with – the more important it is to take good notes.  A little time with this will go a long way towards your efficiency and effectiveness.

It’s best practice to record a training session as soon as you are done working with a dog. For example:

  • What behaviors did you work on?
  • How far did you get?
  • What step did you finish on?
  • Were any of the 3 D’s applied yet (Distance, Duration, Distraction)?

Remember to be concise but specific. Record not only what you worked on, but your goals for next time as well.  This is one of those little things that makes a big difference.  Take note!

Check back often for more great CATCH Training Tips!

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Learn more about dog behavior and training!  If you’re as fascinated by animals as we are, CATCH courses will fulfill your desire to immerse yourself in dogs and study professional training techniques. We go into basic obedience and beyond: interpreting and communicating canine behavior, solving behavior problems, and more. Our students turn their passion for dogs into newfound skills and dream careers. Get in touch to learn more!

Petting Dogs the Right Way

No Granny Hair Ruffle!

Believe it or not, there IS a wrong way to pet dogs – especially during training sessions. As dog lovers, we are known for exuding enthusiasm when we interact with our four-legged friends. But, often in our excitement we end up petting the dog on their face and we miss the signals they give that show they actually don’t like it. If you watch a dog’s response, when you pet them in a way that they don’t like they will often duck their head away, or even walk away completely. And this is more common than you may be realizing.

Have you ever had an affectionate grandparent ruffle your hair or grab your cheek? In their mind they were showing how much they loved you – but did you like it? Most people would say no. And most dogs will say the same thing about you touching or grabbing their face! This is particularly true if you are working a dog in a training session. Imagine a dog does a great recall and comes running to you from across a field, or picture a dog who has just completed an obedience routine, responding to your every cue. They are in a focused mode, excited about following your direction and then getting a reward. Do you think they want you to pet them all over the face for all that work? Probably not! When dogs are working they are typically looking to earn a high-value food reward or a rousing game of tug. Petting can definitely be an effective part of your overall rewards package. BUT, if you’re going to make petting part of the reward – make sure it’s the kind that the dog likes!
Petting and scratches on the chest or the belly are tried and true proven winners. Watch for the dog’s response. When they move in closer you know you’re doing something right. Don’t do the granny hair ruffle! That can actually be an unintended punishment and ruin the work you and the dog are putting in.

Check back often for more great CATCH Training Tips!

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Are you a fanatic for learning more about behavior and training?  CATCH courses and workshops go beyond basic obedience to help students work with dogs that have behavioral issues. We find the problem-solving process to be fascinating: from basic issues like jumping, pulling, barking, and house training to learning about the more advanced challenges like fear and aggression cases. Many of our students turn their passion for dogs into newfound skills and use them to work with dogs that otherwise would not have the easiest time finding a forever home. Get in touch with us to learn more!

Get Training Results in Every Setting

Do You Have the Priority Motivators?

In this video, CATCH School Director, David Muriello, shows you the key to getting training results in difficult settings. It’s a common mistake to bring a dog into a distracting situation and then “fight the competing motivators” to try and get the dog’s attention. At best, this is a very inefficient way to train. At worst, you’re completely wasting time and frustrating yourself and the dog! (These interactions are bad for the relationship; which means bad for training results.)

Learn about what we call a priority motivator and how to ensure you are the one in control of it. The key is to set the dog up for success. Winning (earning rewards) can become addicting to the dog, and by smartly choosing the right environment you can move step-by-step to the point where you become the dog’s focus – even in a distracting setting. Watch to learn more!

Check back often for more great CATCH Training Tips!

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Are you a fanatic for learning more about behavior and training?  CATCH courses and workshops go beyond basic obedience to help students work with dogs that have behavioral issues. We find the problem-solving process to be fascinating: from basic issues like jumping, pulling, barking, and house training to learning about the more advanced challenges like fear and aggression cases. Many of our students turn their passion for dogs into newfound skills and use them to work with dogs that otherwise would not have the easiest time finding a forever home. Get in touch with us to learn more!

Teaching Puppies Not to Bite

Patient Pups Become Great Dogs!

One thing we all know is that young pups are naturally very mouthy. This is because they are teething, but also because they use their mouths like young children use their hands – to explore and manipulate the objects in their world.

It’s all a part of the learning and growing process for puppies, but if you don’t teach them to use their mouth in a controlled and gentle way, they will grow into bad habits, not out of them. Many trainers will get phone calls from dog owners who realize this when their pup becomes an adolescent around 6-9 months. It’s common to see those dogs mouthing too hard during play, taking treats with too much force, or snatching things right out of your hands before being invited to do so.

In our latest video, join School Director, David Muriello, and 10-week old puppy, Piston, as they demonstrate a great way to teach puppies that waiting and taking things gently is much more rewarding than grabbing and biting. If you practice these exercises with a young pup, they will go a long way towards helping you raise a polite and gentle dog.

Check back often for more great CATCH Training Tips!

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Are you a fanatic for learning more about behavior and training?  CATCH courses and workshops go beyond basic obedience to help students work with dogs that have behavioral issues. We find the problem-solving process to be fascinating: from basic issues like jumping, pulling, barking, and house training to learning about the more advanced challenges like fear and aggression cases. Many of our students turn their passion for dogs into newfound skills and use them to work with dogs that otherwise would not have the easiest time finding a forever home. Get in touch with us to learn more!


CATCH Canine Trainers Academy Office Headquarters
24 Newark Pompton Turnpike Suite 206, Little Falls, NJ.
Phone: 877-752-2824