Welcome to Cheryl May's Puppy Class!

Welcome to puppy class! By starting training early you are going to avoid many problems later on. The training time you invest now will pay off in enjoyment and pleasure for the lifetime you share together.

The class plan you received on the first night of class is here

We will use sound, scientifically-based methods to train the puppies. There is a lot of great information on the Web to provide supplemental reading. A lot of what we will do in class is discussed in a book by Dr. Sophia Yin, How To Behave So Your Dog Behaves.

We will use a conditioned reinforcer to let the puppy know he or she is right. This can be a special word you don't use every day, a click from a Snapple lid or a ball point pen, a mechanical clicker, or -- my favorite -- a tongue cluck.


  • Hungry puppy -- Puppy can eat part of his dinner in the form of training treats at class, and get the rest afterwards.
  • Leash -- Nylon or leather -- no chain leashes, please!
  • Collar -- leather or fabric with a buckle or plastic snap. A fabric martingale collar also is fine. No metal or nylon choke collars, please -- they can damage your puppy's trachea. A Gentle Leader head halter is another choice.
  • Treats that make your puppy's eyes glaze over. A reward is what your puppy says it is. At home, or in any non-distracting environment, you can use your puppy's kibble. But in the highly distracting environment of our class situation, you will need something excellent. You will learn what your puppy prefers through trying different things. Generally soft treats are preferred. Treats should be raisin size (but not raisins, because they are toxic to dogs). Hot dogs are good as are many of the commercial soft treats. String cheese is fine for adult dogs, but NOT for pups because you don't want to add calcium to your puppy's diet. K-State orthopedic surgeons suggest waiting until your puppy is at least one year old before using cheese as a training treat.
  • Clean up baggies. If your puppy makes a mess in the building or outside, it is your responsibility to clean up -- for the rest of your dog's life. Thank you for doing so, because it helps counter anti-dog sentiment.
  • CLASS GOALS: Socialize puppies to be friendly with people and other dogs through structured learning and structured play. Teach the puppy to accept handling by strangers. Develop the foundation for life-long learning and current good behavior by teaching come, sit, down, walk nicely on leash, stay, go to mat, leave it, and other behaviors. But most of all, we will teach the puppy that people are wonderful and learning is fun, so that learning can go on for the rest of the dog's life. Help puppies to become more confident, sociable, happy dogs! Introduce owners and puppies to activities you may want to try with your dog.

    Your puppy is learning all the time, whether you are consciously teaching her or not! Make sure she learns what you want her to know.

    * Each week, introduce puppy to one new person and go to one new place. To have a confident, sociable, calm dog, you really need to get your puppy out!
    * Each day, practice "TV downs." This exercise teaches self control, and one of life's important lessons: you can't always get what you want. Take a few minutes to watch TV, and hold your puppy in your lap. Puppy is there by your choice, not hers. Bigger puppies can do a down at your feet (on leash.) Because she'd rather be playing with toys, or doing something more fun, your puppy may complain and/or struggle over having to remain in place. Persist, though, because this is a very important exercise. Important: do not let the puppy go when she is complaining or struggling. Progress to 30 minutes.
    * Several times during the week, in short sessions, 5-10 minutes, practice what we demonstrate in class.
    * Stay calm. A calm, quiet demeanor will help your puppy chill out. Be careful not to wave your arms or repeat commands. Make sure everyone in your family uses the SAME commands for the same behavior.

    Test your clicker speed
    To be effective, the click must be delivered within one second of the correct behavior. Here are a couple of fun ways to test your reaction time.

  • Baseball fans, click here.
  • This test has a button shaped like a clicker

    What you will learn in class
    We will address all the behaviors your dog needs to be a pleasant home companion -- sit, down, stay, come when called, walk nicely on leash, go to a mat, leave it (great for ignoring questionable things your dog finds when you are on a walk), housebreaking, crate training and more.

    For a refresher during the week, you can check out videos of how to teach these behaviors on Dr. Yin's Web site.

    Your homework for Week Six of class will be to teach your puppy a trick. See my page, Teaching Your Dog to do Tricks. Trick training is not only fun, but it teaches your dog how to learn and enhances your relationship. Should you later decide to do therapy work with your dog -- taking her to nursing homes, schools, etc., tricks are a great way to entertain others.

    In class, we will also discuss management, basic grooming, and problem behaviors. If you have a special interest you would like covered, please be sure to let me know.

    Your success will depend on how much time and effort you are able to devote to puppy training between classes. Puppyhood gives you a wonderful window of opportunity -- I encourage you to devote a lot of time to puppy training.

    As with most things, there are many ways to successfully teach behaviors. If the first technique we suggest in class isn't working for your puppy, let me know. We will find an alternative that will work!

    Tired puppy = Good puppy
    If you work all day as many of us do, your puppy has lots of time on his own to be bored and perhaps get into trouble. The "higher drive" your puppy, the more creative she will be about finding things to do.

    A bored puppy can be a destructive puppy. So be sure puppy is kept somewhere that he cannot get into trouble when you are not able to supervise. Please note that a dog crate is not a good solution for an entire day! Exercise pens set up in your basement or the bathroom, or an outdoor run are better options. The puppy has a chance to stretch its legs and get a little exercise. If you work and are gone during the day, I strongly recommend feeding at least half of the puppy's meals from Buster cube. Zoo trainers call this "enrichment" and it truly does give your dog something to do when you are away. The Busy Buddy Twist & Treat is another good option. The Kong is an important toy to have available to keep your pet busy. The Kong Web site even has recipes for stuffing Kongs. It is handy to have several Kongs you can have readily available. A new alternative is the Squirrel Dude, which is like the Kong, only with prongs to prevent the food from spilling out so easily.

    Depending on the age of your puppy, and the advice of your veterinarian, you should feed your puppy two or three small meals per day. I start out puppies with three times a day feedings, and then switch to morning and evening for the life of the dog. Free-feeding, where food is available all the time, can result in an overweight dog. It also takes away a valuable training and leadership opportunity from you.

    A great resource for problem solving behavior issues is the San Francisco SPCA Web site. They have articles covering virtually every issue you are apt to see. Their behaviorist, Jean Donaldson, has written several books that are helpful in better understanding our dogs.

    What can we do next?
    After puppy class, you may wish to continue training -- this is a good idea! You can pursue a Canine Good Citizen certificate, get into agility training, try rally, freestyle or carting, or competition obedience, or tracking -- there are lots of fun things to do with your dog!

    There are many activities open to specific breeds, such as lure coursing for hounds, hunt tests for retrievers, herding for herding breeds -- and rottweilers and Samoyeds, and earthdog tests for terriers. Go to the American Kennel Club's Web site and click on "Events" to see the many options open to you.

    Your dog need not be purebred to participate in competition obedience, rally and agility. There are multiple organizations offering agility for all dogs, and the United Kennel Club offers obedience, agility, carting and many other activities for all. There are two organizations besides AKC offering rally, and more will be coming aboard.

    Recommended links

  • My Dog Behavior and Basic Training Page. Here you'll find resources and advice about many dog training issues and problems. Don't miss my article, How to Succeed in Basic Obedience Class ... by Really Trying.
  • Books
    You are not required to purchase any books for the class. But since people often ask for suggestions of books I like, my favorite books for puppy training are reviewed on my Book Review Web page.

    If you are interested in performance sports -- competition obedience, agility, etc., you might like Bobbie Anderson's book, "Building Blocks for Performance: Give Your Puppy a Head Start for Competition." It includes great suggestions on basic training for puppies and newly-acquired adult dogs. It tells you how to get your puppy to bond strongly with you, build a solid foundation of teamwork, and encourage the puppy to develop a "send me in, coach!" attitude. Available from Dogwise.

    Until I discovered Sophia Yin's book, Dawn Jecs' (pronounced YAKES) book was my favorite basic manners book, "Simply Living with your Dog." This is the basic obedience program that Jecs teaches her students before they begin their competition "Choose to Heel" work. Dawn's door-tie work is something I will demo in your class. I really encourage you to work your puppy on door-ties at home. It is a great method for shaping many desirable behaviors. Available from Dogwise.

    Everyone needs non-confrontational methods of leadership, and I really like "How to be the Leader of the Pack" by Patricia McConnell. Available from Dogwise.

    Dog food
    Dog food comparison charts. Teach yourself how to read a pet food label and see what is in the food you are feeding your puppy.

    It is a good idea to take one piece of kibble from your dog's food and put it in water for a few minutes. See how much it expands. If it expands very much, I encourage you to wet the food before serving to your puppy. You don't want the food to expand inside your puppy.

    Especially if you have a large dog, avoid the temptation to buy a raised food dish. Research at Purdue University indicates an increased risk for bloat for dogs eating from raised dishes. This is a big concern for owners of German shepherd dogs, great Danes, and other deep-chested breeds.

    Pet supplies
    There are a lot of good online and catalog sources for dog supplies. My favorites are SitStay.com; Omaha Vaccine, and KV Vet Supply. Check out a variety of sources -- prices vary. Often a Google search for the name of the item you are looking for will turn up some great buys. (I haven't found Froogle helpful.) If you order from SitStay.com, you should know that Tuesday is their discount day. Click on their discount button before compiling your order.

    Carpet cleaners
    My current favorite carpet cleaner is Get Serious! which I order from SitStay.com. I also like Nature's Miracle.

    About Cheryl: I've enjoyed dog sports since the early 1980s when I started competing in obedience. I've earned AKC and UKC utility obedience titles, multiple CDX and CD titles in both organizations, and advanced agility titles -- AX, EAC, UACh -- in AKC, NADAC and UKC. I've taught obedience and agility for several dog clubs and groups. For many years I volunteered as the 4-H county dog leader in Riley County, Kan., and really enjoyed working with young people and their dogs. I'm also a co-founder, current president, former training director, and former secretary and former treasurer for Heartland Dog Training Club. My most accomplished dog was sheltie Rocky, UUD UACh Tartan's Dream Catcher, UD, AX, EAC, NAJ, NGC, NJC, TC, CGC, Delta Pet Partner, who died in May 2005 at age 14 years, 1 month. My current dogs are Lacy, age 6, UAGI Andaka-Zederland Time Travel, CD, RA, NAP, NAC, HIC, TC, and Katie, UCD, UAGI Andaka-Zederland Wildatheart, CD, RA, NAP, NJP. Lacy and Katie are German shepherd dogs. Lacy is primarily my husband's pet, but she enjoys rally obedience and tracking with me. Katie, 2 years old, is my current performance partner. She started her performance career in late August 2004 and quickly earned both her AKC and UKC CD titles and her UAGI agility title. She is doing AKC, UKC and NADAC agility, rally obedience and AKC and UKC obedience. I am an AKC CGC evaluator and an ASCA obedience judge for all classes. I compete with my own dogs in obedience and agility and do tracking for fun.

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