In this post I’m going to share with you why its beneficial to use a barrier (baby gate, play pen, etc) during the early stages of puppy obedience training, especially when you’re dealing with a puppy that gets over excited or too aroused as soon as you bring the food out to train.
Keeps your fingers from getting bitten by razor-sharp puppy teeth
No one likes getting their fingers bitten up by super sharp puppy teeth. It’s bad enough when a gentle and dainty puppy accidentally nips you during play or hand-feeding, but try being a professional dog trainer working with a high-drive puppy… we sort of like keeping all our fingers too. It’s super frustrating when you get bitten during an otherwise productive training session. So why even take the risk that you’re going to resent your puppy or be upset because he bit you out of excitement? Puppy teeth aren’t always sharp, by the time your puppy is 6+ months this will be a nonissue. So management truly is the best strategy for the time being! When your puppy is behind the gate she can sass you, lunge at you, bark at you with crazy puppy intensity and guess what? That short-lived frustration quickly turns into problem solving as your puppy works harder to figure out what behavior is going to yield the best result for her.
Allows free thinking & problem solving
The days of crank and yank dog training are mainly done, although we’re sad to say that there are still dog trainers in Miami and South Florida who still chose punitive dog training methods as their go-to training style. You can typically tell pretty easily dogs that were trained used reward-based training (including a combination of rewards and some appropriate corrections) versus dogs that were trained out of intimidation and fear. The dogs in the latter group will be compliant, but will lack the enthusiasm, bounce, and overall joy that you see from dogs who were trained with gentler, more humane methods like clicker training and food. Dogs that are trained using reward-based methods in a set up like I’m showing you in today’s post build confidence in themselves because they weren’t forced into doing anything. They’re convinced that doing the “down” behavior was 100% their idea – and it sort of was. I just managed the environment in a way that prevented my puppy from doing other things that would distract her from the task at hand. So after a little bit of frustrated barking, she quickly uses her brain (and it’s a big smart one for this pup!) to figure out what she should be doing, without my ever having to touch her, raise my voice command her to do it. She just offers it, and that’s a beautiful thing. A dog that offers desirable behaviors is a dog that I rarely have to “command” to do anything! The dog will use its brain to problem-solve desirable behaviors based on the given situation. Its less about me telling the dog what to do, and more about the dog just knowing what to do because I taught the dog how to think for itself in a way that benefited me. Sort of manipulative right? 😉 But man, does it work!
A little frustration during training is good
Take some time to look up this same concept in early childhood development and you’ll likely find all the articles that talk about how young kids need to spend less time on a screen and more time using their imagination. It’s okay to feel frustrated because you’re bored, and it’s actually healthy to feel a bit frustrated while you’re learning something new too. My kid’s karate instructor calls this “accepting the challenge.” When you feel frustrated, you have now identified the new challenge and it becomes a game for you to overcome your challenge. This way, you feel a larger sense of accomplishment and over time, learn that you can overcome anything if you can work through the frustration.
If you’re a dog, life is going to be frustrating sometimes! We have to be able to teach young puppies to cope with the little day-to-day frustration of being a domestic dog and to push through that frustration into something productive. Otherwise, we end up with really pushy, rude, and sometimes aggressive dogs. Left unaddressed, a young puppies inability to handle frustration can lead to so many behavior problems and anxiety. It’s yet another reason why a combination of free-shaping training and luring is great, because the free-shaping allows pups to experience a healthy level of frustration followed by a win. We’re setting our puppies up to succeed when we allow them to go through this process.
Prevents you (the trainer) from becoming overwhelmed by pushy puppies
Look, I’ve been training dogs for almost 20 years. I have the patience of a saint most days but I’m still human. Sometimes you’re just annoyed by training a dog. If I feel this way sometimes, I am absolutely sure that a large majority of puppy owners feel this way daily! I want puppy and dog owners to feel empowered that they can always enjoy working with their dogs. My work behind a baby gate hack is simply the best solution to prevent trainer frustration which only harms your relationship with your dog, and ultimately prevents you from accomplishing the training result you want. So, as soon as I get that first “ouch” bite to my hand because shark-puppy can’t control their impulse not to take my hand off during training I bust out the baby gate. And just like magic, we get right back to work minus the potential frustration and fall out on MY end as the trainer. Now I was able to have a lovely training session with my dog, I can feel proud of my puppy and end our session on the high note that it deserves. Once my dog has been in training for a little over a week it’ll be easy for me to remove the barrier during active training sessions. My puppy will have already started developing better impulse control skills so we can enjoy our training sessions together.
In summary, today’s morning went like this:
- Puppy wakes up, exercised for 30 minutes then brought in to train
- Got out kibble to do some luring for sits, down, stands and come, got bitten in the finger (it really, really hurt!)
- Found my baby gate, set it up
- Puppy jumped all around, crashed into the gate, was frustrated I contained her but quickly got with the program after just a few repetitions
- After 10 minutes into the session, I started recording, and that’s what you’re seeing here!
- Finished our awesome session, praised my puppy, and took her back outside to play for 20 minutes now its crate rest time
Yes, it’s a full-time job raising a puppy correctly. If you don’t have the time to do it yourself, that is where pro dog trainers like myself and my team come in. We train all ages, all breeds in South Florida.
Locations in Miami and Ft. Lauderdale. We are Miami’s most reputable reward-based dog and puppy trainers! Follow us on FB and IG @ApplauseYourPaws and @AYPBroward. We’d love to help you learn how you don’t have to be RUFF to teach your dog stuff.
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