Let me tell you about our puppy preschool experience… It was okay. I had originally signed Penny up for an AMAZING puppy preschool in Tacoma named Canyon Crest. I was so excited about her going to this puppy school because the reviews were gleaming! Even though it was 30 miles from our house, my ambitious self was like heck yeah totally worth the drive!! Granted, this was before we had even brought Penny home. Long story short, driving 2 plus hours one way to a 60-minute puppy class became vividly unrealistic, fast! Sadly we ended up switching to a puppy class closer to our home.
The puppy preschool that Penny attended was a 6 weeklong class at Cascade Kennels. First off, they are 100% against puppy socialization, whereas Canyon Crest is 100% in favor of puppy socialization. I am 100% in favor or puppy socialization. The only puppy preschool near our house that I could find that was on the weekend was Cascade Kennels, hence why we ended up there. There was another great one that was in Seattle that we had looked into and that was recommended by Canyon Crest, but unfortunately they were not having anymore classes until January 2018. For Penny that was too late for her to start puppy classes at 5 months of age. Here I will share with you what was taught in her classes and what we found to be the most helpful with Penny’s puppy training.
Here is what the instructor taught us during the 6-week long hour classes:
Name game: How to teach your puppy their name and to acknowledge you when you call them by name.
Collar grab: When you grab your puppy’s collar and feed them a treat so they don’t associate you grabbing their collar being negative experience.
Handling: When you touch your puppy allover including their feet, belly, booty, tail, and ears inside and out. The point of this exercise is to help them for late when the veterinarian or a groomer is handling them that they won’t be bothered.
Offered attention: This exercise is where you get your dog to focus on you in a new environment and then reward them for giving you eye contact with a treat. The eye contact can be brief. Repeat until you have gone through 5-7 treats and then move on to a new location and repeat.
Impulse Control: This exercise teaches your dog to not steal items from you. You’ll hold your hand flat with several small treats and show them to your dog. Once your dog tries to steal them, close your hand. Repeat until they resist stealing the treat. Once they have learned to wait, give them the go ahead to eat the treat to reward the pup for their patience.
Sit: To teach your dog to sit hold a treat above their head. If they jump up, remove the treat immediately. Continue this exercise until your puppy sits and refrains from jumping up at the treat. Give them the treat once they sit. When your puppy does something positive tell them “yes!!” This reaffirms them that what they did is correct.
Down: When you first start to teach your dog down try sitting or getting down on your knees. Without saying anything hold a treat in front of your dogs nose and bring the treat down to the floor while saying “down”. Once your puppy has this down then remove the treat from your hand that you are using to signal down and place in the other hand. Now, once your puppy does a down, reward them with the opposite hand than the one giving the signal.
Hand touch: A hand touch is practical for preparing your dog for future tricks/touching other thing’s like turning on a light switch, when greeting people by touching their nose to their hand instead of jumping on them, or even used to get your dog to comeback to you. To do this you will want to hold a larger sized treat between your fingers on the hand that you want your dog to touch with their nose. In the other hand you will hold a small treat, this hand is the hand that you will reward your dog with. The large treat is never given to the dog, but used as a lure. Tell your puppy “touch” and look at the hand with the large treat in it. Once your dog touches your hand with the large piece of food in it immediately say “yes!!” and reward the puppy with a treat with the opposite hand. Once your dog has got the hang of it, switch up which hand you want them to target and hold your hands in different areas moving your hand up/ down in a different location. Do not feed your dog from the hand that your dog touched. Keep it opposite to avoid distraction.
Four paws on the floor: Teaches your dog to appropriately greet people. Have one person hold the dog on the leash and the other person is the greeter. The person holding the leash will be the one to reward the puppy with a treat. Have the greeter walk towards your puppy, when the puppy does inappropriate behavior such as jump up immediately have the greeter turn around and walk away. Wait until the puppy is calm and try again. Repeat until the puppy is calm and you are able to get close enough to them to give them a treat and reward the puppy for good behavior and no jumping.
Follow me: This exercise is the beginning steps of teaching your puppy to comeback to you when you call them. With 5-7 small treats ready in your hand and toss a treat behind your puppy to divert their attention from you. When you puppy has almost finished their treat, start to walk backwards while calling their name in an excited manner. Once your puppy comes to you reward them with the 5-7 small treats and petting them all over. The reward should last about 30 seconds. Repeat twice and then end the training session.
Stationary attention: Works to get your dog to pay attention to you while being at your side is the first step to reliable loose leash walking. Choose the side of which you prefer to keep your puppy on while walking. With the hand that is not holding the leash place a small handful of treats. Ask your dog to sit, then hold a small treat in front of your dogs nose and then bring the treat to your forehead. This will get your dog to make eye contact with you. When they are looking at you, they are listening. Repeat this while walking until the treats are gone. Now that your puppy has learned to sit and look at you while on their leash you can attempt walking. Practicing with 1 step at a time and reward your puppy with a small treat when they are walking without pulling. Continue this until you can work your way up to multiple steps at a time. The goal is to be able to go 20 plus steps without your puppy pulling.
Introducing your puppy to new things or people: It is important not to force your puppy into meeting new people or things. You want your puppy to approach things on their own and in on their watch. We want new things to be exciting and fun, not scary.
This is great to practice indoors without a leash or outdoors with a long leash to increase the distractions. You’ll practice getting your puppy to come to you when they are off distracted by something else. Once your puppy is distracted with something else or you can throw a treat away from you. Once they are away from you, loudly call their name in an upbeat manner followed by the words “come”. When your dog comes to you, you want to give them 5-6 little treats and praise them with pets and lots of love.
Now that we have taught our puppies where to walk by using the One Step exercise, it’s time to teach them not to pull while on a leash. This exercise teaches your dog that pulling is not an option, even if it is something that they really want. When first teaching this exercise, we want to practice this inside. It is much easier to control the environment so that your dog can be successful!
Make sure that your dog is on your preferred No Pull equipment. You can also do this exercise on a flat collar, but it will allow the dog to pull you more effectively. You also want to have plenty of soft treats ready and/or a toy that your dog loves.
Get a treat or your toy ready and allow your dog to see you toss the reward or place it on the floor and then walk away about 15 feet away from your “bait.”
Once your dog looks at you, begin walking towards the toy or food on the floor. If your dog pulls or creates any tension on the leash at all, immediately start walking backwards away from the “bait.” Every step that you take in the direction that your dog is pulling you is reinforcing the pulling! When your dog is back at your side and the leash is loose you can then begin walking forward again.
You will continue Step three until your dog is able to walk all the way up to the food on the floor without pulling. They can then have the treat or play with the toy. When you are ready, set up your food or toy and repeat the exercise.
When your dog has mastered this skill inside, it’s time to take it on the road! Practice Penalty Yards outside when you are on your walk with your dog. You do not need to have bait set up to make your dog want to pull when outdoors, so look for opportunities to practice. The world is full of squirrels, birds, fire hydrants, trees, people, and all types of thing that your dog may want to investigate enough to pull. Just like when we were doing the exercise inside, if your dog pulls or creates any tension on the leash at all, immediately begin walking backwards away from the distraction. When your dog is back at your side you can resume walking forwards. Once you are able to walk all the way up to the distraction without pulling, you can reward your dog by allowing them to sniff the bush, say hello to the person, etc. If it is something you might not want your dog to be interacting with, reward with a treat from your pocket.
Week 6:There was no real lesson taught at the last class. All the dogs ran around without their owners and the owners were supposed to just watch their dog and if their dog was overwhelming another dog then you were supposed to intervene. This was super confusing because in the beginning the instructor was very adamant that puppy socialization was not useful.
Overall Cascade Kennels did teach us and Penny some good stuff. The biggest lessons we learned were the importance of desensitizing her with different sounds that she may not get the chance to experience while she is still a puppy. Examples: Fireworks, doorbells, traffic, etc. We also learned that when your puppy steals something that they shouldn’t have, that it’s better to trade them with something of a higher value to them like a treat or a favorite toy instead of scolding them. This will prevent them from stealing stuff and hiding from you while they destroy it. “Win Win Win!”-Michael Scott.
The cons to the puppy class experience. Penny had zero clue what to do with other dogs. Yeah, she has met several dog’s while out on walks but lets be real, its not like every dog owner is like oh hey its a puppy!!! Lets stop and help them with their social skills and meet my dog.. If only it were that easy. Sometimes peoples responses are just absurd and you can’t expect other people to help you in this area. Although I would’ve thought that a puppy preschool would’ve, but thats just me.
Another con to the preschool was that the direction given during the classes was confusing. It felt like you would do what the instructor explained to you and then you would be told that your doing it wrong or not to be a helicopter parent. I feel that everyone who enrolls their puppy in a preschool wants the best for their dog. Its hard not to be a helicopter parent when your told over and over not to let your puppy greet other puppies in class and then the last class is all the puppies running around in a chaotic manner.
Like everything there is good and bad. You have to decide for yourself if the good outweighs the bad.