Featuring Jen Larson, KPA-CTP
Concept by Courtney Emken

DOG TRAINING DEMOS!! This is a short four-part warm up that you can do before loose leash walking, stimulating activities, any training session, and anything at all where you’ll need your dog’s focus and attention. It should only take about five minutes once you have the hang of it. This warmup builds a nice foundation of focus and attention with your dog. It’s especially important that you have that foundation of focus and attention before you try to train any new behaviors because your dog has to be paying attention to you and working with you before you can get anything new from them. So that’s something that’s fun to just kind of build into your daily routine.


Hi, I’m Jen and I’m the manager of the training department and this is my little dog Charlie. He’s a Papillon. Show them your face. Turn around, there it is. So I’m gonna run through the warm-up that I like to use at the beginning of each training session. So it’s four steps. The first step is gonna be a little game of Find It. So, find it is a scent and search activity that we use to positively emotionally condition an animal to a handler or working ares. So creating some positive emotional associations with that space or being with that person. We can also use Find It to prevent or manage leash reactivity. So if you’re out walking your dog and you see another dog coming down the path and your dog starts getting a little amped up on leash you can step off to the side of the path, play a little Find It, kind of refocus them and get them working with you again. So all I’m gonna do, really simple exercise, I’m just gonna walk around this space a little bit and toss a treat out, or piece of kibble and ask Charlie to find it and let him kind of sniff it out and eat the piece of kibble. Find it. Good job.

So I usually like to play just maybe 10 to 30 seconds of Find it– Find it. With the dog, especially if I’m in a new space. Find it. Good boy. So sniffing is really calming for dog. So it’s a nice way to kind of get them into a training session if they’ve gotta sniff out these little pieces of food and eat them while we’re starting to work. It kind of gets them off on the right foot. Find it. So just a couple more seconds of this. Find it. Good. Okay, so Charlie’s nice and warmed up. He’s taking food which means that he’s comfortable enough to work with me. He has probably found a couple positive emotional associations with working in this space just by playing that little game.

So now I’m gonna move on to the next step of my warm up and that is booting up or charging up my marker. So what I’m gonna use as a marker for behavior and I’ll explain what that means, is a clicker. So you can also use a verbal marker or sound, but it’s a way to tell the animal which behavior’s earning reinforcement. So I’m gonna use this during the behavior that I like to mark that behavior and then reinforce it which makes it more likely to occur again. But before I can use this as a marker, I need to give it some meaning and some value for the animal. So I have to pair it with something that they find reinforcing. So that’s a classical conditioning procedure. Pairing a sound with a food reward. Something like that. So all I’m gonna do here is I’m gonna just get a couple, couple in my hand and I’m just gonna click, treat, click, treat. So he doesn’t need to be doing anything in particular. All I’m doing right now is just pairing that sound with the reward. So I’m giving this sound some value for him. So I like to do about five to 10 of these at the beginning of any training session. So this is just telling the dog when you hear this sound that means a reinforcer is coming to you. So we’re giving this marker some meaning and value for the animal.

So after I’ve charged up my marker and I can actually use it to successfully mark and reinforce behavior, now I’m gonna move on to third step of my warm-up. So that’s called attention work. So with this I’m gonna be reinforcing and rewarding any attention that Charlie is offering me without being asked. So eye contact. So I’m gonna move around with Charlie a little bit. I’m gonna let him get distracted. I might toss a treat off to kind of reset him. And then as soon as he turns around and offers me some eye contact, I’m gonna mark and reinforce that. So at this stage in the warm-up I usually ask clients to get at least 10 to 15 really good check-ins here from their dog. So that’s what I’m gonna be looking for for Charlie today. Whoop, that was a bad click. So I’m glad you saw that actually because that was a bad click on my part. He wasn’t actually looking at me and I clicked a little bit too soon. But even if you mis-click or you do a bad click you still need to follow it up with a reinforcer so you don’t lose the value of the click. And you’re gonna bad click. It happens all the time. There it is. So I’m watching for that exact moment where he actually makes some eye contact with me. Good. So if he’s looking at my pouch or my hand I’ll wait him out until he actually looks up at my face. Good. So what this does, is really reinforces the animal for checking in with you every now and then and giving some attention and focus to you. Even when you’re not asking for it. So this is a really nice foundation skill for when you’re out doing some loose leash walking. You don’t want your dog just out in front of you the whole time, you want them turning around every now and then and checking in with you. Good boy. Good. So I feel like I’ve got enough check-ins from Charlie at this point that I’m gonna move on.

So the final step of this warm up– and this whole warm up should only really take about five minutes or so, you can just kind of cruise through it once you’ve got all the steps down. But the fourth step is doing some name recognition work. So I’m gonna say Charlie’s name one time. I’m gonna wait for that head turn, or eye contact back toward me and I’m gonna mark and reward that. So the reason why we do this in the warm up– some people say oh my dog knows his name, this parts silly. But a dogs response to their name is such an important foundation skill. So we want it to be quick and consistent even when it’s in a distracting situation. A common issue that I’ve run into often with people using their dogs names is they tend to recue too soon. So they might say Charlie, Charlie, Charlie. And then so Charlie learns, he’s staring at me, Charlie learns that he doesn’t actually have to respond until the third time I say his name, or the fourth time. So resist your urge to recue too soon. Let the dog kind of process it for a second. Sometimes it just takes them a second to thing about it. Another thing that I run into with people using their dogs names sort-of incorrectly is they will yell the dogs name when the dog is in trouble. They try to use it as a recall cue to get the dog to come to them. A dogs name should really be one thing. And that’s an attention getter that you can use to then ask for other behavior. So if I wanted Charlie to come, I would say Charlie come. If I wanted Charlie to sit, Charlie sit. So get their attention first and then ask for the behavior that you want. Good sit. So I’m gonna do this about five times with Charlie. I’m gonna wait until he’s a little bit distracted or I might toss a treat off to reset him. And then I’ll say his name one time and wait for his response back to me, then mark and reinforce that.

So any time we mark and reinforce the behavior we’re making it more likely to occur again. He’s really staring at me so I’m gonna just toss something off here. Let him get a little distracted. Charlie . Good. Charlie. Good. Charlie. Yes. So you can see that head turn gets really quick. Charlie. Yes. Where’d it go. Charlie. Good. So that one took a little bit longer but I didn’t recue, I waited him out because I knew that he could hear me. He was just busy sniffing there. So I waited a second or two, he processed that and then he turned back to me and I marked and rewarded that. Good boy. So that little four-part warm up is just something that you can do before any training session. So if you’re doing a little recall session or loose leash walking, anything at all. So it just gets the dog starting to work and it build a nice foundation of focus and attention. So it’s really important that you have that foundation of focus and attention before you try to train any new behaviors because the dog has to be paying attention to you and working with you before you can get anything new from them. So that’s something that’s fun to just kind of build into your daily routine. It’s only a five minute little thing. So throwing it in every now and then so you can start building some better foundation skills for your dog.