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canine foundations

week 1 homework


  • COVID precautions and policies:

    • Masks are not required but subject to change; anyone is welcome to wear one at any point.

    • Please social distance where possible.

    • Do not come to class if sick or if you think you have been exposed to COVID.

  • Interactions between dogs:

    • Please no interactions between dogs or with a dog that is not yours.

    • This class is for you and your dog to learn basic behaviors and practice them around the mild distraction of other dogs and people (it is not a class in which we'll be learning dog-dog greetings, appropriate play, etc.).

    • There are visual barriers set up each week for class that are to help limit distractions for your dog.

    • We ask that the leash be held at all times and by an adult (or someone over the age of 12) to ensure a dog cannot get loose and race around the classroom.

  • Please do not arrive more than 10 mins early for class each week.

    • The daycare is closing around the time we start class, so we ask that folks not arrive too terribly early to avoid class dogs from running into the daycare pickup traffic.

    • When you arrive for class, choose a station with an orange cone and get your mat/bed/blanket set up with your dog (please no chewing on the orange cone); feel free to review items from the homework to warm up or to use the couple of minutes before class starts to get your dog settled in for class.

  • Bathroom breaks:

    • If your dog needs to go to the bathroom at any point during class, you're welcome to take them outside; if they use the bathroom in the daycare, that's ok - it happens! We have supplies to clean it up!

    • If you need to use the bathroom during class, you're also welcome to use it (the human bathroom inside the building, though - you don't have to go outside); you can take your dog with you, leave them with the person you brought with you to class, or, if they're comfortable, you can leave them with the group class instructor!

New behaviors / exercises this week (click to jump to instructions)


1) Using your Mat as a Home Base

In class (and anywhere, really), utilize the mat, bed, blanket, or towel as your dog's "home base" - a place they can go to chill out and relax during class or a visual reminder of something to do when they're not sure what they should be doing during class. Our overall goal with this method or activity is to slow down – and learn that slowing down can be really rewarding!


Additionally, we’re working to promote calm behavior or a calmer state in general. Since it is difficult to learn things and to think critically about the next moves when in an agitated or excited state, working on and teaching your dog to start out in, return to, or choose calm behavior can help both of you!


  • Take your time! We’re not on a timer to get anywhere, so just enjoy the process and watching your dog work.

  • Work on keeping your own movements slow and relaxed.

  • “Preload” the mat with a small scattering of treats throughout class - drop a small handful of the tiny treats on the mat, so that it’s there and ready for your dog to find when they return to the mat!

  • As humans, it’s really hard for us to be quiet and patient; we can be tempted to give instructions and talk to your dogs, but I encourage you to practice being quiet, letting your dog figure some things out, and using your movements, rather than your words to provide small guidance (if it’s needed).

What are we looking for?
There are a variety of different behaviors we’d like to see your dog doing while working with our mat:

  • Calm, quiet behavior - standing, sitting, laying down, etc.

  • The ability to observe the surroundings (while remaining calm and quiet), offering the “look of acknowledgment” and be able to re-focus on you, the mat, or something else

  • Returning to the mat

  • Sniffing the mat or surrounding areas

  • General exploration (in a calm manner)

  • Checking in with you (with a glance/eye contact or by stopping by you and offering a Sit, etc.)

  • (If on leash) A loose leash with even a small amount of slack in it or, at the very least, a lack of tension in the leash

  • Really, anything you like, you can drop little treats for!


  • Lay your dog’s mat/bed/blanket/towel out and, perhaps, pre-load the mat with a few scattered treats.

  • When your dog goes over to the mat and eats the treats, watch to see what your dog offers next.

  • Ideally, you’re able to observe some of the calm behavior mentioned above and, if so, scatter a few more treats on the mat (even if your dog is off of it or away from it).

  • Repeat the process before class, between exercises, when they need some help remembering to relax, etc.


Note: With this method, you have the option of using your clicker - clicking and treating for things you like to see or any of the calm, relaxed behaviors described above - or you may choose to skip the clicker and just toss, drop, or place treats on your dog's mat during class or whenever you're using the mat.

Home Base

2) What is clicker training?

Clicker Training falls under the umbrella of what is called Marker Training and the clicker itself is a tool we can use to mark behaviors; it helps us precisely tell our dog what behavior they did correctly; the click is a sound that can be used to tell your dog, "THAT! That right there is what we were looking for; THAT is what gets the reward; and THAT is what you should do again!"

Using a clicker, we teach your dog that a click means a reward. Quickly, your dog learns that they can earn the click (and associated reward) by doing certain behaviors – and they're going to choose to do those behaviors more often because of that reward!

When using a clicker in training, I ask that my clients focus on the number one – for a few reasons:

  1. Every time you click, give a treat. It’s a one-for-one each time – even if we click on accident, we give a treat. When we click, we’re telling our dog, “I’m going to pay you.” So, to avoid frustration, avoid our dogs giving up on us, and avoid our dogs deciding it’s not fun working with us (or for us), we consistently offer payment after we tell them we’ll get paid.

  2. When you’re working on a behavior, focus on one thing – the one thing you’re looking for and that you’re going to click for. When working on the Sit, you’re watching for the butt to touch the floor; that’s the only thing you’re watching for and the only thing you’ll click for. It helps you to zero in on the objective and filter out all the other noise (behaviors your dog might be offering instead of just the one behavior you’re working on).


Charging the Clicker
Before we begin using the clicker as a tool for our training, we need to charge the clicker - or teach your dog that a click means a treat is coming and they get the click (and subsequent treat) for particular behaviors!

  • Click and deliver a treat (your dog does not need to be doing anything in particular during this exercise).

  • Repeat 10-12 times or until you see signs that your dog is starting to pay attention to the click - the ears flick, the head turns, they turn their whole body toward you, etc.

When we start seeing these signs, we're ready to start using the clicker as a training tool with our dogs.

After charging the clicker once, it's not likely you'll need to charge it again - your dog is making that connection between the click and treats and won't be forgetting that easily! If you did not have a clicker in class, practice this quick exercise with the clicker after you get it from the store or you get it in the mail and you're ready to start using the clicker for one of the most basic - but one of the best - behaviors your dog will work on: eye contact!

Clicker Trinng

3) Eye Contact / Engagement Two Ways:

Rewarding Unprompted Eye Contact

Rewarding your dog for offering you eye contact or checking in with you is one of the best things you can do with your dog! As we talked about, eye contact = attention. And when we have your dog's attention, we can do so much with our dogs! On top of that, we're teaching your dog or puppy that you are one of the most valuable things in their environment no matter where you are!

  • When your dog looks at you, click and give your dog a treat.

  • Rinse and repeat!


Practice rewarding this eye contact in a variety of situations and at a variety of times, so we can teach your dog that you are worth paying attention to and valuable even when you have competition. This simple, but effective, exercise is one that I highly recommend for the outdoors, so your dog gets used to and interested in paying attention to you in distracting environments!

Name Game
Teaching your dog their name is important for the obvious reason: we want to be able to get their attention quickly and easily. The Name Game is a fun way to teach them that a particular word (your dog hears it as just a noise) means we want them to focus on us!

  • Say your dog’s name (only 1 time).

  • When your dog looks at you, click and treat.

  • If your dog doesn’t look at you within a couple or few seconds, make a small noise to grab their attention (kissy noises, whistle, high-pitched non-words, etc. that is not repeating your dog's name) and click/treat when they look at you.


Practice this in a variety of locations around the house (and maybe start practicing it in the yard), at a variety of times, so your dog knows you may ask for their attention at any time and anywhere AND they’ll get paid for it!


4) Hand Target

A hand target cue for your dog can be a valuable tool: you can use it in greetings with strangers; it can become part of your Recall (eventually); it can help to maneuver your dog away from distractions (turning the head or changing directions altogether); it's an easy way to get your dog from Point A to Point B. It’s simply a fun, easy behavior that builds both your dog’s confidence and yours!

Step One (with a lure)

  • With a high-value, stinky treat tucked in between a couple of your fingers, offer your hand to your dog just a couple inches away from their nose (I like to use a flat hand with the fingers pointing toward the floor).

  • When your dog reached forward to investigate the treat, click/treat the moment your dog touches your hand with their nose.

  • Repeat a few times, switching hands and keeping it pretty easy (just a couple inches from the nose).

Hand Target

Step Two (physical cue - without a lure)

  • When your dog is quickly and easily reaching toward your hand to touch it, you’re ready to remove the lure from your hand for Step Two! This may take just a few tries - the hand target is a quick one to learn!

  • With no treat in your hand, offer your flat hand to your dog (still just a couple inches away to keep it easy).

  • Click/treat the moment your dog touches your hand with their nose.

  • Repeat!


Practice sitting down, standing, with your right hand and your left hand; practice moving your hand a little further away and moving it to the side and in various positions - have fun with it!

Step Three (adding the verbal cue)

  • When your dog is easily and consistently (8 out of 10 times) reaching forward to touch your hand (physical cue) with their nose when it’s offered, you’re ready to add a verbal cue to the behavior!

  • Say your dog’s name.

  • Once you have your dog’s attention, say the verbal cue you’ve chosen: Touch, Here, Hand, Target, Umbrella, it can be anything!

  • Pause for a second, then offer your hand to your dog as you have in Steps One and Two and close to your dog's nose, so it's easy to be successful.

  • Click/treat the moment your dog touches your hand with their nose.

  • Keep practicing with your dog with both hands and in various positions and distances!

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