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puppy kindergarten
week 1 homework


  • COVID policies that make class possible are listed here.

  • ​Do not arrive more than 10 mins early for class each week.

  • Please use the employee entrance each week.

  • When you come to class, choose an orange cone (please don't let your dog chew on it), and get your station set up; if you're early, you can warm up or practice with items from the previous week(s) of homework.

  • Please close all gates and doors behind you.

  • Feel free to use the bathroom if you or your dog need to during class.

  • Homework is sent after class to help you remember what we worked on each week.

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.

Socialization - Body Handling with your Puppy

Regardless of your dog’s age, practicing body handling is a great idea for a few different reasons:

  1. It makes visits to the veterinarian a little less stressful. If you’re regularly practicing some of the things the vet does during annual examinations or might need to do during emergency visits, your dog will be less anxious and stressed about a strange vet doing those things.

  2. It makes grooming tasks, such as hair trimming and nail clipping, less stressful and anxious for your dog and for you.

  3. If you’re regularly doing a pretty good check of your dog’s body, you’re more likely to notice changes in your dog – lumps or bumps, scratches or scabs, and ticks, for example – and know approximately how new those changes are.

  4. It’s fun and relaxing – for both of you!


First, practice touching different parts of your dog’s body

  • Touching/handling feet, paw pads, and nails

  • Touching/handling ears

  • Touching/handling hind legs

  • Touching/handling tail

  • Inspecting teeth

Watch for what I call “sticky spots” – areas that your dog is not super comfortable being touched or explored. If you find any sticky spots, it might be a good idea to have some extra practice with those areas. For example, if your dog’s sticky spot is their ears, follow the below steps:

  • Reach toward your dog’s ear.

  • Click/treat before touching the ear.

  • Repeat this a few times and for a few training sessions over the next week.

  • After a few training sessions, lightly touch your dog’s ear as the first step for a few sessions; up that to holding your dog’s ear, then lifting the ear or cupping the ear, then inspecting the ear for a few seconds, etc.

Second, consider the various things you may need to put on your puppy or touch your puppy with:

  • Nail trimming

  • Putting the collar on and taking it off

  • Putting the harness on and taking it off

  • Putting on dog coats

  • Giving a bath (and all the parts involved)

  • Brushing

Practice much as described above, but with the tools present and with the tools doing the touching (or the coat, boots, etc. touching or going on your puppy). Every few sessions, “up the ante” a little and try for something just a bit further than you did in the last session; however, move at your dog’s pace. If it seems like they need a little more work at one level before moving on, then stay there for a couple more sessions and check back in.

Finally, as we talked about in class, practice collar grabs or the "Gotcha Game"! This is simple and similar to what has already been described:

  • Touch your puppy's collar and hand out a treat.

  • Hook a finger lightly under the collar and hand out a treat.

  • Grab hold of the collar and hand out a tasty treat.

  • Grab hold of the collar and gently begin moving one direction; hand out a treat.

This can easily be done with your puppy's harness, as well as their collar, or with any other equipment you have on your puppy!

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!

NOTE: We did not use a clicker for this exercise in Puppy Kindergarten, but it's not necessary! If you'd like to incorporate it, the instructions and video demonstrations do include it and how to incorporate it appropriately.

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).

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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