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Lessons from the LRD

Shouldn’t My Dog Know This Already?  (And a Tribute to Roo)

Shouldn’t My Dog Know This Already? (And a Tribute to Roo)

Blog post by Amber Quann KPA-CTP CPDT-KSA

I get asked these questions a lot – 

“What age will my dog finally turn into a good dog?”

“How long do we have to train before he gets it?”

“How old was your dog when he was fully trained?”

I love getting these questions from my students in group classes and private lessons. It gives us a great opportunity to discuss setting good expectations, measurable goals, and realistic timelines for the training process.  

My answer to these questions is usually something like this:

Your dog already is a good dog, and is doing great for his age! Different dogs mature at different rates, and we each have different definitions of a ‘good dog’ so I can’t put an exact age number on when your dog will meet your criteria. What I can tell you is that it takes time, consistency, and practice to help your dog learn the skills you want him to learn, and that’s what I’m here to help you with!


The truth is, the best training with your dog is an on-going, daily/weekly/monthly process.  To have the best relationship with your dog, learning should be part of your relationship for the long-term.

Taking a 6-week class and then checking “Train The Dog” off of your to-do list is the equivalent of eating healthy for that same 6 weeks and then going back to a daily diet of fast-food. The progress you made during those 6 weeks isn’t going to stick around unless you keep up those good habits!  

An upper-level training class is a great way to stay motivated, but you don’t need to stay in training classes to keep working with your dog. There are several different ways you can keep practicing at home. Go over your old class homework and find things you missed the first time around. Check out a trick dog or brewery dog title and work towards those training goals. Teach a fun trick!

I’ve been asked how long it took to get my dog “fully trained.” The question is funny to me, because I never considered him “fully trained.” Heck, I don’t even consider myself “fully trained.” 

We were always learning new things together.  We started training when he was 8 weeks old. Check out this ADORABLE clip of a puppy training session with baby Roo. 

And we were still working on new things in his last year of life. Here we are working on a cute new combo trick of paw + chin offered together.

And if you aren’t tired of Roo videos yet, one more unedited training session where we are working on his toy carrying skills that had gotten a little rusty.  

We even did a training session together on the day we knew was our last day together – that session focused on reviewing some of his favorite, easy skills.  I don’t have a video for you. I was falling to pieces enough as it was. But he loved it so much even though he couldn’t do much. We practiced his left/right foot targets, nose and chin targets, and one of his party favorites “Go to Sleep / Wake Up.” 

All this to say – training is a journey, not a destination.  There is always more to teach your dog, always more to learn together.  

The best relationships are built on consistent investment, not one-time training. (This goes for our human friends as well our dogs.)

So, if you find yourself tempted to ask “When will this dog finally be trained??” . . . remember we are all works in progress.

Perhaps a better question is “What can we work on together today?”


Why We LOVE Clicker Expo

Why We LOVE Clicker Expo

It has been a crazy (good kind, I think) week coming off of one of the biggest events of the year in the life of many positive reinforcement dog trainers: Clicker Expo 2017 in Portland, OR.  Over three days of dog nerds from around the country geeking out together to the genius of the gods of the positive reinforcement training world, an impressive lineup including Ken Ramirez, Dr. Susan Friedman, Kathy Sdao, Hannah Branigan, and so many more!  

Charissa and I came back from this immersion with lots of new ideas and inspirations.  Some of these ideas may not seem so practical once we come down off the CE high induced by exposure to the greats of our industry and a significant lack of sleep, but we'll see.  It was a wonderful trip.

Attending training conferences also never fails to inspire me to fine tune my training with my own dog.  Roo is a wonderful pup, and as much of my time and energy is devoted to helping other humans and their dogs build positive relationships together, he often gets the short end of the stick.  But after Kathy Sdao encouraged us to consider taking more time to do activities that "keep our candle burning," I am trying to be more intentional about spending time with my own heart dog - he is, after all, one of the reasons I love training as much as I do!

The first concept I put into action was based on Hannah Branigan's presentation "High Precision, High Scores."  In this lecture, she broke down the behaviors sit, down and stand and discussed how to get the precision movements you need in order to offer peak performance in the obedience and rally ring.  I decided I should go back and take a look at how my dog performs the "sit" behavior to see if he was doing it the most efficient (and precise) way.  Turns out, it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, but still could use a little bit of improvement!  Here's our first session working on this.  I am selecting for a "tucked" sit where his hind legs come up to meet his stationary front legs instead of a "rock-back" sit where his front feet follow his rear back.

So sorry for the terrible video quality!  Can't seem to fix it, but if you want to see this clip in better quality, check it out on our instagram feed here.

Next, we tried some concept training, inspired by Ken Ramirez's lab on this topic.  We started with Match to Sample, which is teaching the dog to indicate the object that is the same as the object you present to them.  Roo had this concept in less than a 10 minute training session, and I started introducing novel objects as well.  This game is built on other skills (follow a target, settle at station, respond to a cue, etc.) that we have worked on previously.  Check this out!

How cool is that?!  Can't wait to see what else he learns next.

These are just a few of the fun tidbits we brought back from Clicker Expo.  We can't wait to improve our class curriculum, our behavior modification protocols, and our client interactions based on our new ideas.  Learning new things helps us to be the best that we can be, and we can't wait to pass along that benefit to our students and their dogs!

Happy clicking!