I always hope to influence very young puppies with these exercises, but you don't always get that lucky. Many years ago, I myself had not discovered the very value benefit to my dogs of doing these. I discovered the value, when trying to figure out how to calm my dog, Jackie, before we got into the ring to do obedience and earn his Companion Dog title. This was the key to his success in that area, but this is also the key to a well rounded, confident dog, who has been exposed to many stimulus's that get most dogs all riled up, and cause dog owners many unneeded problems. These exercises are worth the time and the effort. Some may be very boring, but they are enormously valuable. I would not do them myself it they were not.
The puppy exam behavioral exercise can also be done with small adult dogs. This is not a practical exercise for large adult dogs, and therefore if an large adult dog never got used to handling, the protocols will be different.
Dogs are do not usually find handling enjoyable right away. However, some breeders do start to prepare their puppies for this right off the bat before they leave for their new home. I am sure some rescues have protocols in place if they have knowledgeable caregivers and trainers on staff. As the dog or puppy owner, you want to be sure to continue this process. Handling exercises like "Puppy Exam" get a small dog or puppy ready for their future grooming and veterinary needs. This gets the small dog or puppy become ready for close examinations with out fighting them. As I always say, this is not the only thing that gets them ready, but the "puppy exam" is a very important part of preparing your canine companion in advance. If your dog or puppy gets squeamish with you handling them, then strangers are not going to have a good chance of doing this either. A good quality veterinarian exam can help you keep your pet healthy and bring to light any medical issues coming up. Anxiety and fighting the vet will lessen the quality of that vet exam. Grooming is less important, but if you do need a professional groomer, then you want to make this process as easy and pleasant as possible for everyone. If you prefer grooming your own dog (nails, brushing ET), I promise you the process is much less stressful with a dog that can be calm and relatively unconcerned during the process.
The puppy exam is a behavioral exercise (meaning there is no command associated with it, just a behavioral perception change). This is another exercise that does not require your dog or puppy to know anything prior to starting it. The only equipment needed is a leash, a collar (so you can catch him if they manage to squirm away---try not to let that happen), and a very comfortable chair.
Below is a video example of the puppy exam:
The most basic and easiest of these exercises is "sit on the dog" (directions in the words of Margot Woods). Margot Woods, who has sadly passed on, came up with this exercise. It is an easy exercise, because your dog does not need to know anything to do it. It can be a challenging exercise for the human handler at first if they are not used to ignoring their dog, have a very reactive dog, or have a dog that has a hard time finding their chill due to behavioral problems like fear and anxiety. Once you get going and beyond that OR if you have a dog that is able to easily find their chill zone, it is an incredibly easy exercise to do. However, you do need to follow the protocols for it to work, which basically involve equipment, leash length, duration, and allowing the dog their time to accustom themselves to the process.
Many trainers, like myself, have made additional rules for this exercise or tweaked it a bit. I have made rules for dogs that may have a bit more drive and stubbornness to make it easy on them later on (for instance my own dog, Shana LOL). However, the model that Margot designed is the best for most dogs in my opinion. Some dog trainers have tweaked this exercise due to the time constraints as well when training someone else's dog. I have not tried that method myself yet, but their is probably value in that as well. However, I think the longer you can stick it out, really the better in the long run. You can find my directions that try and mirror the one's of Margot Woods faithfully but with a bit more information for myself and my clients:
The only equipment necessary for this exercise is a chain metal training collar, a six foot leather leash, and a sturdy chair (avoid rolling chairs or any one that you may not want chewed).
Below is a very short video on what changes a few days can make (with a full training plan also) in a dog's perception and behavior doing sit on the dog:
The "Place Command" is a training exercise that is very beneficial to increasing impulse control and encouraging calm behavior. It has two basic parts:
- The send away means you send your dog away from you for a distance to an object that can fit onto.
- The ability to then stay on the defined object until released is the second objective.
The place command is a way to station your dog in a defined area that they can get comfortable in. This is different than the sit or down stay, in that they can choose their position and move around a bit to get comfortable. They are free to sit, stand, or down by their choice. The only rule of place is that the four feet must remain in the place object.
Much like "Sit on The Dog" or even crating your dog, this allows a well trained dog to observe and take in their surroundings without becoming involved in them. In fact the more this is practiced and advanced, the more this becomes your dog's safe and treasured place to relax and take a rest. Often my dogs go to the items that I have trained them "Place" on their own. This helps with so many things:
- Cleaning your house without dogs underfoot.
- Eating your meal without your dog begging or walking up to you and disturbing the meal.
- Enjoying time with company without your dog being a nuisance.
- The ability to send your dog to their place when Fedex or UPS comes to deliver a package.
- Keeping a recuperating dog with you without needing to crate them.
This is something I have been using with my personal dog Shana for a year or so in addition to her other training. You can also start this without your dog knowing anything. There are five steps to this, which is gone over in this video. This uses a piece of equipment called the "transitional leash" that was designed by Heather Beck, and I think it is very useful especially with behaviorally challenged dogs, though I am sure it also works great for stable temperament dogs as well.
I think this is better presented by the developer than me. I have found in my dog that it increased impulse control and also the equipment (used correctly) is good at shutting down an over reaction right away. This way, the dog gets to practice less and learns to shut the impulse down on their own faster. The ability to make your dog be safe, meet your dogs needs, and a training plan also needs to be instituted to realize the benefit of the equipment and the training.
I like this method as well, because it has the owner learn how to allow their dog to take on more responsibility for their actions as they learn.
I am attaching the video by the developer below: