Tag: training


The 2018 STAR Puppy Challenge

00Group Classes, Puppies, TrainingTags: , , , ,

AKC STAR Puppy Testing in Providence, RI | Spring Forth Dog AcademyAre you ready to commit to the training and socialization your puppy deserves?

Join our AKC STAR Puppy Challenge! Any puppy under 1 year of age can participate. Read more about the test here.

The STAR Puppy test makes a fabulous training goal for new puppy owners. It will set you & your puppy up for a lifetime of teamwork, solid communication, & fun! By meeting the criteria for the test, you’ll provide your puppy with a foundation of basic manners and age-appropriate socialization.

Preparing for the test will expose your puppy to many situations he’ll need to be comfortable with for the rest of his life. The test includes scenarios like grooming, being handled by strangers, wearing a collar or harness, going for walks, and more.

This test is a great first step toward the Canine Good Citizen program, trick dog testing, or dog sport competitions – but it’s also a great way to make sure you’re being an active participant in your puppy’s education.

So, we’re challenging you to commit to taking the test with your puppy. To be eligible for the STAR Puppy test, you must attend at least 6 manners classes with your puppy. Our goal is to test at least 25 puppies in 2018. Will your puppy be one of them?

Puppies are eligible to take the STAR Puppy test after attending six manners classes with their owners, and the test is free as part of your Flex Class Pass.  You can take the test after class on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays. We’ll also be adding special “STAR Puppy Testing Events” to our group class calendar, too.

Upon passing the test, you will receive a special medallion from us and we’ll take your pup’s “graduation photo” and post it on Instagram and Facebook. You will also receive a certificate, medallion, and puppy handbook from the American Kennel Club.

To sign up for the challenge, contact us or talk to one of our team members at the front desk!

Myth Busting: Dogs That Aren’t Food Motivated

09Myth BustingTags: , ,
Strata Gets a Treat

We once thought Strata was “not treat motivated” when in reality, he needed to lose a bit of weight and be offered tastier treats!

When dog owners find out that clicker training requires using a lot of dog treats, some express concern. They start to tell me that their dogs are not food motivated. I have good news: all dogs are food motivated!

Dogs have to eat. If your dog wasn’t motivated by food in some capacity, she would be dead. This seems obvious, but many people don’t see the connection between “food” and “treats”!

It is certainly true that some dogs are more food motivated than others. But your dog doesn’t need to be a perpetually hungry chow-hound for you to use treats in training. Here are my considerations when it seems that a dog doesn’t enjoy treats.

Does the dog need to lose weight?

Approximately 40% of dogs in the United States are overweight or obese. (Source.) It is common for dogs that are overweight to refuse treats because their caloric needs have already been met. I tell owners to talk with their veterinarians about reducing their dog’s weight. You can start by reducing your dog’s meals by 15-20% and removing fatty snacks like pig ears from her diet.

Does the dog like the treats that you offer her?

Often the owner is offering something that is mediocre from the dog’s perspective, like hard biscuits or kibble. In a previous blog post, I covered the subject of what makes a great dog treat. The best treats for training are small, soft, and very tasty. This is in stark contrast to a big, hard, stale biscuit!

Is the dog stressed out or distracted?

Generally, dogs that are afraid or over-tired will not take treats in that state. If you are offering a treat that your dog usually enjoys and your dog is refusing to take it, consider what is different now. Many dogs will happily eat kibble at home, but ignore it in a social situation, like a training class. These dogs are too distracted by what is going on around them.

In those situations, you need a treat that is more desirable to your dog. If your dog seems nervous or worried, and is showing other calming signals, get your dog to a place where she is more comfortable and relaxed before trying to give her treats.

Is the dog in pain?

This is often the case with teething puppies, or with older dogs with periodontal disease. These conditions make chewing painful. Offering a softer treat, like peanut butter or other “lickable” treat, is a good temporary solution. We use a lot of meat baby food or canned dog food with young puppies. You can use a spoon or dip your finger in it to deliver it to your dog. If you suspect your dog is experiencing oral pain, discuss it with your veterinarian.

How is the dog fed at home?

If your dog is being “free fed”, meaning kibble is available to her at all times, she is less likely to take treats. Leaving a bowl of kibble down 24/7 is a bad idea for a myriad of reasons. As it relates to training, the primary issue is that you never know when the dog is hungry. Hungry dogs are more motivated by food treats.

I’m not advocating that you starve your dog for better training results, but switch to feeding your dog two or three times a day. It will also make the dog’s potty schedule more predictable and keep you abreast of any changes in your dog’s appetite. As a personal anecdote, I have yet to meet a free fed dog that couldn’t stand to lose a few pounds. They nearly always eat to excess.

I hope these points give you some “food for thought” about how to encourage your dog to be more motivated by treats. As a bonus, here’s a link to the high-value sardine dog treat recipe we recommend for finicky dogs!


Why “Paw” is Problematic

00TrainingTags: , , , , ,
Why "Paw" is Problematic | Spring Forth Dog Academy in Providence, RI

Photo by Bonner Springs Library (Flickr Creative Commons)

Many of you know that I enjoy teaching my dogs tricks, so today’s post might come as a bit of a surprise. However, there’s one behavior that dog owners love to teach that often interferes with their progress in Day School and makes their training path harder. That behavior? “Paw” or “shake.”

Teaching your dog to put his paw on you to earn praise or a treat is easy and seems like fun. But if your dog jumps up on people or paws at you for attention, you’re building value in your dog’s mind for the same behavior you’re trying to get rid of in other circumstances. It’s confusing to your dog. Is it acceptable to put your paws on people or not?

Additionally, the way most owners teach this behavior is problematic. In most cases, the owner puts a treat in their closed fist and waits for their dog to start pawing at it. When the dog makes contact with their hand, they release the cookie. We don’t want dogs to make contact with us if we’re holding food. Watch my Self-Control Around Food video and you will see why teaching “paw” in this manner is counter-productive.

We typically run into trouble while teaching down to a dog who knows paw, too. We teach down using a food lure, which turns into a hand signal. That looks a lot like the closed fist many owners use to teach “paw.”

Is it ever okay to teach “paw?”

To be clear, I’m not suggesting that you never teach your dog this behavior. I have! While earning my certification through Karen Pryor Academy, I taught it to Strata on the cue of “pound it.” It’s super cute!

But at that point, Strata had already learned over twenty different behaviors. He had extremely solid self-control around food, and he never jumped up on people.

So before you teach “paw” or “shake,” make sure that you’re satisfied with your dog’s progress with these skills:

-Your dog no longer jumps up on people.

-You have already taught “down.”

-Your dog’s self-control around food is solid.

-Your dog does not paw at people for attention or to seek petting.

Pushing a Button with a Paw | Spring Forth Dog Academy in Providence, RIWhen you are ready to teach it, I recommend using a combination of shaping and targeting rather than luring to decrease confusion. Specifically, I like to shape the dog to touch an object with her paw first, and then transfer it to my hand later. This is what I did with my dog, Strata.

In the picture to the right, Charlie is learning to push a button with his paw. Later on, his owner could hold that button to transfer the behavior from the button to her outstretched hand or fist. Here’s a video showing how to clicker train your dog to touch a target with her paw.

Then, make sure to take the time to get it on stimulus control. That’s a fancy term that means your dog will only offer “paw” when you ask for it, and never offer “paw” in response to another cue. Eileen Anderson wrote a great blog post explaining how to achieve stimulus control, so rather than reinvent the wheel, I encourage you to check that out!

If that sounds challenging, you could consider teaching “wave” instead. With this alternative behavior, your dog isn’t rewarded for making contact with your body! That makes it an ideal skill for dogs who are still struggling with making inappropriate contact with people.

Summer Trick Training Challenge

10Dog Sports, Events, Group Classes, TrainingTags: , , ,

AKC Trick Dog Testing and Titles | Providence, RITrick training grows your bond with your dog and builds your training and communication skills. It’s a great way to burn off some of your dog’s energy when it’s too hot or rainy to play outside. Plus, it’s a ton of fun!

The American Kennel Club recently added a Trick Dog program to their catalog of events, which means your dog can earn official AKC titles for passing four different levels of tests.

For all of these reasons, we’re always trying to find ways to encourage our students to spend some time teaching tricks. So, we’re doing something brand new: a Summer Trick Training Challenge!

From now through August 31st, any dog who is signed up for one of our Intro to Dog Tricks classes will be added to this board in our lobby…

Trick Training Challenge Progress Board | Spring Forth Dog Academy, Providence RI

This board will keep track of everyone’s progress through the Novice and some Intermediate level tricks! For each trick you complete, we’ll place a sticker in the corresponding box on the board.

More info

Training Your Dog to Come When Called

00Puppies, TrainingTags: , , ,

Coming when called is a behavior that dog owners almost universally desire. A great recall means the difference between participating in a lot of fun activities – such as romps on the beach, playing at the dog park, hiking off-leash in the woods, competing in dog sports – and sitting on the sidelines. We get asked about it so often that we have a class, Come This Way, devoted to building and maintaining this skill!

It is also the behavior that dog owners take for granted in their new puppies, or inadvertently punish by making simple mistakes. Building a strong recall means avoiding these common pitfalls and maintaining a specific, positive association in your dog’s mind to his recall cue.

Teaching Your Dog to Come When Called | Spring Forth Dog Academy in Providence, RI

My Name = AWESOME!

Imagine how most dogs react when they hear a potato chip bag crinkle. They stop what they’re doing and come flying into the room! Hearing that sound is the highlight of their day. THAT is the response you want to your dog’s recall word.

The response to the crinkle sound is so strong because the potato chip bag almost always means a salty, oily, tasty special snack, and it definitely never means playtime is over, nail trimming time, or some other form of discomfort.

Recalls always need to be a positive experience for your dog. Be sure not to call him if you have to do something he doesn’t like. Common examples of things that are punishing to dogs include bringing him back inside when he’d rather be playing in the yard, calling him to groom him or trim his nails, and calling him only to pat him on the head (which most dogs don’t enjoy, but that’s a different topic). More info

AKC STAR Puppy Program

00Puppies, TrainingTags: , , , , ,

AKC STAR Puppy Testing in Providence, RI | Spring Forth Dog AcademyAre you a responsible puppy owner? The American Kennel Club’s STAR Puppy program is designed to reward owners who take their puppies to training classes. “STAR” is an acronym for the four critical parts of puppy raising: Socialization, Training, Activity, and Responsibility.

The AKC recognizes that well-trained puppies make better companions and are less likely to be relinquished to shelters. In fact, behavior problems are the #1 reason for giving up a dog to a rescue. The STAR Puppy program is an incentive program for responsible puppy ownership. Working towards this goal will give you and your puppy a head start toward a lifetime of great behavior.

In order to be eligible for testing, puppies need to attend at least 6 group dog training classes with their owner. The program is open to all puppies up to one year of age, regardless of breed or mix.

Once your puppy has attended at least 6 classes with us, we can test your puppy immediately after any of our Flex Classes. It doesn’t take long, and many of the test items can be observed during class time.

STAR Puppy Test Items

The STAR Puppy test consists of “20 Steps to Success,” a total of 20 test items. The first six are owner behaviors, and the other 14 are puppy behaviors. The items are:

Puppy Day School | Puppy Training in Providence, RI | Spring Forth Dog AcademyOwner Behaviors

1. Maintains puppy’s health (vaccines, exams, appears healthy)

2. Owner receives Responsible Dog Owner’s Pledge

3. Owner describes adequate daily play and exercise plan

4. Owner and puppy attend at least 6 classes by an AKC Approved CGC Evaluator

5. Owner brings bags to classes for cleaning up after puppy

6. Owner has obtained some form of ID for puppy-collar tag, etc.

Puppy Behaviors

7. Free of aggression toward people during at least 6 weeks of class

8. Free of aggression toward other puppies in class

9. Tolerates collar or body harness of owner’s choice

10. Owner can hug or hold puppy (depending on size)

11. Puppy allows owner to take away a treat or toy

Pre-Canine Good Citizen Test Behaviors

Puppy Training in Providence, RI | Spring Forth Dog Academy12. Allows (in any position) petting by a person other than the owner

13. Grooming-Allows owner handling and brief exam (ears, feet)

14. Walks on a Leash-Follows owner on lead in a straight line (15 steps)

15. Walks by other people-Walks on leash past other people 5-ft away

16. Sits on command-Owner may use a food lure

17. Down on command-Owner may use a food lure

18. Comes to owner from 5-ft when name is called

19. Reaction to Distractions-distractions are presented 15-ft away

20. Stay on leash with another person (owner walks 10 steps and returns)

What Comes Next?

After passing the test, owners mail the completed test form to AKC to receive an AKC STAR Puppy Medal, a certificate, and the AKC Puppy Handbook. The STAR Puppy program is a stepping stone to the three tests of the AKC Canine Good Citizen program.

If you have a new puppy, check out our Flex Class program to get started in training classes. You can start any time, and begin working toward your goal of a STAR Puppy!

5 Skills Your Dog Needs to Pass the Canine Good Citizen (CGC) Test

10TrainingTags: , , , , ,
Preparing for the Canine Good Citizen (CGC) Test | Spring Forth Dog Blog

Loose leash walking is one of the most important skills to master before taking the CGC test, because it is a part of several test items.

In last week’s blog post, An Overview of the AKC Canine Good Citizen (CGC) Test, I described the ten elements of the CGC test. Preparing for this test is key. There are a few specific behaviors that not all “well behaved” dogs know.

Preparing for the CGC Test

The CGC test is designed to reward well-mannered dogs and their owners. The first step towards a well-mannered pet is training. What people consider “polite behavior” does not come naturally to dogs. Sitting politely for greeting, walking on a loose leash, and coming when called are skills that need to be trained step-by-step. A basic obedience class should build the foundation for many of the skills necessary to pass the test.

Some trainers offer group classes specifically geared towards the Canine Good Citizen test. These classes are typically taught by CGC evaluators who will be able to find the weaknesses in your dog’s training and help you overcome them. Practicing the test items each week will also increase your familiarity with the rules, making test day as stress-free as possible. We cover the Canine Good Citizen skills in our Advanced Dog Manners group class.

It’s not impossible to train your dog by yourself to pass the CGC test. If you decide to go that route, study the test items carefully and be sure to practice in public places, such as dog-friendly parks and pet stores, so your dog gets used to performing around the distractions that will be present during the test.

Five Skills to Practice

Preparing for the Canine Good Citizen (CGC) Test | Spring Forth Dog Academy

Your dog will need to be able to sit and lie down on cue, and hold one of those positions while you walk 20′ away.

I have broken down the elements of the Canine Good Citizen test into several specific behaviors that need to be taught:

A sit-stay: This covers SO many of the test items! A reliable sit-stay will keep your dog in place while you greet a friendly stranger (with or without another dog), while the evaluator brushes her and checks her front feet, the 20′ stay, and the 10′ recall.

Loose leash walking: You’ll need this to walk through a crowd and demonstrate your dog’s ability to stay at your side while you make turns and stop, too.

Down on cue: This is a required part of the test, but your dog does not have to hold a down-stay (as long as you can use your sit-stay for the 20′ stay test).

Come when called: The test only requires a recall from 10′ away. If you’re practicing from greater distances, as well as around distractions, you’ll be golden on test day.

Supervised separation: This is one of the hardest elements of the Canine Good Citizen test for some dogs. You can approach it in two different ways – either as an out-of-sight stay, or by building your dog’s comfort just “hanging out” with a stranger. It all depends on your dog’s temperament and what you prefer to train.

Test Day

To find out about upcoming Canine Good Citizen tests, visit the AKC’s test search page. Alternatively, you can contact a CGC evaluator in your area and inquire about testing. If you’re local, we hold CGC tests in Providence every quarter at Spring Forth Dog Academy.

On the day of the test, make sure your dog is feeling well and appears clean and well-groomed. Bring a leash and a collar or harness for your dog to wear. Don’t forget the brush that you usually use to groom your dog, too! If the test is outdoors, bring along a bowl and some water for your dog as there may not be any available. Give your dog ample opportunities to relieve himself, as you cannot pass the test if your dog eliminates during an exercise.

Be sure to relax and act naturally. Smile at your dog and take a deep breath before starting. Remember, it’s just a test — and if your dog doesn’t pass, there’s always another opportunity to take it.

When your dog passes the CGC test, you will get a copy of the test results from the evaluator. You can send this in to the AKC to receive a certificate to display. The AKC also has collar tags and embroidered patches available to celebrate your dog’s Canine Good Citizen status.

The Next Level

After your dog has passed the Canine Good Citizen test, there are two additional ten-part tests you may choose to take: the Community Canine (CGCA) test, and the CGC Urban (CGCU) test.

The Community Canine test is also known as the “Advanced Canine Good Citizen,” hence the abbreviation CGCA. This test is performed in the “real world” – not in a dog training facility or dog show ring. Distractions are added to each element of the test. (By contrast, dogs taking the CGC test are only tested on two discrete distractions.)

The newest test, Canine Good Citizen Urban, is designed to assess a dog’s suitability for city living. Test elements include city-specific distractions like traffic, skateboarders, construction noise, and food on the sidewalk. The dog and handler team demonstrate their ability to cross streets under control, walk in a public building, and navigate through a crowd on the sidewalk.

Train On!

Whether you decide to just take the original CGC test or aim to complete all three, keep your training sessions short, sweet, and fun for your dog. A lot of owners get tense when they start training with a goal in mind. Others cut out food rewards prematurely since they’re so focused on what is and is not allowed during the test itself. Laugh, relax, and have fun!

An Overview of the AKC Canine Good Citizen (CGC) Test

00TrainingTags: , ,

An Overview of the AKC Canine Good Citizen Test | Spring Forth Dog Blog

Every September, the American Kennel Club sponsors Responsible Dog Ownership Days. On that note, I would like to discuss the Canine Good Citizen program, which rewards responsible dog owners across the country. As an approved AKC Canine Good Citizen evaluator, I am often asked about the requirements for passing the test. What does it take to become a Canine Good Citizen?


First, the CGC test is open to dogs of any breed or mix of breeds. One of the most common misconceptions is that dogs must be purebred, since the test was created by the American Kennel Club, but that’s not the case. (Did you know that mixed-breed dogs can now compete in AKC performance events like agility, rally, and obedience, too? It’s true!)

There is no age limit for the CGC test. However, AKC now has a separate program just for puppies called S.T.A.R. Puppy. Puppies are eligible for S.T.A.R. until they reach 1 year of age.

Test Overview

The Canine Good Citizen test has ten exercises, and the dog must pass all ten to earn its certificate. The exercises include the following:

Accepting a friendly stranger. During this test item, the dog allows a stranger to approach its handler, and remains neutral while the handler and stranger exchange pleasantries.

Sitting politely for petting. The dog sits and allows a stranger to approach and pet its head and body. The dog can stand up, but may not show “shyness or resentment” (or jump up and give the stranger kisses, which is far more common!).

Appearance and grooming. The dog must appear healthy and well-groomed to pass the test. The evaluator will visually assess the dog, then use a brush provided by the handler to gently groom the dog, check both ears, and pick up both front feet. The dog doesn’t need to hold a specific position during this test item, but does need to cooperate with the evaluation.

Out for a walk. The evaluator observes the dog and handler demonstrate loose-leash walking, with at least one left turn, right turn, about turn, and stop. The dog does not need to be perfectly aligned with its handler, but it must be apparent that the dog is attentive to the handler’s’ cues.

Walking through a crowd. This is similar to the prior test item. The dog and handler must demonstrate loose-leash walking through a group of pedestrian traffic (a group of 3+ people). The dog is allowed to show some interest in the strangers but needs to stay attentive to its owner, without straining at the leash or jumping up.

Sit & down on command and staying in place. To demonstrate the dog’s training, the handler cues the dog to sit and down. The owner then cues the dog to stay in place (either in a sit or a down — handler’s choice) then walks to the end of a 20′ leash, turns around, and comes back. The dog must stay in place until released by the handler, though it does not need to hold the sit/down. Multiple cues are allowed.

Come when called. In this test, the handler leaves the dog and walks 10′ away, then calls it. The handler can encourage the dog towards to come by using verbal cues, crouching down, patting their legs, etc.

Reaction to another dog. This is one of the hardest tests for students to master! Here’s the exact description from the AKC website: “This test demonstrates that the dog can behave politely around other dogs. Two handlers and their dogs approach each other from a distance of about 20 feet, stop, shake hands and exchange pleasantries, and continue on for about 10 feet. The dogs should show no more than casual interest in each other. Neither dog should go to the other dog or its handler.”

Reaction to distraction. The evaluator will pick a couple of random distractions and observe the dog’s reaction. Distractions can be anything the evaluator deems appropriate, such as dropping a book, knocking over a chair, a jogger running past the dog, or opening an umbrella. The dog may show interest in the distraction but should not bark, panic, or try to escape the situation.

Supervised separation. The evaluator takes the dog’s leash, and the owner goes out-of-sight for three minutes. This is another challenging test element. The dog does not have to hold a specific position, but may not panic, bark or whine continuously, or show excessive nervousness. The evaluator is allowed to speak to the dog but cannot pet the dog or excessively comfort it.

The handler is allowed to talk to the dog during all of the test exercises, except for supervised separation as the handler is not present. Food or treats, clickers, toys, and corrective collars are not allowed to be used during the test. A dog that growls, snaps, or bites (directed towards another dog or a human) at any time will be dismissed from the test.

In Monday’s blog post, I will discuss how to prepare for the test, as well as the new higher-level tests in the Canine Good Citizen program.

Puppy Day School Success Story: Alice [VIDEO]

00Training, VideosTags: , , , , , ,

Puppy Day School Success Story - Alice | Puppy Socialization in Providence, RIMeet Alice! She is a 9-month-old Border Collie mix puppy. Her owner enrolled her in our Puppy Day School program to work on her socialization skills around other dogs.

Alice missed her critical socialization period while waiting to be adopted. Then, shortly after coming to her new home, she broke her leg and had to be kept quiet for several weeks. She was nervous of new places, unfamiliar people, and most other dogs.

This is a typical outcome when puppies are underexposed to the “real world.” As the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior puts it in their position statement on puppy socialization:

The primary and most important time for puppy socialization is the first three months of life. During this time puppies should be exposed to as many new people, animals, stimuli and environments as can be achieved safely and without causing overstimulation manifested as excessive fear, withdrawal or avoidance behavior.

(Click here to read the full statement.)

Alice had already been rejected by a doggy daycare due to her antisocial behavior. She also refused to take treats in unfamiliar places. Before she started in our program, her training progressed at a glacial pace.

This video shows how in just a few short days, she went from wallflower to wild child. We’re thrilled with her progress and think you will be, too!

These results are quite typical for our Puppy Day School program. This immersive socialization experience is unmatched by group classes or private lessons. Socialization results are seen in days, not weeks, for dogs in this program. If you’ve got a nervous or fearful puppy, this is for you. Or, if you’ve got a brand new puppy and you want to prevent problems before they occur, Puppy Day School is the right choice!

Alice went on to graduate our Basic Dog Manners group training class with her owners. She continues to make progress every day. Way to go, Alice!

How to Chop Dog Treats in 5 Minutes or Less | spend less time cutting treats and more time training your dog!

How to Chop Dog Treats in 5 Minutes or Less

02Helpful Hints, Product Reviews, Tutorials and How-To GuidesTags: , , ,

In our Day School program, we go through a lot of dog treats! During our busiest weeks, it is not uncommon for us to use 10 pounds or more. We’re always looking for the fastest and most cost-effective ways to prepare and store this much food in our training studio.

When it comes to food rolls, we have this down to a science. We recommend and sell Happy Howie’s treat rolls. Happy Howie’s rolls are way less crumbly than other rolls on the market, which is why they are our favorite. These are 1- or 2-pound chubs of semi-soft dog treats which you can chop up or tear chunks off to give to your dog. Because you take care of the cutting yourself, these treats are very inexpensive per-pound.

Chop Treats in 5 Minutes or Less

Here’s how we process the 2-pound Happy Howie’s treat rolls at the Academy in just 5 minutes or less.

1. Unwrap the roll. While a pair of scissors works just fine to snip the plastic open, we use a pair of large dog nail clippers.

2. Slice the roll into discs. We usually aim for 1/4″ thickness – these are a bit thick.


3. Place one disc at a time on to the cutting portion of your Vidalia Onion Chopper.

“Wait, what?”

More info