New Puppy Primer

Wheeee! I’ve been working on an updated version of the Puppy Primer for six months now, and it feels SO good to finally hold the finished product in my hot little paws. In it, co-author Brenda Scidmore and I emphasize the benefits of positive reinforcement, of letting dogs initiate the correct action themselves when possible, the importance of realistic expectations and of going step-by-step in training. That last issue is such a big one to me: so many of the problems I see people having with their dogs relate to them jumping from Step 1 to Step 25, without knowing that there should be many steps in between. For example,  there’s (Step 1) sitting on cue in the kitchen while holding a dinner bowl and (Step 25) sitting on cue when 5 people come to the door and there are 3 other dogs barking their heads off….  Don’t you think that one of the most important things you’ve learned (or are learning!) is how many steps there are in between?

I’m also happy about how the book is divided into 1) Special Topics, 2) New Exercises and 3) Practice Makes Perfect, because it helps people understand that you’re not ‘done’ with training once your dog will sit in a training class when you’re holding treats in your hand, and gets them started on a building a foundation for years to come.

The special topics include: Socialization, Positive Reinforcement, House Training, Crate Training, Handling/Collar Touch, Stopping Unwanted Behavior (so often not mentioned and such a common problem!), Helping Puppies conquer their Fears, How to Play (and how Not to), and What to Expect in Adolescence.

The exercises taught are: Sit, Down, Stand, Come on Cue, No Jumping Up, Walking Side by Side, lots of games like Fetch, Find the Toy etc, Take It/Drop It, Puppy Pause (as a foundation for Stay).

We worked really hard to keep the book user friendly and easy to read, but thorough enough to cover the most important information needed to get a puppy started out right. But, I would LOVE your feedback. There’s always a second printing . . .

Is it perfect? Oh heaven’s no. I already decided that the title to Chapter 2 is just stupid (this morning I noticed that and said “Who wrote this anyway?), and I’m sure I’ll find more that I want to change, but in general, just between us, I’m pretty excited about it. Truth be told, she says sheepishly, I am in particular a total mush bucket about the cover.

Intro Sale: I like to keep business separate from the blog, but I think some of you might like to know that the book is on sale for a week at a special introductory price. Just check out The Puppy Primer on my website. Thanks for bearing with me on this, the new book might not be of interest to some of you, but it’s really fun for all of us to have the finished product delivered from the printers.

Meanwhile, back on the farm: Still living as if on the top of a wedding cake with white frosting, snow snow snow everywhere. This Sunday a group of Univ of Wisconsin students are coming out to learn how to do pregnancy checks on sheep (not from me, I couldn’t read a sonogram if my life depended on it; I still think they are making it up when they point to something and say “See! See the grey area there.. that’s a …”. ). I’m also getting straw delivered; if I’m lucky it’ll come when the students are there and we can fill up the barn in just a few minutes! Nothing like lots of strong backs on a farm!  This all is reminding me I’d better get my lambing supply orders in. Can barely believe they are due in a month. Shearing happens next week too; it’ll be interesting to see which ewes take each other on afterward (there always seems to be a challenge between two ewes after shearing, I’ll try to get it on tape again as I did last year.)

Willie and I are loving having lots of time together, and working on some new tricks, but oh I miss having another dog around for Willie to play with. Even in the last weeks of Lassie’s life she and Will would play together a little, and I am sure that he misses it. Going to borrow some dogs from friends this weekend!


  1. says

    Oooh I can’t wait to get my hands on this one! My “puppy” is almost one, but I just got him at 10 months old so I still consider him a puppy =)

    I’m so excited!!

    P.S. I LOVE the cover =)

  2. says

    Congrats on finishing the book! I am wondering if it might be a good place for me to start with training/retraining two (new to me) adult standard poodles. They are generally obedient and willing to learn, but I’d like them to be more responsive, and for the right reasons. What do you think?

    Your play posts were enlightening. I’m trying to modify their “bullying” play with other dogs, which has been a source of stress. Happily they are really great dogs in every other way.

  3. Melanie S says

    The Book sounds great Trisha. I can imagine after the gestation and birth of it, it’d be quite the thrill to hold it, stroke it, smell it, flick through it, turn it over… am I getting carried away? Grin…

    And yes, I understand what you mean about being able to break the learning process into bite-sized chunks so the pups/dogs don’t choke.

    Since deciding that the heading for Chapter Two is ‘just stupid’ have you come up with something you prefer? If you do, let us know and then those of us who buy a copy can handwrite in your preferred title!

    I have sheep too (only three – a ewe and her twin sons, all full grown now) and the first few times they were shorn my horse felt a need to re-acquaint himself with them, gently sniffing them and following them around briefly until he seemed to be reassured that despite the streamlined new look they were his same companions as before.


  4. says

    I would LOVE it if somebody explained why sheep need to pound on each other after shearing. I can’t get out of my head the notion that they are laughing at each other’s haircuts….

  5. Aaryn says

    This is a bit off topic from your post, but I am curious if you have any thoughts or would do a post in response to the recent fatal orca/trainer incident at Sea World. There has been a lot of coverage in mainstream media, but I haven’t heard any of the major voices in the animal behavior world comment on the situation. Seems like there are plenty of parallels one could draw between behavior issues/human misunderstandings with captive whales and the issues/misunderstandings many of us have with our own pets, and our nature as human animals to interpret signals from other animals the wrong way sometimes.

    Thanks in advance!

  6. Cynthia says

    I can attest to difficulty of steps 2 through 25! Both my dogs have various aggression problems, and the hardest part is convincing myself not to push them a little more. The concept that counterconditioning works best way below threshold is easy to understand conceptually, but much harder to stick to in practice.

    For example, I’m wandering around the field outside the dog park with my dog who is afraid of dogs. She seems fine, though a bit tense, and is happily performing “where’s the dog?” for a click and treat. But I keep thinking “Oh, I bet we could go in just for a minute. It seems calm . . . ” Luckily past experience won out and we just packed it up and went home.

    Or going in and out of the front door and giving treats to my dog who is fear aggressive towards people/visitors and thinking “This isn’t doing much, he’s really happy to see me.”

    Anyone have stories or words of encouragement of steps 2-25?

  7. says

    That cover makes me remember my little puppy days with my guys. Boy are puppies ever cute!

    I can’t wait to read it as well. I like the fact that there are games to play with puppies as that’s what kept me sane with mine. Practice makes perfect section is sooooo under rated, so that’ll be another good one and Stopping unwanted behaviour …basically I can’t wait to read it and keep a couple copies around to give to new puppy owners that I meet.

    I actually got the idea of keeping stuff in the car or in my knapsack when I met another puppy owner whose pup was CRAZY, and here my Aussie pup was doing tricks with me, recalls, rev’n up and settling game (we had just finished puppy class then went to where people kite board to hang out for a bit) They came over to talk about where he was going for training and I ended up handing them my puppy class folder.

    I won’t be getting another puppy for atleast 10yrs, my guys are happy and healthy and I sure am reaping the benefits of having brought them up on your training methods. We’re still finding fun stuff to learn and do. I love it about this training. My latest is what I call a “Shape dancing” … instead of break dancing 😛 Me and dogs (multiple dog household and foster dog who caught on in a snap) stand in a circle and I’ll say one dog’s name then wait till they offer up a trick..and reward them, then say another dog’s name then funny enough they normally do the same trick or will vary it a bit…so by the end of the session we’ve come up with a new version of something.

    It teaches them to wait for their turns and also to be creative, free thinking, happier than clams dogs. Bonus is I laugh and cheer them on and my oxytocin levels skyrocket. Who needs tv!

  8. Brenda says

    I ordered the book immediately! I can’t afford to order one for each member of each puppy class I work with (as an assistant trainer) but I can use the information to outline my class agenda.

    I agree that the biggest problem I have with new owners is the inevitable jump from lures in class to complete “obedience” in a dog park. Seems no matter how many times I tell them to gradually increase the pup’s exposure to distractions while practicing the commands, they still jump from 2 to 25. Then they either think I am a crazy trainer, or their pup is ignorant, or worse yet, disobedient.

    What to do? Just keep teaching as best I can.

    Thanks for the new book. Should be great fun to use.

  9. Sharon says

    Love the cover – I could just eat that pup right up! :)

    So glad you updated this book – it was one of the first I read when we got Scout, and it was so helpful, I’m glad you’ll have it out new and fresh for all those new dog owners.

  10. Tina says

    Thanks for more info on the step by step stuff. I have a really hard time breaking things down for my dog (2yo mixed breed). She is somewhat reactive to other dogs (esp. really fast dogs like BC’s). I don’t know if it is poor observational skills on my part. For example, I can get my dog to rollover by doing a down and then luring with a treat, but I can’t seem to teach her to connect the two movements into one ‘behavior’ and move past this step. Also, in trying agility, I can get her to touch a target, but not to keep touching the target until release, she just starts picking it up and initiating play with it…

    Freyja is a great dog and we have come a long way, but for some of us it is just not intuitive or something and we have to work really hard for every little step.

    Thanks to all you trainers who don’t give up on us people who want to do right by our dogs but don’t always know how.

  11. Alexandra says

    Oh perfect timing on this book! I have friends who just got a puppy. Love the cover.

    Animal Husbandry Question – I know nothing about the care of sheep, but why are they shorn at what seems like a rather chilly time in the year? Wouldn’t they need their wool to keep them warm until it is more springlike? Do they stay in the barn?

  12. Melanie S says

    Hey Alexandra, Trisha may correct me or add to what I’m gonna say about sheep shearing but over here (Australia) I’ve been told that they’re shorn prior to lambing so that they will seek out as sheltered a place for lambing as possible. If they’re left with their full fleece on they don’t feel the cold enough to cater for the wee lambs’ needs for warmth and shelter. If there are other reasons too, I don’t know them!

  13. says

    Congrats on the book Trish. Thanks for putting out great books for people and dogs to use.

    I have the same trouble in my training classes – people think just because their dog sits in class – pockets loaded with treats – that they are ready for obedience trials in a dog park, with 500 other dogs and people.

    Hopefully this book will help people realize the steps in involved in training a puppy.

  14. says

    This sounds like a great intro to puppyhood. As a fellow dog book author I agree that it’s important to emphasize that training is an ongoing, lifelong process. Best of luck with your book.

  15. Trisha says

    How to go “Step-by-step” seems so obvious–once you know how. Some of your comments have inspired me to write my next blog on some examples of what ‘step-by-step’ could look like. Thanks! (When I first started writing a blog I thought the hardest part would be coming up with things to write about on an ongoing basis. Ha! I just wish I could write every day.)

    Re sheep shearing: Melanie is absolutely correct. A primary motivation for shearing now is to avoid ewes making decisions about where to spend their time based on being toasty inside their thick wool coats. Also, their wool gets so long and thick it is harder to evaluate how they are doing when they get close to lambing, harder to predict when they are about to lamb (the lambs ‘drop’ into the birth canal and you can see the difference in the shape of most ewes.) and harder to see when their bags fill up. Also, although lambs are precocial and astoundingly agile just a few hours after their births, they are slower than puppies (who are altricial) to find the milk bar, and can end up sucking on wool instead of a teat. I usually lamb in mid-April, but the university spring break starts at the end of March, and that means I have a week in which I can be home more often to monitor the ewes. So I’m lambing about 2 weeks early, but even then, it’s usually not too cold by the end of March and as long as the ewes can stay dry, out of the wind and have good feed they’ll be fine. Many people, fyi, lamb in January and February around here, so I’m actually ‘late’ compared to the serious breeders. I like to shear a good month before lambing starts though, to avoid stressing the ewes too much when they are heavy with lambs.

  16. Trisha says

    To Kate: Your idea about “Shape Dancing” is just brilliant! I love it. I’m going to start doing it with Willie, and by summer, will have another dog to play the game with. (Don’t know who yet, but definitely need another dog in the house.) Kate–do you have a video? We’d all love to see it, I’m sure.

    To Cynthia: Words of encouragement are easy, because you are doing so well already! I think I will never be over having to quell that voice that says “But it’s going so well…..”. What matters is that you are listening to the OTHER voice, (as when you left the dog park), and know, at least, intellectually, that there is value in creating a happy experience at the door when you enter the house. Stay tuned to my next blog and I’ll go over some more examples.

    To Jane: Sounds like your sheep do the same as mine? I actually wasn’t sure how universal it was. Here’s one potential, just a speculation: We know that besides smell, one of the ways that ewes identify themselves, their lambs and their mothers is through visual recognition. They are, surprisingly to some, extremely good at recognizing faces, even human ones. Once they are shorn they look completely different, especially if they have had a lot of wool on their heads. So maybe, just maybe, they are responding as if they see each other as strangers, and are working out a social hierarchy. (I know some people are uncomfortable talking about social hierarchies and the “D” word, but if you don’t use that term around sheep, well then, you just can’t really talk about sheep.) Melanie’s comment seems to support that, I love hearing about her horse re-acquainting itself with her sheep.

    And to Kitt: I never hesitate to go ‘backwards’ and work on the basics with any dog (not to mention myself, ah hem), so the Puppy Primer might be very helpful. You might though, at this stage, get more value out of Family Friendly Dog Training, it’s a beginning book for dogs that doesn’t include puppy related topics like crate training and house training.

  17. says

    Very excited to follow your quest of finding a pal for Will !

    I will video tonight maybe after the Olympic Gold hockey game…GO CANADA GOLD 😛 I am always looking for fun interactive teach my guys. I wish there was more on the internet & in book on multiple dog things to do.

    I did also teach Daizy and Keegan to play soccer if anyone’s interested, here’s a short clip in the mean time.

    Daizy beagle is my brainiac. Keegan is king of crashing the fun, so I put him to work in goal 😛

  18. Frances says

    Love the idea for multiple dog shape dancing, Kate – must give that a go with my two. Poppy is growing past the puppy stage now, but is still enough of an adolescent that I may be able to justify treating myself to a copy of this book – looks great!

  19. Janice says

    With regard to the ewes fighting after being sheared–I always assumed that it was a visual difference, because I do know that studies have shown that sheep have very good facial recognition for other sheep faces and shearing, especially when they clip the wool off the top of the head, makes them look different. But, through another list, someone told me that an old sheepmen’s trick to stop rams from engaging in too much head-bashing when they are put together, that what they would do is spray them all with Mennon Aftershave and this reduces the fighting. So I planned to try this with my rams and my goat bucks this year and see if it works, and it should also work for ewes and the rams at shearing. The funny thing is that my father always used to wear Mennon Aftershave and you know how long those olfactory memories last. It will be interesting to walk into my barn and smell my dad in the guise of sheep. But you might also try it and we can see if it makes a difference. My llamas always have to check out the sheep after shearing. They also check out each new baby as it is born (I have some good photos of this). I tried lambing in May last year–the latest I have ever done it. Two reasons–one was because I wanted to see what it was like lambing after the grass was already up and because I had back surgery in winter and wanted adequate recovery time. Mixed results–nice to lamb when it is warm, but I had more lamb rejections and it was hard to get the lambs (and especially the goat kids) to size by fall. I’ll be lambing about the same time as you this year.

  20. Tina says

    @kate – you do a super job. Thanks for sharing your videos. it will really help me learn to add more steps in between for my girl and hopefully we can make progress like you have. Also, wish I could find a class like that near me. If anybody knows of a class like that in Albuquerque, please post.

  21. Melanie S says

    Hey Trish, yesterday I tried to order the new book at its introductory price only to find that you don’t post books internationally. I looked at Amazon and Dogwise as you suggest to international folk but they’ve only got the now superseded edition! How long do you expect before the new edition is available from those sources?

    Oh, and re. horses recognising friends or foe, ovine or otherwise…

    My old horse Calypso, now deceased, had a few nasty experiences with dogs including being chased by a neighbour’s cattle dog. He was fine with my dogs unless they were ‘disguised’ in some way. If Tango, an English Bull Terrier/Kelpie (also deceased) wandered into Calypso’s paddock whilst wearing her winter coat Calypso would charge, chase and strike at her, her altered appearance triggered something in him and no matter that she was acting as per usual in a nonchalant way she was ‘foreign’ and therefore a target. Fortunately the first time this happened was not too far from me and I was able to protect Tango. It only happened once or twice more on occasions when Tango had opted not to come to the paddock with me initially (and so I left her at the house with her coat on) but had wandered in later when I was occupied elsewhere.

  22. says

    This sounds like a wonderful book. I’m especially looking forward to the training games section, because I’m always looking for ways to make dog training fun.

  23. says

    Here you go…our “shape dance’n” video from tonight. It’s so embarrassing because I’m not a rapper but we have fun! I also like the fact that it gives them the freedom to be creative.

    Plus I do manage to sneak some waiting patiently (emotional self control) for your turn in there too 😛

    Hope it makes everyone laugh or smile at least.

  24. Denise says

    I will have to order a copy of the new Puppy Primer for my library even though I don’t plan to have a pup around any time soon. Your writing is wonderfully accessible and I never hesitate to recommend your books to anyone who has a dog, is thinking of getting a dog or just loves dogs. One of your greatest successes (from my point of view anyway!) recently was that my sister, after purchasing and reading your original puppy primer realized that she really does not want a puppy and although her kids are still twisting her arm, I think she’ll hold firm and that’s really the best possible outcome for her and for the pup they might have brought home based on pure emotion. No amount of input from me would have made that difference. Don’t get me wrong, I love my sister dearly and never met a puppy who didn’t make me go all mushy but in all honesty, my sister is simply not cut out to raise a pup. Knowing what is involved in raising a baby of any kind and being ready for it goes a long way towards avoiding an unhappy experience for everyone involved.

  25. says

    I normally give my puppy families your “How To Be The Leader Of The Pack” booklet. Is similar information covered in the new version of the Puppy Primer? Would it be redundant to give both books? I don’t want to overwhelm my families with reading, but I really prefer your books to others that are out there. :)

  26. Liz F. says

    Great ideas and videos, kate!
    Thanks. I have something new to try out, and a good reason to keep a few extra Puppy Primers on hand.

    As a way of saying thanks for your great posts, something else to try with multiple dogs for fun is box games- just forget the rule about one dog being in a box at a time (like I learned in an agility class). I did start box games one dog at a time, shaping behavior to make a short box one of the greatest things on earth to step in (starting with big, short box and gradually decreasing size). The inclusion of dog #2 happened by accident when the bystander dog got so excited he came over and stepped in the box his sister was in. It was so cute and they really had to work together to both fit (shallow box big enough for one dog comfortably but a squeeze for two.) Adding other dogs upped the ante for body awareness and was fun for all. Now it’s the only way we play! Funny behaviors offered, too, when both dogs decide only one can fit!

  27. says

    Does it get distributed outside the US already as well? I would love to get my hands on it, but I live in Germany..?

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