Outdoor Education is an intensive and early education program aimed at establishing good behavior patterns and habits that are easy for you and your puppy to maintain over the long term. Program options range from 4 - 24 weeks, and are 5 days per week. Our most popular program is 4 weeks in length, but if you think you might want more, you'll save by starting with our 8-week program.
A Typical Day
In Outdoor Education, every day offers something new and different! We make sure your puppy gets an average of an hour of individual training each day. Travel time, in excess of training (but is also a learning time), may add to the length of puppy's excursion. We do our very best to work with your schedule to ensure a healthy amount of alone time for puppy.
When puppy offers quiet behavior, we’ll let them out of their crate or confinement area and begin with a potty break (with lots of praise, treats and play for going in the right place). Then, we may practice a few of the basics to strengthen puppy's response when you ask for "sit", "down", or "stay," for instance. If you're having other difficulties inside your home, we may address them at this time also, or possibly upon our return.
Now is the time for primary socialization. This should be the main focus for your pup at this age, since the window closes very quickly! We know puppy hasn't gotten the green light to have four paws on the ground in all places, so we'll get them out and about safely, most often in a stroller. (Bonus, they'll learn to stay in place in a moving pseudo-vehicle!)
We'll provide appropriate exposure to the many sights, sounds and smells puppy will encounter as an adult, pairing each with praise, treats, and/or play. Since we know what the usual fear and reactivity triggers are for dogs as adults, we put extra emphasis on teaching puppy that these things are actually predictors of wonderfulness...not something to be afraid of or bark at.
We may stay local and stroll around your neighborhood, or load up into a crate and drive to a different location. For puppies who start out fearful, it is usually a good idea to increase their level of comfort in your local neighborhood and then move on to novel and increasingly louder/busier places.
Location examples include the Castro, the Embarcadero, the Mission, Cole Valley, the Haight, etc. We'll visit inside as well as outside spaces to ensure a well-rounded experience and lots and lots of people, especially children and men. As we observe and learn about puppy's fears, we'll spend extra time working on increasing puppy's comfort level on those pieces, and keep checking in to monitor for progress.
Puppies are Individuals
Of course puppies have many things in common, and their learning is all based on the same science. Yet each puppy needs his own equation for excellence! Personality, breed specific behavior, and learning history will vary greatly from one individual to the next. To that, add your goals for your puppy and future adult dog, along with what you do with them on a daily basis. Before we begin, we'll want you to complete an initial questionnaire, and follow up with a phone call and/or an in-home visit. This allows us to create an appropriate socialization and training plan so your puppy can thrive in the program.
Puppies Tell All We bring a lot of experience to the table, but your puppy's behavior is often our best indicator of what work is most needed at any given time. Tomorrow we may have a plan to work extensively in the Castro, for example. While we're loading into the van, a neighboring vehicle alarm goes off, and puppy becomes concerned - cowering and shaking. Immediately, we change tack and work on increasing comfort level by lowering the intensity using distance or an inside space, and pairing it with food/play/praise. As alarms tend to do, they stop and then start again, giving us several repetitions to really help puppy learn that this annoying stimulus is the predictor of great stuff happening, and not something to be wary of in future. This is but one example of how your puppy's behavior guides ours to give them the learning they most need during socialization.
We Stay Connected
A few days before training begins, you'll know approximately when we expect to arrive to get your puppy for their outdoor education sessions each day and when we expect they'll be home. We need fairly big windows for our eta's, but we try and be as specific as possible. After your puppy's first day or two, and periodically throughout your term, we'll touch base with you in person or through voicemail or text to provide you with progress updates including tips about how to continue to support their new skills.
You're also welcome to join us, so please reach out and let us know if there's a time you can come to the session for observation and some hands on learning. These "shadow" sessions add tremendous value to your puppy's learning and is the best way to ensure consistency and continuity for your puppy, though it isn't a requirement. Please let us know in advance when you'd like to join and we'll try and spend a little extra time with you and match your schedule as best we can. We need to limit these shadow sessions to one per day, so please plan ahead.
Most folks see great progress regardless of whether they join us in person for a session or not, but it is a big bonus if you can join at some point during the term. Additional weekend or evening sessions can be arranged for an extra fee if you are unable to meet during our regular session times.
We are keenly aware and concerned for everyone's health and safety at all times and operate proactively to minimize risk. Given the changing nature of ordinances and best practices as we progress and learn more about COVID-19, we'll provide you with our most current protocols for safety just before you begin the program.
Our practices include but are not limited to using our own equipment with your pup (our harness and leash, etc.), sanitizing hands before and after pick up and drop off and before and after working your pup, limited contact pick up and drop off (if you are home we will not enter, and ask that you meet us outside if at all possible or at your door at a minimum). We wear masks, and ask that you do the same when you meet us.