Since early socialization is such an important part of a Pumis life we recommend finding a local puppy class that emphasizes learning basic obedience skills. This can be started at around 12 weeks and will get your puppy used to being around other dogs and people. We do not recommend a puppy playgroup that is purely focused on puppies interacting with each other as this can be overwhelming rather than a positive experience for pups.
Tricks and Basic Body Awareness
Classes that teach the dog to become more aware of their body and to do some fun tricks can be appropriate from about 8 weeks old through adulthood, and can be a good precursor to any formal agility or obedience training. If your local dog training center doesn’t offer any of these classes or you prefer online classes where you can either observe and do the exercises on your own or video the exercises and receive individual feedback. One of the best is Silvia Trkman’s puppy class: http://www.lolabuland.com/online-classes/puppy-class/
Rally Obedience and Obedience Training
We like to start most our my young dogs in Rally obedience as one of their early training experiences, typically from about 5 or 6 months of age. Rally is a numbered course that the handler and dog heel around while doing many traditional obedience elements, such as sits and downs, at each “station” along the way. It has more movement overall and you can use verbal cues so it can be more motivating than traditional obedience. It’s also a great event to start the dog’s career in the competition ring with low physical impact. For formal obedience training my Pumis have benefitted from a highly positive training environment with short exercises and that allow the handler to maintain a high reinforcement rate. If you don’t have a local obedience trainer that you like to work with there are also some online options, such as Fanny Gott: http://www.fannygott.com/2619-2
Most puppies are ready to start some preliminary agility skills training from about 6 months onwards. This includes running contacts starting on a flat plank, handling work on the flat like turns around cones, and work with tunnels. Higher impact skills like weave pole training and jumping should be started after 1 year old and ideally after growth plates have been closed. Any agility training needs to be balanced with a conditioning program that includes activities like hiking and swimming.
Most people benefit from 1:1 in person instruction from a local trainer where they can get immediate feedback. However, there is a lot of training that can be done alone at home or with a video camera on a tripod or with a training partner. Some of my favorite trainers with books and online resources are as follows:
Linda Mecklenberg: If you were to buy only one book on jumping it should be from Linda. In late 2015 she released her Master Jumping Skills book, which is the update to Developing Jumping Skills book that many of us have been using for years. It is available through Clean Run: https://www.cleanrun.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=product.display&product_ID=4440. Linda also does online courses through her web site along with Jen Crank: http://www.awesomepaws.us/
Justine Davenport: Known for her innovations in handling techniques, Justine has done many seminars around the US and Canada in recent years and it’s really worthwhile attending a seminar if you can. She also has online classes available through http://shapeupagility.com/ and will be offering a puppy blog for her new puppy starting in April 2015 that will detail all the training she’s doing for the first 6 months.
Sylvia Trkman: Probably one of the best known names in agility today, Sylvia has the widest range of training videos that will get you started in trick training and help with motivation. With her online courses, which I’ve personally taken, the feedback is very quick and detailed as she prioritizes that mode of instruction over in-person seminars. The videos and online courses are available through her Web site: http://www.lolabuland.com/
Katarina Podlipnik: Known for her running contacts and motivational style and also through her lightning fast Pumi Minu, Katarina offers online coaching and classes and has training videos on her Web site http://grrready2go-k9training.com/training.html