Teaching Puppies: It’s Just Arranging Coincidences

Posted on 04/16/15 53 Comments

experience cs lewis meme.001

I am pretty sure C.S. Lewis wasn’t referring to dog training when he said of experience that although it was a “brutal teacher” you still do learn from it! However, truthfully that is how not only people but puppies learn. It is through interacting with the environment, the people, the things, and other animals etc.

Experiences bring lessons for both people and puppies.

Of course this holds true for older dogs as well. Just as we as humans don’t stop learning when we leave our childhood, dogs don’t stop learning when they leave puppyhood! Our environments are constantly sharing lessons with us.

Now the lessons often appear to come as a “coincidence” like the one in the picture above. In the photo the puppies experience finding my plastic cup and one of them pushes it over. Potentially they could have learned 1). If we push the cup over we may get to drink it’s yummy contents or 2) If we push over the cup it makes a loud scary noise and we don’t like that. Or in this case, where there was nothing in the cup and the noise wasn’t scary, the puppies may have learned nothing more than they like to play with plastic cups!

Any learning appears as a coincidence to the puppy. Now if that cup had been filled with goats milk (yuck!), which the puppies LOVE, the coincidence of them finding the cup and knocking it over would have help to guide their future experiences to seek out plastic cups!

To the inquisitive puppy anything enjoyable (fun, good tasting etc.)  they find while investigating their environment is an AMAZING coincidence. The cool thing is…as pet owners we can arrange these coincidences to produce brilliant puppies and dogs who do what we want them to do. What may appear as a “coincidence” to the puppy is just “good dog training” to the rest of us!

      Arranging coincidences brings AMAZING lessons!

That is exactly how reinforcement based training works. See the short video clip below that I just videoed this morning. The puppies are having fun chasing, jumping, chewing, digging in the garden but do a “head whip” to come running to me when I call.

How cool is that?

For these seven week old puppies when they go to their new homes in a week, they will already have a sound associated with the behaviour of running as fast as you can to your owner! All their new owners have to do is continue this great “coincidence” and change the sound “wit-wit-wit” to any sound they choose…like the puppies name or the word “come.”

Do you now see how training with “coincidences” works? Of course to you and I they are not “coincidences” at all…they are carefully planned training sessions. One lesson building upon the last.

This afternoon I did a big puppy recall “test”. We did another short video showing exactly how we set these puppies up to really see how well they understood their recalls.

And cute little puppy Wiggins brought along a tug toy bonus (yes we have been working on a retrieve with these puppies as well :)).

Now I didn’t just start making that noise when puppies were scattered all over our property and expect these puppies to coming running as fast as they could. I built up this valuable (potentially life saving) lesson over the past month. Starting with recalling a very short distance…from their beds to their dinner dish. It was followed with strategically planned layers of learning. However to the puppies…it is just a series of coincidences that has lead them to learning a lesson they want to continue to repeat. No matter where they are, no matter what they are doing…when they hear their recall word or noise, it means amazing things are about to happen!

I am working on another video showing how training with “coincidences” works for teaching the retrieve. I will have that one available next Monday (although Wiggins does give you a sneak peak in the recall video above:)).

IMG_5467Today I am grateful for this amazing litter of puppies that I continue to learn from so that I may in turn share my lessons with each of you.



  1. Lisa says:
    Monday, May 4, 2015 at 11:39am

    Thank You Susan for the smiles! These guys & gals are adorable. I love your training methods and your infectious positive attitude. I just have to share an observation it appears Wiggins has a heart between his shoulder blades. I’m not sure if it just looked that way in the video or not but my heart melted as my best dog ever had the heart mark on his head. Valentino always seemed to put his whole heart into everything I asked him to do. So if you are looking for input on the one to keep I think the heart is a good sign 🙂 love love love him!


  2. Sonja says:
    Wednesday, April 22, 2015 at 10:07pm

    Amazing 🙂 How lucky are the future owners of these pups 🙂


  3. Glenda Russell says:
    Wednesday, April 22, 2015 at 4:48pm

    Thanks so much for sharing your amazing puppies with all of us. Unfortunately the videos had sound but no visual on my phone. Just curious how you start teaching the value of “Wit wit?”
    Again, Thanks


  4. Ariel says:
    Tuesday, April 21, 2015 at 4:29pm

    how cute!!! love em


  5. Sandy says:
    Saturday, April 18, 2015 at 10:26am

    This article was posted through a link on Facebook. Since I have been struggling with getting my puppy to “come” I thought it pretty timely. While watching the video, my puppy is in another room playing with a toy. When you started calling your puppies, my puppy came running into the room and jumped on my lap. I know what we are going to be working on this weekend. Thank you!!


  6. Julie says:
    Saturday, April 18, 2015 at 7:18am

    Thank you Susan for sharing thei journey! So many cool ideas for the next time I have a puppy at home!! And some great ones for my dogs now! These pups are so cute and seem so happy. Are you sure you can’t keep them all? I would never be able to part with any of them!! Keep the tissues handy! I hope you pick Wiggins!


  7. JenT says:
    Friday, April 17, 2015 at 6:12pm

    When I am ready for my Border Collie puppy I must find someone like you to get him/her from! I may have a hard time…I love the way you are starting these puppies! Fun 🙂


  8. Norma Nelson and Brogan says:
    Friday, April 17, 2015 at 3:48pm

    They are so cute and very rollie pollie. I would love to see you do that long recall with terriers!!!!! :O)
    Looking forward to seeing which “jewel” you and John keep!


  9. Lisa says:
    Friday, April 17, 2015 at 12:45pm

    I admit, so far I haven’t put in the work (or the consistency) to give my dogs a reliable recall (although they respond well to “here” in agility). When I do finally buckle down, I’m leaning toward using the word “Swagger” as their recall word. Why? Well, for one, I’m never likely to use that word for anything else in their life. And two, when I got my last pup I invested in Susan’s Puppy Peaks program, and now, whenever I hear the word “Suh-wagger!”, in my minds eye I see Swagger racing toward her from half a mile away! Not a bad picture to have in my head when I call my dog! 🙂


  10. Maggie says:
    Friday, April 17, 2015 at 12:33pm

    So cool Susan, thank you for sharing. We took lots of long walks and recalls when I raised 2B’s litter (Vhari x Excel) 2 years ago. I was astounded how far the pups would go and how inquisitive they were. This is such great info for trainers & breeders. I think you should keep Wiggins! He’s already multitasking bringing you a toy on the recall! Love it! Have a nice weekend – you sure made me smile! Stay well!


  11. Linda DAlessandro says:
    Friday, April 17, 2015 at 11:33am

    So fun to watch. I have a litter due in the next few days. I’d love to enroll in Puppy Peaks, when are you opening enrollment?



  12. Lainy says:
    Friday, April 17, 2015 at 9:00am

    i am so impressed with all the training you do with your pups, I have a rescued Border mix, that I trained to be a therapy dog. He is brilliant and works especially well with special needs kids.
    It would be an honor to have one of your dogs. I do so enjoy watching your videos. Thank you for what you do!


  13. Lydia Mancini says:
    Friday, April 17, 2015 at 8:32am

    Wow… I wish the obedience handles and trainers trained like this. Beautiful


  14. Patti says:
    Friday, April 17, 2015 at 6:53am

    Thank you Susan for sharing your pups with us. It has made me laugh at the fun you are having with them! I am so glad to see you enjoy them so much. Too many times we forget how quickly time passes. And soon they will be leaving for their new adventures. But we will be blessed to be able to follow one of them as they grow and become the next awesome learning example for us all. Thanks again for sharing.


  15. Kate says:
    Friday, April 17, 2015 at 6:03am

    I have adult dogs who have not lived with me in years but will race to me when I call “puppy, puppy.” They never forget these early cues or a breeder’s love. In fact, even hearing my voice on the telephone will elicit intense excitement and response to cues.


  16. Trudie says:
    Friday, April 17, 2015 at 5:43am

    Testimony from around the world… Susan has lots of followers in France, and I sometimes get asked about her English verbal cues! So I have explained the “with me”… Actually as it turns out, her “wit-wit” cue is marvellous in another language… Dogs here often get called with “viens vite!” meaning come quick! and so it’s no surprise, they respond super well to “vite- vite!”


  17. Margaret says:
    Friday, April 17, 2015 at 2:28am

    I have a litter of 4 sheltie pups – 10 days old. One of the puppies will be working in competitive obedience with me. Cant wait until they have their eyes open and their ears on. Many thanks for sharing those special moments with your pups. Inspiring for me and already have the paddling pool and balls ready.


  18. Ann says:
    Friday, April 17, 2015 at 1:27am

    My Acd puppy Mystic, was asleep in her crate and woke up going ‘who what?!’ May try and see if wit wit works for her already!


  19. Jane says:
    Friday, April 17, 2015 at 12:25am

    Oh SWEET! I’d say Wiggins is really vying for your favor, but then again, he has been from the start. How will you ever choose?


  20. Meg Matsaganis says:
    Friday, April 17, 2015 at 12:23am

    PS…..I’m betting on Wiggins


  21. Meg Matsaganis says:
    Friday, April 17, 2015 at 12:22am

    Just love watching these precious babies grow. It’s like watching Swagger in PP once again. So delightful!


  22. Cary says:
    Thursday, April 16, 2015 at 11:09pm

    That was amazing! Congratulations on some beautiful, funny, brillant and loving puppies. 7 people are going to be quite happy with their new bundles of joy.


  23. Chris says:
    Thursday, April 16, 2015 at 11:08pm

    Those videos are adorable!

    My husband and I like to teach recalls with calling games where one of us “sends” the puppy, saying “Go find ____” while the other person uses the call signal. After a few times with treat or toy reinforcement it seems that the pure joy of running back and forth at high speed is self-reinforcing. The bonus is that they are learning two things at once–the recall and finding a known person by name.

    One of my other favorite uses of “coincidence” in early puppy training is to teach urination on command. I do this simply by carrying the puppy outside at times when I know that s/he will need to void, and upon setting the pup down in the yard I say “Go pee!”. Of course, the pup pees, and I reinforce the action promptly. This comes in very handy later on, if you need to obtain a urine sample or just want to make sure your dog’s bladder is empty before a long car trip.


  24. Bonnie says:
    Thursday, April 16, 2015 at 9:44pm

    What fun! I always learn something from you! Thanks for sharing!


  25. Cathy says:
    Thursday, April 16, 2015 at 7:31pm

    How fun! I put a recal whistle on my last litter much the same way you trained the wit-wit-wit cue. Those pups are now five years old and they still respond to that whistle. Pays to put time into training and socializing those babies. And it is a BLAST! Thanks for sharing your cutie patooties with us!


  26. Marjorie Trebino says:
    Thursday, April 16, 2015 at 7:26pm

    Even Emma came over to the computer to see what was going on when I was playing the wit wit video…I have not conditioned wit wit..must be your miracle voice..


  27. Cindy says:
    Thursday, April 16, 2015 at 7:22pm

    Hey, I just may use ‘pup-pup’ as my come to me cue whilst running in agility 🙂


    • Susan says:
      Thursday, April 16, 2015 at 7:24pm

      If it has been build through reinforcement throughout your dogs life it would world brilliantly.


    • Marco says:
      Saturday, April 18, 2015 at 7:02am

      Hi Cindy,

      This made me smile a lot as my best friend used to have a dog called Poppy who was trained with ‘Pup-Pup’ as her ‘come’ command.

      I always thought they were just shortening her name but I later discovered that she had originally been taught it when a puppy on a farm before they adopted her and just stuck with it!


  28. Donna Smith says:
    Thursday, April 16, 2015 at 7:18pm

    Delightful video! What word would you use if you were not going to be doing agility, just for a companion dog?


    • Susan says:
      Thursday, April 16, 2015 at 7:26pm

      I would still use “wit-wit” as it is derived from my cue “with me” which is a cue I use when I am walking my dogs and want them to walk beside me. So “with me” was for my “pet dog life” long before it was ever used in agility.


  29. Inma says:
    Thursday, April 16, 2015 at 6:30pm

    I like your lessons


  30. Tonya says:
    Thursday, April 16, 2015 at 6:12pm

    Try you had eight pups come. Brooklyn flew from the other room jumped up in my lap and face. she did it for first video and then second. May put that on my phone and just have SG do my recalls.


  31. Ruth says:
    Thursday, April 16, 2015 at 5:51pm

    Awesomely cute and clever! What fabulous training Susan. I’m looking forward to watching more puppy adventures in Puppy Peaks:)


  32. Tracey says:
    Thursday, April 16, 2015 at 4:54pm

    Just curious how you came up with “wit” and why? I’d probably use “Pup” in the agility ring before I’d use wit! 😉
    Anyone getting one of your puppies is amazingly lucky; wish more breeders brought as much enrichment to their puppies! I love getting new ideas to prepare my puppies for the outside world – thank you for sharing!


    • Susan says:
      Thursday, April 16, 2015 at 6:04pm

      Tracey I use “wit-wit” because what I want the dog to do is come to my side. When I am walking informally with my dogs either off or on leash and another dog, bicycles, children etc approaches I tell my dogs “with me” which means come to my side and stay no further away than an arms distance. So with “with-with-with” turned into “wit-wit-wit” and now…as the story goes…you know “the rest of the story.” 🙂


      • Jean says:
        Thursday, April 16, 2015 at 6:19pm

        Susan, thanks for explaining that. It makes wit,wit different then a recall or means of getting attention in the ring.

  33. Kathy says:
    Thursday, April 16, 2015 at 4:40pm

    They are so cute. I sure will miss these videos. I get my puppy fix when ever I watch. Sure hope you post lots of videos showing the progress of the one you end up keeping.


  34. Nancy Martin says:
    Thursday, April 16, 2015 at 4:37pm

    I have enjoyed watching these puppies grow and learn. Brings a smile to my face each time.


  35. Melanie says:
    Thursday, April 16, 2015 at 4:36pm

    Adorable bundles of joy! Fantastic idea, to use Wit, Wit, instead of the normal, Pup, Pup! I will be definitely be using Wit, wit with my first future litter! My breeder also uses Pup, Pup and it definitely worked.. however, I agree that why not give them a head start by using a word that may having a specific meaning! I have two Aussies and I expect that some or hopefully most of their offspring will be in the show ring, agility or some form of competition and this little word change could simply make the new owners life a little easier to start. Thanks so much for the postings! 🙂


  36. Pauline says:
    Thursday, April 16, 2015 at 4:30pm

    I think Wiggins is trying to tell you he wants to stay and learn with you…


  37. linda says:
    Thursday, April 16, 2015 at 4:27pm

    wonderful puppies and great showing coincidence


  38. alice says:
    Thursday, April 16, 2015 at 4:24pm

    Susan, I’m sorry, but I was not able to make out the word you use for the recall.

    Could you tell me what word it is?


    What a fantastic litter of pups, adorable,
    smart and they get to have you as their first trainer! Those are some very blessed families. wish I was getting one


    • Susan says:
      Thursday, April 16, 2015 at 4:34pm

      Alice I am saying “wit-wit-wit”


  39. Anja Ylönen says:
    Thursday, April 16, 2015 at 4:21pm

    I always recommend breeders of hunting dogs to introduce a whistle signal. Acme whistles which is molded in plastic and always comes with the same tone. The signal is used when the pups are fed and later in all relevant situations and it always comes with a delicious reward. The new puppie owners gets a Acme whistle and are introducerede to the signal and they will have a recall signal that works for ever.


    • Penny W says:
      Friday, April 17, 2015 at 5:56pm

      I’m conflicted on this one as I agree, when you have Hield/hunting dogs, a whistle is great especially at a distance; however, now that I am doing agility as well as well as the online training with Susan, I see where the “Witt Witt” recall would come in handy for close in/ring recalls.
      Penny with the Chesapeakes and soon to have a Boykin Spaniel puppy


  40. Shelley says:
    Thursday, April 16, 2015 at 4:18pm

    I can’t stop smiling!!! Thank you for sharing them. x


  41. Kate says:
    Thursday, April 16, 2015 at 4:08pm

    Supremely cool! 🙂


  42. debra n Snap says:
    Thursday, April 16, 2015 at 3:48pm

    Just brought a huge smile when I saw that little herd of pups running toward you! Wished I was there to give you lots of tissue next week…. Gonna be hard – but who ever is the receiver of those pups are going to be happy, so happy! 🙂


  43. Julie says:
    Thursday, April 16, 2015 at 3:37pm

    Wonderful to see. These little guys and gals are just sponges. It is just so amazing to watch them learn.


  44. Laura says:
    Thursday, April 16, 2015 at 3:06pm

    Thank you for sharing so much of these little puppies’ experiences! It has been such a joy to watch them grow and is always the highlight of my day to see the latest photo or video. I can’t wait to see what amazing things they will each do 🙂


  45. Jean says:
    Thursday, April 16, 2015 at 2:51pm

    The breeder used pup,pup so I dont see a reason to invent another recall word. Pup,pup is just as easy to say as wit,wit.By the time we are ring ready, a short version of its name is used to get attention.


  46. Judith ADEIMY says:
    Thursday, April 16, 2015 at 2:24pm

    Amazing videos! I watch them over and over! How fortunate would one be to be able to purchase one of these pups! Excited to see which one you keep!


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