Ep. 10: Self-Regulation for Puppies with Curtis Kelley

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On this episode, Kayla talks with Curtis Kelley about self-regulation skills for puppies!

Don’t forget that you can support the podcast through Patreon at patreon.com/pandemic-puppy

Previous Podcast on Canine Conversations with Kayla and Curtis on Racism

What is self-regulation?

  • A dog that can handle small upsets and frustrations, ie. not getting a treat right away for offering a behavior that is normally rewarded. 
  • A dog that can handle touch and stimulation
  • Being able to just “exist” 

What is lack of self-regulation?

  • Examples are biting and nipping, jumping up, barking
  • “Acting up” and “being naughty” 
  • A dog not being to handle an upset or stimulation

Why is self-regulation so hard for puppies?

  • Your puppy is only a few months old, so everything is new

What games or exercises are helpful here?

  • Teaching them to give kisses and taking treats gently will help with biting and nipping inhibition 
  • Up/down regulation game; get your puppy really excited then bring them back down
    • Start small, and don’t get them too worked up past their threshold level
    • Use high value rewards to keep them in that down
    • Down time for 5 – 6 minutes for every 1 minute of excited time
    • The abruptness will make it difficult, but it will help them learn the value of different states of excitement 
  • Teaching your puppy to be limp in your arms, not squirming 
  • Its okay to reward you dog for faking it until they make it
  • It is the broad subject of self-regulation we want to teach in the end 

How does choice/control/confinement come into play?

  • It is a fluid balance that changes from dog to dog
  • Some dogs could not go to sleep anywhere outside of the crate, some dogs can learn to sleep anywhere
  • Use a crate for at least the beginning stages of the puppy’s life
  • Confinement is a useful separation from the rest of the world for them to just be themselves

 Tips for training self-regulation:

  • You want to go into any training session about self-regulation as a concept rather than a specific type of cue
  • Make sure you are in a good emotional and physical state
  • You should have at least an hour of time set for the session, because puppies might take awhile to settle down
  • Don’t ask them to settle without blowing off a little bit of steam first

Using pacifiers for self-regulation:

  • Bones, chews, and high value independent games can help with settling dogs or as an inbetween stage between being excited and sleeping
  • If the puppy chews too intently, they might amp themselves back up, so be mindful how long they are using it
  • It varies for every dog

The most important thing to remember is to adjust your expectations and meet your puppy where they are at. Aim for success, and be forgiving to yourself and your puppy.

Where you can find Curtis:



This podcast is also supported by the Puppy Raising Blueprint course, which you can find at journeydogtraining.com/blueprint. In this course, I guide you through everything from common problem behaviors like biting and potty training to the humane hierarchy of dog training. It’s always available on a self-study basis at journeydogtraining.com/blueprint.

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