Droopy ears, eyes too big for their heads, and squishy bean legs that smell of Cheetos; there’s no denying that puppies are an instant serotonin boost.
Behind the cameras though, puppies are breeders hell – ask any pet parent what it takes to feed and raise a dog.
Like human children, puppies too need constant care, communication, and most importantly, discipline.
Dogs, by their very nature, are very intelligent beings; in fact, there is proven evidence that dogs can read micro-facial expressions, understand tones and inflections, and even discern body language better than humans. They pick up behaviors quickly, just like a child, which is why it’s important to instill good habits early on.
Behaviorists and dog trainers say the right age to train a puppy is when it is barely a month old, at least when it comes to obedience and basic commands.
Just like you would send a child to school, it is important to use professionals (who strictly only practice positive reinforcement training or balanced training) when it comes to training puppies or dogs.
However, in light of COVID-19 and social distancing norms, the industry has changed, and today there are apps that can help you understand the basics of the training process that you can follow.
With over a lakh of downloads and a 4.7 out of 5 star rating on the Google Play Store, Puppr is one of the most downloaded and best received apps in the pet care category.
Puppr is a self-teaching app that helps pet parents teach their kids basic manners, commands, and a few tricks to help keep their noggins busy.
Downloadable for free, the application comes with a paid premium version, but gives access to many free training modules.
About the app
Puppr offers several features and services, including the ability to connect live with a professional trainer via chat, in case you need help with troubleshooting.
As soon as you log in, you come to the training page, which contains several modules, such as training new dogs, basics, idiots, etc. These lessons cover basic training for puppies, as well as adult dogs, such as crate training, leash walking, potty training; and basic commands like sit, fetch, stay, come, leave, etc.
Each training session, for example, the “down” command tells pet owners the level of difficulty and the equipment needed (like treats or grooming products if the session is about grooming). Before you get into training, there’s always a little explanation of why training is important, which helps you assess whether it’s something you want your dog to learn.
Then come the “steps”.
Puppr lists all the steps you need to take to teach the command, including the verbal cue you need to say, with short autoplay videos that demonstrate them. The text and video clips make it very easy to understand what you are going to do and leave little room for ambiguity.
At the end of each training session, there’s a nifty “tips” section that offers other ways you can practice, in case the ones presented don’t work for your dog.
Besides the training modules, there’s a nice social media-like feed where you can participate in “challenges”, like posting a picture of your pup doing the “sit” command. There is also a shopping page where you can buy workout treats, gear, accessories, etc., but that’s not very useful in India since the store redirects you to the Amazon US app. However, you can still use the page to get an idea of what things you might need for training.
I tested the app with my dog, Rosey, and our community dog, Lisa.
While Rosey had been trained in basic obedience when she was a puppy herself (she’s two now), 5-year-old Indie Lisa had not. Both are extremely “food-motivated” – terms used to describe dogs that can be bribed with treats to follow and learn a command with enough reinforcements.
Using only the steps outlined on the app, and not the tricks coaches and behaviorists taught me while I was training Rosey, I was able to teach Lisa to “sit”, “squeeze her hand” and to “come”.
The videos were really helpful, and the “tips” section helped me change tact when I realized I was getting nowhere on some orders, especially with Rosey who was sometimes confused as to why she was training again, after a gap of nearly a year.
Rosey was able to master the ‘spin’ and ‘roll over’ in just two days (but again, she’s a very smart and intelligent female dog (proud mother dog vibes) who will do anything for food .)
Puppr is primarily intended for dogs that have a high food intake, as it uses “treats” for almost all training modules. A handful of lessons on the app are toy-focused, where dogs who are possessive of their toys or just plain crazy about them can learn a trick or two.
The problem isn’t that all dogs are food-driven, over-careful about toys, or even want to please you – I know this because I raised three dogs with very different personalities. One of my dogs, our eldest, never really liked training, food or toys, as long as she got her quota of belly massages a day.
Dog behaviorists and trainers are familiar with such behaviors and usually know how to fix the problems. Puppr fails there. If your dog isn’t motivated by food, attention, or toys, training might be more difficult than expected, especially if you don’t have a trainer to modify the approach.
Using the “talk to a trainer” option didn’t work for me in India, and neither did the purchase page – but again it helped me understand the tools I would need for my dogs. For a first-time parent, this could definitely be very helpful.
There’s a lot to like about the app itself: the UI/UX is minimalistic, clean, and easy to understand. Despite auto-playing videos, the app ran smoothly without issues.
The FAQ section gives you a really good overview of your dog’s training journey, and the social page is a nice little motivator too.
Overall, while not a substitute for the expertise a trainer would have brought with them into training sessions, Puppr is a great starting point to get you and your dog started. the workout – definitely, a must download in our books. .