All guide dogs must be well behaved and trustworthy in-home environments. Get SMART! Is an exercise that helps you, the puppy raiser, recognize when to offer food reward. It reinforces good behaviors. Delivering food reward in this exercise establishes the pup's understanding of positive reinforcement and good house behaviors.

We will be using Get SMART! In your home for the first six months of puppy raising in the home.


So, what is Get SMART? It's a simple concept that reinforces the pup's understanding of desirable behaviors. We will be using Get SMART for teaching good house behaviors.

Get SMART stands for






You will be "capitalizing on the numerous desirable behaviors the dog performs over the course of an average day by:

  1. noticing the desirable behavior
  2. pointing the behavior out to the animal (“mark” with "nice")
  3. then giving the animal a reward in order to increase the strength of those behaviors”

This is a simple way to get started noticing the behaviors the pup already does that you want to see more of.  This exercise helps us develop good behaviors that the pup is already displaying. By telling the dog "good job!" over and over with marker training, we are encouraging the pup to be cooperative, calm, and relaxed in the home. The more we reinforce the actions and behaviors we like to see displayed by the pup, the more the pup will offer that behavior and it will become consistent and reliable.

Get SMART! Behaviors

With this exercise, you want to reward the behaviors you want to see more of. The behaviors should be easy to see and mark because at a young age, the pup should be supervised at all times. Below are some ideas to get you started:

  • Walking on a loose leash when tethered
  • Chewing on a toy or resting quietly while on the tie down
  • Not jumping on people
  • Making eye contact when you say their name
  • Not investigating tempting items on low tables
  • Walking instead of running through the house
  • Resting quietly next to you
  • Staying quiet in the crate while you're walking by
  • Not picking up a dropped item on the floor
  • Walking by tempting items like kid's toys, dropped food, shoes, etc.
  • Sitting politely to be pet
  • Not jumping on furniture
  • Waiting politely to be fed mealtimes

This is a short list to get started, we'd love to hear your suggestions that can be added to the list!

How to Get SMART!

Okay, here's the fun part!

  • Every day, count out 50 pieces of kibble from one of the pup's meals.
  • Set the food out on a table or counter for an easy reminder if they are not in your treat pouch.
  • When you see the pup on their best behavior, mark the behavior with "NICE".
  • Follow "NICE" with the food reward.
  • Use the 50 pieces of kibble by the end of the day.

If you aren't home often, work in an office environment, or you're in class most of the day you can practice Get SMART there too!

You can customize Get SMART to fit your needs and the pup's behavior. You can Get SMART with lots of different good behaviors that the pup is doing, or you can focus on one or two things like settling on tie down and not jumping on people.

By six months, the pup should have an excellent understanding of good behavior in the home because of the Get SMART exercises.

If you need support with this exercise, please contact your advisor or area coordinator.

We are using Get SMART for our puppy raising program with permission from Kathy Sdao. If you would like to learn more about Get SMART, please refer to her book "Plenty in Life is Free"