Puppy High School and College
Basic obedience classes reinforce what was learned in puppy kindergarten or introduce the basics to pups that didn't have the benefit of puppy kindergarten. The class may emphasize more difficult behaviors that require a longer attention span, more precision, or an instant response, such as stay, heel, and come. Even at six months of age, however, your pug still lacks the maturity to be consistent and reliable, so basic obedience training should be a continuation of building confidence. As in puppy kindergarten, the trainer should use positive training methods, but she'll also teach you how to reduce and eventually phase out food rewards, with the goal of teaching your pug to respond only to verbal commands and hand signals. Remember, your pug will not respond well, if at all, to jerking, yelling, or scolding. Train in small steps and praise like crazy for even the smallest successes.
If your pug has enjoyed learning the basics, you may want to teach him more advanced skills that he will need if you decide to participate in obedience trials. In an advanced obedience class, your pug can learn to walk off lead, retrieve on command, and complete jumping and scent discrimination exercises. He can also start learning to recognize and respond to hand signals. Even if you don't plan to compete in obedience trials, teaching your pug these skills will help keep his mind sharp and his body active.
Your pug shouldn't train over any but the lowest jumps until he's twelve to fourteen months old, which is when the growth plates close. Repetitive or concussive activity such as jumping over obstacles can lead to orthopedic problems.
Training for Sports
Pugs aren't particularly athletic, but they are hams and can do well in canine sports such as agility and freestyle. You can find classes for agility and freestyle through your trainer or through a local community college. Agility and freestyle both have national organizations (see Appendix A) that can direct you to trainers or clubs in your area.
Hand signals aren't just for the obedience ring. You can use them in other dog sports and at home. For example, if Pugsley is barking while you're talking on the phone, simply give him the hand signal for “Quiet” (finger moving across your throat) and follow it with the hand signal for “Down” (palm up, toward his face). With practice, he'll learn to be quiet and still during your phone conversations.
Don't sign up for a class in your favorite dog sport until you're sure your dog is ready for it. This means he should know and respond to basic obedience commands. If you have to call him several times before he comes or if he won't sit or lie down the first time you tell him to, take him to a refresher obedience class first, and get in lots of practice at home.
With their comical nature and love of people, pugs are perfect for animal-assisted therapy (or AAT). You can't just waltz into a nursing home with your pug and let him start visiting people, though. The two of you must first become certified as a therapy team. You can find certification programs through the Delta Society, Love on a Leash, and Therapy Dogs International (see Appendix A).