Photo: Unsplash

How to Use Harper

Get the most out of your training

7 minute read

You can use Harper without ever reading this guide and not be any worse off, but if you’re the type of person who prefers to see as much of the journey as possible before embarking on it, you’ll find that map below.

The Goal

Harper is designed to be simple but comprehensive. It’s meant to be your guidebook, not your rule book, on your journey to building your best life with you and your pup.

The goal is to build a happy home and the reward is happy pups and happy humans.

The Essential Skills Harper Covers

Harper covers the minimum set of skills every pup needs to be part of a happy home. These skills largely mirror the standards set forth by the American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizen Test which similar to Harper, endeavors to “reward dogs who have good manners at home and in the community” and include:

  1. Being comfortable in the crate
  2. Staying in the Crate at Night
  3. Staying in the Crate When People are Home
  4. Staying in the Crate When Home Alone
  5. Having self-control
  6. Not Touching Food on the Ground or on Their Paw
  7. Calming Down on Cue
  8. Not Running Through Doors
  9. Not Jumping Out of the Car
  10. Being good with humans
  11. Remaining Calm When Visitors are At the Door
  12. Remaining Calm When Visitors are in the House
  13. Politely Greeting Strangers in Public
  14. Being good with dogs
  15. Politely Encountering Other Dogs in the Home
  16. Politely Encountering Other Dogs in Public
  17. Being able to sit, go down, and stay on cue
  18. Sit, go down, and stay without treats
  19. Sit, go down, and stay for long periods of time
  20. Sit, go down, and stay from a distance
  21. Sit, go down, and stay in a variety of environments
  22. Coming when called
  23. Inside the house
  24. When outside the house
  25. When there are distractions
  26. When out of sight
  27. Walking like a champ
  28. Walking by your side with no pulling
  29. Stop and sniff on cue “Go Explore”
  30. Resuming walking after a stop and sniff “Let’s Go”
  31. Walking politely in a crowd of people and other dogs
  32. Playing nice
  33. Leaving something alone on cue
  34. Taking something on cue
  35. Dropping something on cue

The Verbal Cues

With Harper, you’ll learn the following verbal cues:

  • yes
  • sit
  • down
  • stay
  • (dog's name)
  • come
  • let's go
  • go explore
  • take it
  • leave it
  • drop it
  • house
  • okay

A Guidebook, Not a Rulebook

Harper only shows you one way to build a happy home with your pup, but there are others! Not only are there almost an incalculable number of ways to train a particular skill, there are also an incalculable number of ways to define a happy home.

You should not let Harper’s instructions constrain you. They are merely suggestions. You’re unique. Your dog is unique. Your home is unique. If something in Harper doesn’t seem to address your particular situation, you should trust your judgement and seek out other answers.

Supplement Harper Training with Other Resources

Harper works even better if you use it together with other resources. For example, puppy classes are a great way to socialize your puppy. Harper didn’t invent modern dog training. There are lots of other great books and training resources out there. Many of them inspired content in Harper.

The Canine Good Citizen Test

If your pup masters all of the skills covered in Harper, then he’ll be ready to take the AKC’s Canine Good Citizen test. While a happier, safer dog is the ultimate reward for training, the Canine Good Citizens test provides a nice target (and certificate) to aim for.

When your dog is ready, you’ll need to find CGC evaluator to administer the test. You can learn more about the Canine Good Citizens test and how to find an evaluator here.

The Mechanics

Games

Harper is built around short training games, focused on a skill you want to work on, that teach the dog and strengthen your relationship. There's step-by-step video instruction for every game. And there's session logging to keep track of what you worked on and how it went.

Courses

Know that you need to focus on a specific set of skills? You can enroll in courses to guide your pup's development. Each course has been designed so that one game builds on the next. You can focus on building the habit of training, and you can rely on Harper to help you and your dog progress in that skill.

Training Sessions and Harper as Your Logbook

Harper allows you to track each training session. At the end of each training session you should return to the app and record how the training session went. Your feedback and private notes on each training session are important tools you can use to see how well things are going and what adjustments need made.

Use Harper Daily

Harper is meant to be used daily. During these critical stages of training, your pup will need daily training and in the very early stages, you should expect to have dedicated training time multiple times throughout the day.

Training Sessions Should Be Short

Focused training sessions should not be long. Frequent, short training sessions that usually last less than 2 minutes and don’t go longer than 5 minutes are are the most effective. Everyone has 2 minutes to train with their dog.

Multiple Skills at One Time

Harper allows you to work on multiple skills at any time. Choose which games and courses you work on and feel free to jump around! Enjoyment and effort are keys to progress. So if you're hitting a wall, go play something else.

How Long to Use the App

Ultimately, your pup’s progress determines how long you’ll use Harper for training. If you’re training a puppy, you may need 12 months for him to fully master the skills in the app as a puppy goes through a lot of changes during that time that impact his training.

On the other hand, you may have a mature dog who doesn’t have good manners but also doesn’t have horrible habits to unlearn. In that case, you may cruise through most of the content in a shorter amount of time.

The habit of training is the most important thing we want to impart though. It's one of the most important ways to strengthen your relationship with your dog. And that's what we all want, right?

What You’ll Need

Supplies

Besides the app, Harper’s training games uses a few tools. Some of these are specific to a particular goal. For instance, crate training requires a crate. If you are not interested in crate training your dog then you won’t need a crate.

  • Treats (at various levels of deliciousness depending on the game)
  • Short leash (~6ft long)
  • Long leash (~20-50ft long)
  • Long lasting treat (e.g. stuffed Kong)
  • Food bowl
  • Crate

Locations

Harper uses common locations for training (we’re not training alpine search and rescue dogs after all) but some of these might not be available to you. That’s okay. You can use your own judgement in substituting a different location.

  • Home
  • Hallway
  • Internal doorway
  • Front door
  • Car
  • Public park
  • Dog park
  • Fenced in yard

Other Things You’ll Need

Here are some other things you’ll encounter when you’re playing Harper games:

  • 2nd Person
  • 2nd Dog
  • Public spaces with crowds

Those aren't always available, but they're more available than you'd think. Getting a friend to swing by for even 10–15 can create the opportunity for a great training session.