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Control Unleashed: The Puppy Program


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What’s it About?

Control Unleashed®: Creating a Focused and Confident Dog was written as a problem-solving book to help handlers with mature dogs that were having behavior problems during canine-sport training or competition. This book is different. Control Unleashed®: The Puppy Program is meant as “preventive medicine” for puppy raisers. Many common behavior problems can be either prevented or minimized by starting a puppy with good foundation training from the beginning. In addition, this book provides a program that will help you create a puppy that is ready for sport-specific training at the appropriate age—a puppy with the ability to focus on whatever you want, for as long as you want, whenever you want.

“Paying attention” is its own skill set and teaching it should be separate from teaching your puppy more complex behaviors. Without attention, you won’t get as far as you want with all those other behaviors you’re going to teach because it’s likely they will fall apart in the face of distraction. So it is wise to teach the attention skill set as the “base of operations” for your puppy training. The attention skill set includes: Discrimination skills, self-control skills, and arousal regulation skills.

The concepts and suggestions in this book can also be used for rescue dogs that, like puppies, are starting out as “blank slates” as far as your training is concerned.

Leslie McDevitt, MLA, CDBC, CPDT is a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant through the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer through the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers. In 1998, Leslie rescued Gordie, an American Pit Bull/GSD cross that had been badly abused, and in trying desperately to help him through his crushing anxieties and fears, met her inspiration and mentor, world-renowned veterinary behaviorist Dr. Karen Overall. Through Gordie, Leslie found her calling and devoted herself completely to becoming a dog trainer, and later, a behavior consultant. Leslie was volunteering at urban shelters and studying behavior and clicker training when she caught the dog sports bug and started agility and flyball training with her terrier mix Maggie. Her work with anxious, reactive, impulsive, and aggressive dogs gave her a unique perspective when she became a student of dog sports training.

Published 2012 Clean Run


“Leslie McDevitt’s book entitled, Control Unleashed: The Puppy Program, is a “must read” for every new puppy owner, especially for those who wish to compete in canine sports. This book not only highlights all of Leslie’s original CU exercises, but it also focuses on managing the new puppy so that he can be successful in new and challenging environments. Reactivity is currently one of the most serious behavioral issues that dog owners and competitors face. Leslie’s book is a complete motivational program geared toward creating an emotionally stable and versatile puppy, and therefore, eradicating reactivity.” —Emma Parsons, author of Click to Calm

“Leslie McDevitt has hit it out of the park with the CU Puppy Program book. The only thing I would change is the title, because ANY dog could benefit from going through this program from start to finish. This book would be especially great for people with puppies or newly adopted dogs who want to create a solid foundation of focus. I love the systematic approach and the exercises in this book and recommend it all the time in my seminars!” —Grisha Stewart, MA, CPDT-KA, KPACTP, Author of Behavior Adjustment Training: BAT for Aggression, Frustration, and Fear

Leslie McDevitt has another winner! Her Puppy Unleashed program is a great recipe for raising a behaviorally solid pup, and a must-have for sports-minded puppy owners.” —Pat Miller, Peaceable Paws LLC


~~Early puppyhood education is arguably the most important part of any dog’s training. For a dog destined for the competition ring, this early learning is all the more critical.

In this book, Leslie McDevitt, highly acclaimed author of the award-winning book, Control Unleashed, provides us with a programme designed specifically for teaching focus to performance puppies.

Designed as ‘preventative medicine’, McDevitt shows us how to prevent and minimise common behavioural problems by teaching puppies a solid foundation. She covers discrimination skills, self-control skill, arousal regulation skills and more, equipping us with the tools to train a puppy that has the ability to focus on whatever you want, for as long as you want, whenever you want.

A fantastic book that is a must for any puppy or rescue dog owner.

McDevitt begins by examining what is puppy control unleashed. She explains the key concepts of the programme as well as describing how they are supported by a series of games and exercises. McDevitt also looks at when to start teaching the programme.

In chapter two, McDevitt considers any differences in approach between training performance puppies and pet dog puppies, studying the balance between training and allowing a joyful puppyhood. She also comments on not forcing a puppy into being a performance dog if they are not suited to it.

Chapter three concentrates on focus, introducing us to a new way of thinking about this.

Chapter four moves on to prevention strategies for reactivity, including some red flags to look out for.

In chapter five McDevitt gives us some pointers for before you begin training, urging us not to put too much pressure on our puppies.

Chapter six continues by studying the Premack principle and its role in Control Unleashed games.

In chapter seven, McDevitt introduces us to the power of the release word, covering how to teach both stay and release and come and go. She also shows us how to use natural break behaviours such as chewing, sniffing and foraging in a training session.

Chapter eight looks at giving your puppy a break. McDevitt covers time outs vs. time offs.

Chapter nine covers McDevitt’s protocol for food arousal, looking at using food as reinforcement for the performance puppy, and teaching the dog to be in the presence of food without offering behaviours.

In chapter ten, McDevitt continues on the theme of reinforcement, dealing with how putting too much pressure on to reinforcements can sour them. She explains that releasing your puppy from pressure is in fact one of the most valuable rewards you have on offer, providing us with two case studies to demonstrate this.

Chapter eleven moves onto control vs. cooperation. McDevitt comments on how Nothing in Life is Free programmes have been taken to an extreme by the agility sport culture, and explains why your dog liking stuff is a positive rather than a negative in training. She also comments on the importance of a reward being rewarding to your puppy.

In chapter twelve, we consider attention, which McDevitt describes as just another behaviour, showing us how to de-emotionalise this.

Chapter thirteen continues with reassurance-seeking behaviours, explaining why and in what circumstances puppies will do this, as well as how you can worsen the problem.

In chapter fourteen, McDevitt focuses on targeting, explaining that this demands both attention and understanding. She then shows us some ways in which targeting works behind the scenes in Control Unleashed games, as well as covering how to teach a target.

Chapter fifteen looks at default behaviours showing us how to build a default behaviour and default behaviours for self-control.

In chapter sixteen, McDevitt moves on to availability. Here she discusses ‘leave it’ training, explaining why she believes it isn’t all that counterintuitive. She also explains how we work as translators, helping our dogs make sense of the rules of the human orientated world.

Chapter seventeen introduces the concept of biofeedback, which enables us to access a dog’s nervous system ‘from the outside in’. McDevitt looks at the benefits,  and shows us how to teach a puppy to take a breath, as well as discussing Dr Overall’s protocol for relaxation.

In chapter eighteen McDevitt considers shaping, before moving on to integrative training in chapter nineteen. This she describes as the balance of body, mind and spirit in animal training, which she explains as the puppy being both reliable and happy and relaxed in performing behaviours.

Chapter twenty focuses on economy of energy. McDevitt strives to make us aware of the amount of energy a puppy uses up just simply processing his environment. She continues by examining the bite threshold model in chapter twenty one.

In chapter twenty two we concentrate on transitioning. McDevitt discusses how to use passive and active attention to help your puppy warm up and warm down from a training session, also giving some advice on how to read your puppy.

Chapter twenty three considers reorienting, which McDevitt describes as the dog disengaging from something and orientating to the handler. She explains how to achieve this and in what situations it is useful.

Chapters twenty four to thirty three cover the following games and exercises:

  • Leave it
  • Whiplash turn
  • Look at that
  • Mat work
  • Off Switch Game
  • Give me a Break Game
  • Parallel Games
  • Box Work
  • Puppy Ping-Pong
  • Watch the Distracted Handler

In the final section, McDevitt gives advice on managing your puppy in classes and at trials. She also looks at the differences between arousal and drive, and finding the right teacher for agility puppy classes. McDevitt concludes with her testing system, consisting of 5 progressive questions for the handler to ask the dog.

A hugely informative read for all puppy owners, McDevitt equips us with the tools to create a well-rounded dog that is able to focus on the handler and deal with distractions, setting them up with the best possible chance of delivering a winning performance.


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