Treats used in dog training can have different value for dogs. Of course, if your dog is like Milo, he or she will greatly appreciate even the tiniest bit of a rice cracker. Some dogs just love food, whereas some are completely indifferent to it. For instance, my parents’ dog, a border collie named Daisy, can easily pass a bag of groceries. Milo, on the other hand, works as a full-time vacuum cleaner in our house. I am so used to him picking up crumbs that I never bother to pick up when I drop something on the floor. Anyway, all kinds of dogs, “foodies,” “picky eaters” and every type in between, can distinguish treats of different values. Understanding value of treats adds one more instrument to your training toolbox.
Earlier this week I wrote about common mistakes that owners make when using a leash. Avoiding these mistakes will make your dog less likely to pull on his leash and will help to reduce existing leash pulling. Puppies are especially prone to pulling, because of their high energy and curiosity. Moreover, when a puppy is small and cannot pull hard enough to bother anyone, his leash pulling is more likely to be neglected. Only later, when the dog becomes stronger and heavier, the owners usually ask for help.
So now that we know what not to do, let’s talk about teaching the dog not to pull the leash. One of the best techniques is described in “My Dog Pulls, What Do I Do?” by Turid Rugaas. I tend to stick to this method, because it can be modified for each individual case and works reliably. The technique is built on the discovery approach. I strongly suggest that you read this book, if your dog is pulling a lot. I will outline my version of this technique.
Does your dog walk you? Lead pulling is one of the most frustrating dog behaviours. Unfortunately, our natural response only makes it worse. In fact, there are several mistakes that I often see:
1. Following the dog. Naturally, if the dog gets what he wants (e.g., to sniff that tree) when pulling on the lead, this behaviour is rewarded and the dog is likely to do it again.
2. Pulling the lead in the opposite direction. This may not make things worse, but it is definitely a waste of energy. Dogs are very stubborn and can tolerate quite a lot of pain. The more you pull, the less your dog cares about it. You might be able to overpower the dog, but it won’t teach him anything.
3. Jerking the lead. This can definitely worsen your dog’s lead skills. In order to jerk the lead, you need to loosen it first. Therefore, your dog will receive negative experience right after it felt the lead loosen. This may teach the dog to avoid a loose lead, hence the dog will pull.
4. Choke chains, pinch collars etc. This is the worst of all. I sincerely hope that none of my readers have ever used or considered them. Besides being cruel, these devices are useless to say the least, and often dangerous. These collars are useless for training for the same reason that pulling the lead is: dogs are tolerant to pain. Choke chains and pinch collars can and often do provoke aggression. Dogs often pull the lead when they see other dogs, and they can potentially learn to associate the negative sensation from these collars with other dogs.
The least you can do is to stop making these four mistakes, and your dog’s lead skills may improve or, at least, stop getting worse.
Do you know the pleasure of solving a riddle? Remember the joy of experiencing an “Aha!” moment? With a bit of help, your dog can have such moments too. I mentioned the discovery approach to dog training in my previous post about relaxation for dogs. I like it and use it a lot because it has several advantages.
Have you ever envied those people in the pub, whose dogs just lie under the table calmly? It can be you in just a couple of weeks. Today I would like to share an ingenious technique. I learned it from my mentor, while interning at Whole Dog Training. The exercise will teach your dog to relax and to calm down, while waiting by your side.
Let’s continue with the foundation series. We have been working on the dog training basics and tried exercises that teach dogs the basic behaviours needed for more advanced training:
1. “Touch” (also called targeting), which teaches the dog to follow owner’s hand
2. “Eye contact”, which teaches the dog to focus on the owner instead of a distraction
The last foundation exercise is “Look at me”. It comes handy, when you need to get the dog’s attention quickly and when teaching a dog to walk on a leash without pulling. Essentially, it is a proactive variation of “Eye contact”: you don’t wait till the dog looks at you, but rather teach it to turn to you on a cue. You can use any sound, that is loud enough to use outdoors. I prefer to use a kiss sound, some people whistle or click their tongue. As usual, start in a quiet environment and gradually increase the amount of distractions.
Last weekend we went to South Wales for a short break. We chose Gower Peninsula, because we came across a nice and dog-friendly self-catering cottage. I am sure that many of you know the challenge of finding a dog friendly holiday accommodation. To find a one bedroom cottage for a decent price is even more difficult. We were lucky to find Tankey Lake Farm Bluebell Cottage.
The cottage is on a working farm land, so we enjoyed a company of farm animals during our walks. The views are stunning, especially in foggy weather. All this land seen on pictures is available for dog walks, but don’t forget your rubber boots. Milo likes to bark at horses and sheep (he is a hound after all and expresses his emotions vocally), but, fortunately, the animals kept their distance.
The cottage itself is quite clean and pleasant. One of the problems we often encounter, while traveling with Milo, is that he steals things, when he is stressed. Luckily there wasn’t that much decorative clutter that a lot of holiday properties have. It was easy to put most things out of reach of the dog.
Just a couple of miles from the farm we discovered a beautiful Rhossili beach, which is open to dogs year. We spent around three hours walking, playing with Milo and taking pictures.
Milo even attempted some rock climbing.
I strongly recommend Gower Peninsula to those looking for a dog friendly holiday location. You will enjoy spectacular views and lots of quality time with your dog(s).