Milo's Dog Training

Dog training in Hampshire, Surrey & Berkshire


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Training Mila. Weeks 1 & 2.

I’ve got to confess: we’re a little behind with some things, but we have made good progress nevertheless. I had some health issues in the past couple of weeks, but I feel better now and should be able to get back on track with Mila’s training.

The Plan

Last time I shared Mila’s training plan, here is what was outlined for weeks 1 and 2.

Week 1:

Week 2: 

  • Lead skills: no people or dogs around
  • Recall: on lead, people or dogs at a distance

Progress

Socialisation

We have been putting in a lot of effort to tame her puppy madness. She used to run around the house barking, nipping and demanding attention in the evenings, for which I don’t blame her – she needs to burn off her energy. So we have been taking her with us everywhere we can. Now, just to make the situation clear, most of the time I’m on my own with Sonya (who is 2.5), so having a puppy with us is not that straight-forward. Anyway, I try my best. We go to our local woods (right next to our house), to the country park and to suitable playgrounds (where I can safely tie Mila’s long lead to the fence, so that she stays outside the playground, but I can keep an eye on her and she can see us). Whenever we’re out in front of our house (we live in a cul-de-sac), we take Mila with us and she can watch Sonya on her scooter or drawing with chalks, which Mila tries to eat all the time. We also took her to meet all our neighbours, when we had a street party last week. Mila was surprisingly calm (after the initial excitement wore off).

We are also working on getting Mila used to being in the car. She is still getting car sick sometimes and just generally hates being the car. So we try and take her for a drive whenever we can, bribing her with cheese in her cage. She seems to be coming to terms with it. She still tries to escape her fate every time I open the boot, but at lease she is calm during the journey. She will need to endure a 12 hour drive to France in a month, so she’d better get used to it.

Foundation Exercises

During weeks 1 and 2 we were working on the basics: getting Mila used to clicker training (also teaching Sonya how to use it properly), working on “touch”, “look at me” and “sit”. The latter is mainly for Sonya’s benefit – it is something she can easily teach Mila. We did a little bit of “eye contact” in the very beginning, but then somehow neglected this exercise.

Recall

We have spent a lot of time on recall using a long training lead. Mila is fairly reliable, when there aren’t any dogs or people in sight. Most of the time, I let her run freely dragging the lead behind her. If we meet a dog with which she can play, I take the lead off.

Lead Skills

This is what we struggle with most. I need to create opportunities for this type of training, we don’t seem to actually walk a lot. Also this is something I can’t do with a toddler around, as it requires me to focus my attention on Mila. We are currently at the point of stopping when she pulls and recalling her attention with a kiss sound (“look at me”). This only works when there are no distractions present, and she still pulls the lead. I have a feeling, lead skills will be a struggle until Mila grows out of being very excited about everything.

Overall, we are making progress, although not as fast as planned and we aren’t following the plan to the dot. It is OK: the plan is there to guide us and to be adjusted as we go. I am not too concerned as I know it will get easier with age.


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A Guide to Your New Puppy

Not sure what to do with your new pup? Once you are able to resist the cuteness of your new family member, it is time to start training. Dogs can be trained from an early age, so begin teaching your puppy about your expectations and the world around them as soon as he or she arrives in your home. The sooner you begin teaching them good manners and social skills, the easier it will be for you when they hit the difficult period of adolescence.

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How to Teach Your Dog to Sit or Lie Down and Wait in 10 Steps

It’s easy to teach one’s dog to sit on demand, because it is something that dogs tend to do naturally. Teaching your dog to sit and wait until you release him is another matter. This trick takes some patience, time and quite a few tricks. I often hear people telling their dogs to wait or to stay, assuming that this will make the dog stay in place. However, unless you specifically taught your dog to stay in position (sitting or lying down, or in any other position), your dog won’t know that he has to stay until released. Let’s fix it! Teaching the dog to stay is about teaching him self-control, which is also helpful for dogs having issues with excitability, meeting visitors etc.

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Lead Reactive Dogs – 4: Triggers.

This is the last part of the series on lead aggression. Please read parts 1, 2 & 3 first.

Think about a recent situation which involved you seeing another owner walking towards you and your dog. What was your reaction? Did you hold your breath for a moment? Maybe you tightened your grip on the lead? Probably, you even pulled the lead a bit or started talking to your dog. Chances are, you did all three and something else, if you were walking a dog that is reactive on lead. The behaviours are not themselves a problem. The issues arise, when your dog learns to associate them with other dogs approaching him. After that you are trapped in a vicious cycle:

In addition to your behaviour and body language, there are other possible triggers for your dog. A common trigger is a certain type of dogs. For example, your dog has been attacked by a large white dog and will display aggression towards similar looking dogs. Another possible trigger is a certain place. For example, your dog may only react to other dogs on a narrow pathway or on a certain street corner.

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How to Improve Your Dog’s Lead Skills

I have already touched upon some common mistakes in lead handling and on some techniques that can help overcome lead pulling. Today I would like to share a more proactive technique that will teach your dog to walk on a lead nicely. You will need a clicker, some nice treats and a lead. Before you can work with loose leash walking, your dog will need to know “touch” (and to be able to follow your hand) and “look at me”.

I am right handed, so I find it easier to have the dog on my right side. If you are left handed, do the opposite.

1. Have your dog on a lead by your right side. Hold a clicker and a lead in your left hand, opposite to where the dog will walk. You will need your right hand to dispense treats.

2. Start walking. When your dog pulls, stop.

3. Do your attention-getting sound (I use s “kissy” sound) to get the dog’s attention.

4. When he looks at you, guide him with your right hand back to your side. You may find that taking a step back with your right foot at the same time helps the dog understand the required position.

5. Once the dog is in the required position, click and treat.

You may not be able to take a single step at first as the dog will instantly start pulling again. Just give it time: after a few sessions. you will notice that you are able to walk a few steps. Sometimes it helps to teach a dog to follow your hand for a couple of steps and reinforce it. After a while you can gradually remove your hand.

Be aware of your dogs limitations. Some things are really difficult and require enormous effort to teach. For example, Milo is a beagle, and a beagle’s job is to find a scent trail and to follow it with a howl. I don’t think that I will ever have enough patience and desire to teach him not to pull when he picked up a trail.

Teaching a dog not to pull can be one of the most boring and annoying things you’ll ever do with your dog, but it is worth it. Just think about being able to relax during a walk!


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Teach Your Dog To Keep An Eye On You

When Milo came to live with us, he had no idea about such a thing as “recall.” Let off the lead, he would just run until he was bored or hungry.  Our attempts to catch him would turn into playing “tag.”  Of course, we immediately started training him to come back when called. One technique is especially useful for newly adopted dogs and puppies: “hide and seek.” I started doing it just for fun, but quickly noticed how useful it was. This exercise will teach your dog to keep an eye on you, to be aware of your location and to follow you. Believe me, dog walks are much more pleasant when  you decide where to go, not your dog.  What is more important, your dog will be less likely to be lost.

Exercise: “Hide and seek”

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First Step to Stopping Your Dog Pulling On The Lead

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.

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