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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Training Mila: The Plan

As I mentioned, we haven’t really started training her until last week. I wasn’t feeling well, we were busy and, let’s be honest, we were lazy about it. Also having a toddler who finds clickers irresistible doesn’t particularly help. A couple of weeks ago we decided that we are going to take Mila on holiday with us in July, so training has suddenly became a matter of urgency. Also she is four months now, so I couldn’t justify any more delays.

To begin with, I came up with a weekly plan to guide and motivate us. I find it easier to follow a plan rather then needing to thing about what should I do next. It also helps me and my husband to stay on the same page. Mila’s training plan is for six weeks (time remaining until our holiday) and it is mainly targeting socialising, lead skills and recall. I find these skills the essentials, which enable owners to relax and enjoy having a dog. I personally don’t want to spend time (at least not at the moment) on teaching her any tricks, downs, waits etc. These are nice to have, but I can do it later.

So here is the plan.

Week 1:

Week 2: 

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

Week 3:

  • Relaxation mat
  • Lead skills: people or dogs at a distance
  • Recall:
    • off the lead, no people or dogs around
    • on the lead, people or dogs at a close distance

Week 4:

  • Lead skills: people or dogs at a close distance
  • Recall: off the lead, people or dogs at a close distance

Week 5: 

  • Lead skills: near people or dogs
  • Recall: on the lead, near people or dogs

Week 6:

  • Lead skills: in a crowded place
  • Recall: off the lead, near people or dogs

A quick note on what I mean by various distances.

  • “At a distance” – distractions are visible but far enough for the dog to be able to completely ignore them in the beginning of the training process.
  • “At a close distance” – distractions are far enough for the dog to get a little excited, but still being able to keep focused.
  • “Near” – you are able to talk the person without shouting
  • “Crowded” – a busy street, pub, cafe, park, any other public space with people going around their business, cars, pushchairs, dogs etc.


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Which type of dog lead is the best?

Choosing the right type of lead/leash is as important for dog training as choosing the right type of shoes for running. The wrong type of lead may teach your dog to pull, injure your hands, your dog or other dogs, or even get your dog lost. Leads differ by type, length and material. I will describe the most popular types and the ones I think are useful for a regular dog owner. There are also numerous special use leads, such as the ones used for dog show handling or for canicross, but I won’t cover them as I am not an expert and most people don’t need them.

Types of dog leads

Extending\retractable lead

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Image from flexilead.com

If you have one of these and if your dog pulls on the lead, is reactive/aggressive or just large and bouncy, stop reading and go put in the bin. These leads are OK to use with smaller well-behaved dogs.

Regular lead

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Image from petsathome.com

These can be made from nylon, leather or rope-like material and usually range from 1m to 1.5m (standard 5ft) in length and come in various width. They can be very cheap (thin nylon) or quite expensive (leather with a fancy design). To be honest, I find most of them quite uncomfortable and never use them, but most people do, so it might be worth a try. I only ever use the cheapest thinnest 1m lead, when a dog needs to wear one at home for training or behaviour management purposes.

Adjustable lead (my favourite!)

 

 

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Image from bitiba.co.uk

This type of lead can be adjusted to be a bit shorter or longer and is also useful when you need to secure a dog somewhere (e.g. to a fence or a table). This one pictured is by Hunter and it is my personal favourite. It is just the right length (2 meters longest), made from soft round leather so it doesn’t hurt my hands and lasts years of daily use in all kinds of English weather. I am not being paid bu Hunter or any of the shops that sell it, I just really like it and have been using it for years. It is available from Zooplus and Bitiba.

Training lead 

 

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Image from dogleash.co.uk

 

This is essentially just a very long lead, usually 15 meters long. If you have a puppy, a new rescue dog or a dog that has not yet mastered a recall, you need this one. It will allow you to give your dog a bit more freedom (use it if you are tempted to buy an extending lead). If you’re a bit more confident, you can just drop it on the ground and practice recall.

 

 

 

 

 

 


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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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Lead Reactive Dogs – 3: Perception of Other Dogs

This is the third part from the series on lead reactive dogs. Please read parts 1 and 2 first.

Lead aggression is directly related to the dog’s perception of other dogs. Whether it is a learned bad habit or a result of a traumatic experience, aggressive or overly excited behaviour is a reaction to the presence of other dogs. Hence, you will have to change your dog’s associations with other dogs and to teach him an alternative behaviour.

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Lead Reactive Dogs – 2: Concentration Skills and Stress

This is the second part from the series on lead aggression. Please read Part 1 first.

Since I’ve been writing a lot about focus, concentration and stress, I will just briefly summarize the main points. Improving concentration will involve some actual training and exercises, while stress management will be focused mostly on lifestyle adjustments. I believe, that the easiest way to deal with dog behavioural issues is to create such an environment, which will set the dog up for success.

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Lead Reactive Dogs – 1: Where To Start?

Do you find yourself hiding from other dogs during walks? Keep reading then. One of the most common complaints among dog owners is related to the so-called “lead aggression”. If your dog is lead-aggressive or lead-reactive, your walks can become a nightmare and a source of constant embarrassment. The most frustrating thing for me is to see this on the streets, while I know, that it can be easily corrected. When I say “easily”, I don’t mean “overnight” or “by a wave of a magic wand” kind of “easily”. What I mean is that this issue is curable with some simple adjustments, re-conditioning and commitment.

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