Milo's Dog Training

Dog training in Hampshire, Surrey & Berkshire


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Training Mila. Weeks 4-5.

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This is what we were supposed to do according to the plan.

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

What can I say? At least, we’re trying. We have been enjoying gorgeous summer weather for the last few weeks, however it has often been to hot for the dogs to be out during the day. So we had very few opportunities for training in presence of other dogs or people. We are still very much behind with lead skills, but doing a little bit better with recall.

Socialisation

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Due to the heat I haven’t been able to take Mila out with us as much as I’d like. We managed a few walks together and even went down the high street a couple times. I must say that Mila is doing better than expected in the crowd. She calms down quickly and isn’t trying to kiss every single person on the street – that’s progress. However, she barely responds to us, so we have a long way to go.

Cardigan Welsh Corgi Puppy Schnauzer Dog Playing Training

I fear that Edenbrook Country Park regulars will soon be fleeing the scene as soon as they spot us. When I take Mila for a walk my goal is to meet as many people and dogs as possible, so I constantly follow people and change directions if I spot someone with a dog.

Lead Skills

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My husband reports that he is making progress with Mila: she began to walk by his side for a few moments. However, it seems that this only happens in the evenings. Whenever I take her out during the day, she still finds it incredibly hard to concentrate and control herself. Well, like I said, at least we’re trying.

Recall

Cardigan Welsh Corgi Puppy Schnauzer Dog Playing Training

I’ve been letting her off the lead in the park when I can’t see any dogs or people around. I am very pleased that Mila tends to hang around and doesn’t run off (unless she spots someone). She will come when called and so far I’ve managed to notice dogs and people before she did and to put her on the lead. So I now feel a lot more confident about letting her off the lead.

Overall, I am quite pleased with our progress so far. However, I wanted to say this to my readers who are also struggling with their puppies: I struggle too! I do sometimes question our decision to get another dog (especially when I catch her destroying the sandpit or when she does this very annoying jumping/air snapping/barking routine). I believe that, similar to new mothers, puppy owners sometimes need to hear that it is OK to be frustrated. Raising a puppy is hard work, it requires a lot of energy, a lot of time and a whole lot of patience. But I keep saying to myself that in a few difficult months I (and more importantly – my daughter) will have a loyal companion for years to come. It makes my heart melt when I see Sonya and Mila kissing or playing together (Mila puts up with a lot!). I think I can live with a wrecked sandpit and approximately zero personal time.


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Training Mila. Week 3.

happy dog cardigan welsh corgi puppy

According to Mila’s Training Plan I shared a couple of weeks ago, we were supposed to be focusing on the following last week:

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

Here is what actually happened. We are still a little behind with some things, but this is to be expected. I completely forgot that I wanted to try the relaxation mat with Mila, so I am going to include this exercise next week.

Continue reading


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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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Meet Mila

This is Mila, our four months old Cardigan Welsh Corgi puppy. We sort of named her after Milo. Mila is actually a Russian female name that means “dear” and “cute”, so we thought it would suit her perfectly. Mila comes from Kingrock Showdogs in Lincolnshire.

She is very cute, but she is mad! Honestly, I had three puppies of my own and have seen quite a few as clients, but I have never seen so much energy in a puppy. It is getting better (slowly): at least she can sleep and eat without being locked. She is hard work in terms of needing a lot of attention, and I mean A LOT.

At the same time she is absolutely brilliant – a dog trainer’s dream. I still need to pinch myself once in a while to confirm I am not dreaming. I do own a dog that is willing to follow directions and is more interested in her humans than in smelling every squared centimetre of the ground. Don’t take me wrong, she still needs to be trained and we still can’t trust her of the lead with dogs or people in sight, but training is a whole different game when the dog wants to be taught and doesn’t have its own opinion on every single thing.

So this is our Mila. You will be seeing more of her on the blog – I intend to post regular updates on our training and socialising progress.

 


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Goodbye, Milo!

Milo

Milo. 18.04.2006 – 08.02.2018.

Almost a month ago Milo left us. It was sort of expected, but still sudden. He died in hospital after an emergency operation to remove some bits of plastic toys from his stomach. We have been prepared to say “goodbye” for quite some time because he has gone downhill over the past few months. His dementia had been getting worse by the day. We knew we were going to make the decision to put him to sleep soon: to spare him suffering from being confused and for our daughter’s safety, as he had shown aggression towards her. However, Milo decided to take matters into his own paws, and I am glad it happened this way. I will be honest and admit that it is also a relief. It had become very difficult in the last few months because of the safety concerns. I was under a lot of pressure to keep a constant eye on Milo and Sonya (who is two and can’t be trusted to keep her distance). I only wish we had a chance to say a proper “goodbye”.

We miss Milo a lot here and we will always miss him. He had been a part of our family ever since my husband and I moved out of our parents’ houses and moved into our first flat. We were eighteen and nineteen, and Milo was eight months old. Milo had been with us all our adult lives. He moved with us (twice across the Atlantic) and shared our ice creams (guilty!), our travels and, at some point, even our bed. He kept us warm in our first (very poorly insulated) flat in England. He was there when we brought home our daughter. Milo had been the reason I decided to become a certified dog trainer, and he probably taught me more than my dog training course. He was stubborn, independent, sometimes very annoying but always loving and loved. It had been almost a month, but I still sometimes expect him to be there – snoring on the sofa when I come downstairs in the morning. The house just seems too empty without a dog.

We will always remember our Milo.


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Canine dementia: Milo’s case

img_6008_smallMy aim in writing this post is not to educate, but to share my personal experience hoping that it may help someone looking for answers. Milo was officially diagnosed with canine cognitive dysfunction in July 2015 when we decided it was time to deal with his puzzling symptoms. Getting a referral to a pet behaviorist Dr.Jon Bowen at the Royal Veterinary College was part of our preparations for the arrival of our daughter due a couple of months later.

Symptoms

Milo had his first anxiety attack in November 2012. It was triggered by me leaving on holiday after several months of being home with him most of the time. Milo was six years old at the time. After this first episode, he was fine for about a year and a half, and then he started having anxiety attacks up to several times per months.

The anxiety/panic attack would usually start at night some time between one and three. Milo’s symptoms included obsessive digging, scratching at our bedroom door, crying, panting and breathing heavily, a vacant look, restlessness and head shaking. He literally needed to climb onto our heads to calm down just a little bit. Sometimes we had to let him into our bed to get any sleep or to sleep with him on the sofa downstairs.

Treatment

After a few episodes we sought advice from his vet, who suggested we try Zylkene, Selgian and Diazepam (to use when we are desperate). Although there was some improvement, we could not say it was reliable. As a result Milo was referred to the RVC. Dr.Bowen administered a questionnaire to assess Milo’s cognitive function, which turned out to be within the normal range. We were not surprised as we have not noticed any confusion in him. However, Dr.Bowen was convinced that his anxiety attacks were due to his ageing brain and this was just a less typical case of canine cognitive dysfunction. We were to stop Selgian and to replace it with Fluoxitine (anti-depressant) and Activait (a supplement). This scheme seemed to help for a while, but then Milo’s attacks became more frequent again after almost a year of relative stability. I do not know what triggered it – possibly our daughter becoming more mobile. Regardless of the cause, we decided it was time for a follow-up with Dr.Bowen. He listened to our concerns and suggested we add Melacutin (melatonin) to help regulate Milo’s circadian rhythm and coconut oil as another supplement. This was about 6 months ago, and I am pleased to say Milo has had just a couple of minor anxiety episodes since then.

Living with canine dementia

A major issue with Milo is that his self-control is getting worse and worse. This is partly due to the illness and partly due to the side effects of his medication. He cannot resist food (before he would not think of stealing when we are seating right there) and he steals toys. Of course, I absolutely cannot trust him around our daughter. So to make it more manageable we put up a playpen\room divider around his bed.

Overall, however, we are very lucky. We have not seen any confusion or have not had any toilet accidents. It is still very hard emotionally, and I have to constantly remind myself that Milo’s behaviour is not his or my fault, but a result of his illness. It must be very hard for him too. I just hope that the treatment will delay the progression of canine cognitive dysfunction for as long as possible and that Milo will be enjoying himself for years to come.