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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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 – 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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How to Use a Clicker to Train Your Dog.

What is a clicker?

Clicker is a small and very useful training tool. Usually, it consists of a plastic box roughly a size of a thumb and a clicking mechanism.  There are two types of clickers: with a button and with a metal tongue. I prefer the button type, because they are quicker and more reliable.

Image from Amazon.co.uk

Image from Amazon.co.uk

Clicker is used to mark the desired behaviour as it occurs. You cannot always give the dog treats (unconditioned reinforcement) exactly at the right moment, but you can use a clicker (conditioned reinforcement) to indicate to the dog that you like this behaviour.

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The Foundation: “Look at me”

 

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.

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