Milo's Dog Training

Dog training in Hampshire, Surrey & Berkshire


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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.

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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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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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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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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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Lead Pulling: Common Mistakes

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.


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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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