Milo's Dog Training

Dog training in Hampshire, Surrey & Berkshire


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Training Mila. Week 3.

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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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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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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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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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