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.
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.
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.
I have already touched upon some common mistakes in leash handling and on some techniques that can help overcome leash pulling. Today I would like to share a more proactive technique that will teach your dog to walk on a leash nicely. You will need a clicker, some nice treats and a leash. Before you can work with loose leash walking, your will have to know “touch” (and to be able to follow your hand) and “look at me”.
1. Have your dog on a lead by your right side. Hold a clicker and a leash 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 “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 will gradually remove your hand.
Important: don’t bribe and lure your dog into the position by holding treats in your right hand. Have the treats hidden in your pocket until it is time for a reward. Also, be aware of your dogs limitations. Some things are just really difficult and require an enormous effort to teach. For example, Milo is a hound. I don’t think that I will ever have enough patience and desire to teach him not to pull, when he smelled a strong track. After all, that is exactly what he has been bred for: to smell and follow it with an annoying howl (just like he does on this picture taken a few weeks ago in Minley Wood near Ancells Farm in Fleet).
Teaching a dog not to pull can be one of the most boring and annoying things you’ve ever done, but it is worth it. Just think about being able to relax during a walk!
When Milo came to live with us, he had no idea about such a thing as “recall.” Let off-leash, 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, but this is not what I wanted to share with you. There is a technique, which is especially useful for newly adopted dogs and puppies: “hide and seek.” At first, I started doing it just for fun and 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 it is you, who decides where to go and is followed, instead of your dog. What is more important, your dog will have less chances of getting lost.
Exercise: “Hide and seek”.
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.
Have you ever envied those people in the pub, whose dogs just lie under the table calmly? It can be you in just a couple of weeks. Today I would like to share an ingenious technique. I learned it from my mentor, while interning at Whole Dog Training. The exercise will teach your dog to relax and to calm down, while waiting by your side.