Wednesday, 23 June 2010

"How do you get your dog to do that?"

Whatever 'that' is, the answer is generally 'I painstakingly taught him'.

I was asked how I could make my dog stop walking when I told him. I was on my way to work, so I couldn't go through it, so here it is.

Not every training method works for every dog, but this is how I usually start, and may start tweaking what I'm doing if it's not sinking in. Also it can depend on whether their relationship with you is a good one, or if they like other dogs better, but try it and see.

There are three essentials every dog should know - stop doing that, stop moving and come back to me. Of these, stop moving is probably the most important, because if your dog manages to get himself on the edge of a cliff, or escapes and rushes across a road, a recall may not be appropriate. Each dog really must understand how to stop moving, the emergency stop.

If you go to a training class, this is usually taught with your dog facing towards you, but if he's off the lead on a walk, he will often be facing away from you as he's pottering about, or they are so used to obeying commands at your feet they will carry on moving until they get to you, and only then stop, which is not what you want.

It's reasonably simple. When you take your dog for a walk on the lead, every time you stop walking, say 'wait' (or whatever you choose to use). When you start moving again, use another word to say they can move - I use 'forwards'. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Stop lots of times, when you need to pick up poop, to have a drink of water, to stop and chat with someone, when you fancy stopping to take in the view, or rest halfway up a hill. Stop more times than you need to, every time.

The dogs soon pick it up - if you've got an under-exercised dog who is a maniac on the end of the lead you'll need to start giving him the right amount of exercise, or at least, don't start doing this until he's had some time to have a leg stretch. Once he seems to have got it, start doing it off the lead, and try to time your Waits until he'd have to stop, somewhere like a gate, or walk up to a fence, just to give him the extra help.

What you have to remember is, lots of practice, lots of times. If you forget your Forwards word, your dog will learn to stop walking when you do, then as soon as you move, he'll start walking again. If you are trying to reattach the lead, or pick him up, or otherwise do something to him, for instance he's carrying half a bush in his feathers, this really does defeat the object.

You could also try - just falling over...

You may wonder what relevence this has to you - I walk dogs in small groups of around 4 dogs. Last week we were walking through a country park when the rangers came through in their land rover - all four dogs were off the lead. 'Wait!' I called. They all stopped walking. Had they kept going, they could have ended up under the wheels, as they were too far for me to do anything physical. This week, I came round a corner in a different part of the park, to find an electric fence not 10 yards ahead. The wait command stopped the dogs from getting a nasty shock while I attached their leads and walked them carefully past it.

I also teach Wait at the Gate.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

The Sandpit has Arrived!

We have a paddling pool, and two canine activity centres in the garden, but there was a corner that looked a bit bare.

So I've put in a sandpit!

Scamp and Fred try it out for size...

And Beauty gets in on the act as well.

I'm hiding biscuits in there at the moment, I will be burying a few toys, and maybe a stuffed kong or two at the weekend when I can sit outside sunbathing, er, I mean, supervising.

I'm not sure if I will be able to drag the dogs out of the garden for a walk this summer!