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Archive for June, 2010

Dog Training On Your Walks

Its so easy to incorporate training in your daily life. One of the ways I have been working on attention with my puppy is on our walks. I have a few games I play.

When a stranger passes us, I work on keeping good attention. Nothing is more rude than a dog rushing up to a stranger. I bring treats with me on my walks because my puppy is still young and learning. When I see a person coming, I get a few treats in my hand and I ask my puppy to heel. If he is having trouble I may ask him for a sit. Once the person is really close to us, I start giving the treats to reward the puppy for staying. If the puppy gets up I might back away from the person and wait for that nice attention. Over time I will teach him that staying with me earns a reward, trying to visit the person gets him nothing.

The second thing I practice is the name call. Everyone wants a dog that looks at them when they say their name. In the house most puppies will do this pretty easily, outside where its distracting, its a lot harder. I randomly say my puppies name in a nice tone and reward close to my body. I will also goose my dog and say his name -its just an added layer for the puppy to have fun.

Finally, for my dog training on my walks is incorporating heeling. At various points I will setup my dog in a nice sit, get into formal heel mode and heel for a varying amount of steps. I then reward and do it again. I try to practice more advanced dog training like heeling in a less distracting area. As my puppy gets older I will expect more from him.

Straight Fronts

If you are a treat trainer, you know, most people teach dogs to sit in front. Then, when people move to obedience training, we work so hard on those sits at heel that our nice pretty fronts get lost. This was a big problem with my current 5 month old puppy Blaze.

Here are some ways that I am fixing our crooked fronts and getting some nice straight fronts.

Hallways and Cabinets!

These are your friend! If your dog tends to lean to the left, then have the cabinet on your left. Ask for that sit, and guess what – their rear end is going to hit the wall. This is good for backing up and asking for sits.

Box Work

I’m a huge fan of boxes for dog training. I haven’t ever really used them before but had seen other trainers using them. The first step with this is getting your dog used to the box – or standing on the box. Then you can work on that great sit, feeding the reward with BOTH hands right in front of your body. This not only helps their straightness, but also their closeness. Make sure you are leaning back a bit and that your shoulders are square.

Finding front

This is a great game, once your dog has a good front position. You can toss a treat away at different angles and reward when they come back to you. Finally, you can begin to turn your body to make your dog really work to get into front position. Beware of the dog that tries to stand on your feet! That just isn’t allowed in AKC.

Impulse Control

I have two dogs that when given the opportunity will leave me to sniff and run around. The basic problem with a dog like this is a strong lack of impulse control. There are lots of great books out on the market to create focus in dogs, but hopefully I can give some ideas on behaviors to teach to help teach impulse control.

Leave It – This behavior is paramount. If there is a treat or piece of food, the dog should be able to ignore the fact that its there. The dog should learn to “get it” on command but should primarily never try to get a piece of food or smell something until they “check in” or look at you for permission. Its no different from teaching a child to look both ways before crossing the street. The issue is perfecting it and taking it to that next level to really get some impulse control.

Wait – This behavior is used in doorways, crates, waiting for their dinner, etc. Its “wait” until you are released. Its very simple to teach, just shut the door if the dog begins to move (or pick up the food) and use a strong release word – I like “free”.

And this brings me to the last theory. Its called premack – in short, eat your veggies, and you can have some dessert. How does this apply to dogs? Work for me, and you can be free to sniff and run around. Its more difficult to teach but can be very effective once its learned and practiced.