Obedience training

This covers the type of training which revolves around the physical actions of the dog. Generally speaking these methods are most appropriate for dogs that are not displaying significant behavioural problems. Because the focus is predominantly on the dogs physical movements we need to consider state of mind in terms of creating balanced behaviour by utilising this type of training with behaviour modification. Having said that, the use of recall and teaching a dog to follow on the walk in particular will go a long way to creating the kind of mutually respectful relationship we desire with our dogs. 

Sit -

While the sit will not dramatically alter the dogs state of mind, particularly if they are focused on something stimulating, it can assist in temporarily redirecting the dogs focus. However, it is important not to assume the dog sitting is a dog behaving. Think of a child demonstrating a bad attitude at the shops and only ceasing long enough to receive a lolly or some other kind of bribe (dog at the park being fed treats in order to not attack another dog). 

If you would like to teach your dog to sit there are two ways to achieve success quickly. One simple way is to connect the word with the action by capturing it naturally. This means any time you happen to see your dog move into the sit position, say the word 'sit' and follow with slow affection. Another method is to gently use touch (on and off), with the fingers spread apart just above the dogs tail. As the dog begins to lower its body down immediately stop using touch and connect the word "sit" with the action, re enforcing with calm slow affection. This creates a positive experience to a controlling behaviour but without the risk of over stimulation or manipulation that comes from bribery.

Recall -

Teaching your dog to come when called is one of the most important things people hope to achieve and when done correctly is also one of the easiest. There are two methods, both of which will help create a strong bond between saying your dogs name and them coming.

Observational - Any time you see your dog moving in your direction, particularly from a short distance, say their name followed by 'come' to capture the movement that is naturally occurring. When your dog reaches you just give slow relaxed affection (pat) for a moment and move on. The great thing about this method is that it can happen dozens of times in a day, thus creating a powerful positive association to coming to you for the feeling, rather than the bribe, which is the case when you use treats to train recall.

Created - This method involves using a leash or long line, particularly if practising in the dog park, saying the dogs name followed by a gentle 'pop' on the leash if the dog is distracted. Once the dog begins in your direction, say the word 'come'  and repeat the relaxed affection process as with Observational methods. 

Avoid calling your dog by name for a couple of weeks if you feel they aren't going to respond as each time this occurs you go backwards a step. It is also a good idea not to use the dogs name in any negative way as this may reduce effectiveness of the recall if they associate any negativity from previous experience.

Stay -

This command can come in handy at times, but we must also be careful. Any time you put a dog under a stay command, you inevitably have to provide a release. This can lead to overstimulation and reactivity due to the build up of having the dog in a physical stay position where they have yet to relax mentally. To achieve the stay, start small in terms of distance and gradually build up. Say the command 'stay' when your dog is in a relaxed state, particularly on their bed. Walk away but not so you are facing your dog. If you step backwards you will mistakenly be inviting the dog to follow you. Walk away but have your head slightly turned so you can maintain eye contact. If the dog starts to move, don't wait and move directly towards them saying 'stay' again. Repeat the process and start to increase distance but keep practice times short. Do not reward with over the top stimulating praise or treats. After achieving success you go calmly walk over to the dog and give affection or invite them to calmly follow you to avoid a sudden 'release' trigger.

Play -

When puppies interact with each other in a way we might describe as playing, it's important to recognise when something more significant is also occurring. When they are learning how their bodies work, balance, coordination they may also be learning how to hunt, take down prey, thrash and kill etc. Some of these behaviours are necessary and some are potentially problematic, especially when we consider these same dogs share our lives and live in houses and have food served in bowls.  You may have already noticed in areas like dog parks that some dogs will react unfavourably to others approaching in a stimulated "play" type of way. This is not necessarily because the dog being approached is antisocial, but often more to do with the fact that many dogs, like humans, don't appreciate an in your face over the top approach. Similar to children, those playing quietly and cooperatively are far less likely to experience problems than those behaving in a over stimulated manner.

Walking -

This can be a relaxing rewarding venture to some or a  nightmare to others. The best way to help create a relaxing walk without your dog pulling you down the street is to start by relaxing yourself. The lead is a direct line of communication to your dog, meaning whether you are tense or relaxed the dog will know.

If you are experiencing difficulty walking your dog there may be a variety of factors contributing to this. The following exercises can be utilised in most cases to help your furry friend become calm and maintain focus on you.

Start by placing the lead and collar on before walking out the door and avoid stimulating the dog with your words or energy as this will make it more difficult to communicate what you want. When you head out the door you want to ensure your dog is following slowly. The best way to do this is open the door and use your body and lead to prevent the dog running out past you. Watch out for tension in the lead, stay relaxed and confident  Slowly cross the threshold of the door or gate, keeping a close eye on your dog. Once on the street their are a few exercises you can practice before heading off to help get your friend in the following mode.

1 - Start by turning away from your dogs body, guiding them to follow you (similar to the way horses are trained to follow). Keep the lead loose and maintain eye contact.

2 - After turning away from your dog and encouraging them to follow your body, begin turning the opposite direction, towards the dog, aiming towards the head and shoulders area as you turn, helping them to stay in sync with your movements. This will encourage focus and help with personal space.

3 - While maintaining eye contact stop walking, take a few steps and stop. Continue this process, changing the number of steps until your dog begins to stay in sync with you. You can mix it up by also changing direction

4 - The slow walk is exactly as it sounds. Focus on the dog and move using normal length paces but with slowed movement. This helps keep focus while simultaneously calming the dog if over excited. Gradually pick up pace and now you're on your walk.

 

Running -

If running is something you like to do with your dog the best way to make it smooth is follow the directions for creating the walk and increase speed when you finish step 4. Remember though, if your dog runs he will become more fit and have more energy, not less.

The above is a general guide only and each dog may require a slightly different approach to achieve a different result. To learn more about the psychology of your dog please call Elliot on 0475 427 070 for specialist advice or click the link below to find out more about our services.