Posts Tagged ‘Training’

Obedience Training: Not Just For Show Dogs

Gemma | September 25th, 2006
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The time is now for the public to understand that obedience training is not just for pure bred show dogs or those dogs used for services like police work, public service, and military missions.

If fact, it is surprising that so many owners of mixed-breed dogs feel that their dog isn’t good enough or acceptable for formal obedience training. While it is true that many All-Breed Dog Clubs and Specialty-Breed Dog Clubs do discriminate and refuse to allow enrollment of mixed-breed dogs, dog clubs are simply just one place where dogs can receive formal obedience training.

The yellow pages and online search engines can help you find dog training classes in your area. With the exception of some dog clubs, mixed-breed dogs are welcome. And why not? The mixed-breed dog learns just as fast, and just as well as his pedigreed brothers.

Price of training is another area that has stopped so many people. Without actually inquiring, they assume that the price is prohibitive. Such is not the case.

In examining services from Georgia to California, and Maine to Oregon, we were perplexed to see no mention of price in advertisements for obedience training. The very absence of a price tag keeps many people from investigating any further. They are, of course, denying themselves the pleasure of owning an obedient dog.

The simple truth is that, formal obedience training classes are inexpensive. In some places, such training sponsored by city governments is free!

If a person truly loves his family dog, the tuition for formal obedience training must be considered as the soundest investment that could possibly be made. In less than 10 weeks – working with your dog just fifteen minutes a day your family dog will know and respond to words from your language.

He will come to you when called (instead of ignoring you or running in the opposite direction), he will sit when you tell him (instead of jumping all over your guests), and he will walk at your side like a lady or gentleman (instead of pulling you down the sidewalk like a trailer). He will lie down when you tell him and where you tell him, and he will stay where you tell him.

Many people who own watch-dogs are forced to confine them to back rooms when visitors come, simply because the dogs have not received formal obedience training. They fail to realize that a watch-dog confined to a back room is about as effective as a car without a key.

An obedience-trained dog knows the difference between no and okay. Not only can this training elevate the status of your family dog, it also instills in him the soundness of character that you never knew possible. And obedience-trained dog is not just a dog, but a welcome addition to any household.

Training Your Dog With Loose-Leash Training – Part 5

Gemma | September 23rd, 2006
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A final tip to help you with loose-leash training your dog is about helping your dog to walk in a specific spot.

Dawn Jecs, dog trainer and owner of Choose To Heel in Puyallup, Washington, teaches dogs to walk in a certain spot in relation to the handler. When they’re in that spot, the leash is loose. I teach the dog where I want it to walk, Dawn says.

Before Dawn starts training leash walking, she first teaches the dog to go to an area ahead at her left side, about 18 inches out and 18 inches ahead. This is close enough to hand the dog a treat reward or snap the leash on or off, yet far enough away that it’s not underfoot. When the dog goes to that place, Dawn praises and gives it a treat, then ends the exercise.

Dawn repeats this, without walking forward, until the dog easily goes to that rewarded spot. She teaches with the same cue she uses for walking: Let’s go. When the dog hears that cue, it immediately moves into position.

Then Dawn starts leash training. For a dog to learn to walk on a loose leash, it must get practice and success with the leash loose the whole time and not get to the end of the leash, she says. To accomplish this, Dawn praises and rewards the dog while it’s still in the area by her side, before it can tighten the leash.

Every three steps, reward the dog with verbal praise and treat it while it’s in the position it’s learning and the leash is loose, Dawn says. Then release the dog and start over. Each time, before walking, say, ‘Let’s go,’ and reward the dog for going into position.

A Final Word

Pick one of the methods we discussed that works best for you. Try it out for two to three weeks. You should start to see improvement right away and fairly steady progress, but you may hit a plateau where your dog stops improving for several days. If this happens, give one of the other methods a try. Some dogs respond better when several different positive techniques are used.

A puppy with polite leash skills is a joy to walk. Instead of dreading walks, you’ll look forward to them. Your arm won’t hurt, your pup won’t wheeze, and when people see you walking together, they’ll admire your puppy’s good manners.

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Training Your Dog With Loose-Leash Training – Part 4

Gemma | September 19th, 2006
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When on-leash, your dog needs to learn to walk with you, not against you. To keep the leash loose, the dog needs to stay tuned to your verbal and hand signals, and pace itself to your speed.

Michelle Kirk, a local pet sitter in Pacific Beach of San Diego, California, uses a training clicker (a small plastic device that makes a clicking sound when you push a button) and treats to teach dogs to walk on a loose leash. Start in a quiet area without many distractions. Begin walking, but stop when the dog reaches the end of the leash, before it actually starts pulling.

Stand still, watching for the moment the dog shifts its attention back to you. At the first sign of the dog turning its head in your direction, click, Michelle says. Then walk slowly backwards as the dog approaches you to claim its reward. Hand it the treat when it reaches you, then turn in a different direction and start walking. Repeat this sequence any time the dog goes to the end of the leash.

Michelle notes that it’s important to stop before the leash becomes tight. This way the dog learns to check in with you when it feels slight leash pressure. After you teach this in a quiet place, practice walking in new areas with gradually increasing distractions.

Regain Attention & Reward

One of the top dog training centers in San Diego, California teaches its students to make it rewarding for their dogs to walk near them. When the dog gets to the end of the leash, the trainer stops walking, then encourages the dog to come back to him. When it does, the trainer makes a happy fuss over the dog and gives it a treat.

Then the trainer encourages the dog to walk a few steps at his side and rewards it. After that, he allows it to relax, sniff and check things out, showing the dog places that might hold interesting scents, repeated as often as necessary.

Tip: A Quick Note About Collar Choices

A lesson on leash walking wouldn’t be complete without making a few collar recommendations. In essence, there are two basic collar types those that constrict when the leash is pulled and those that don’t.

Obviously, the preferred collar we recommend for loose-leash training (or any training for that matter) is the non-constricting type, simply because they cause less discomfort and no potential injury to the dog. They are made of leather or fabric, and they fasten around the dog’s neck with either a buckle or quick-release snap.

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Training Your Dog With Loose-Leash Training – Part 3

Gemma | September 15th, 2006
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Walking Toward A Goal

On any walking route, certain places are especially attractive to dogs. When dogs near those places, their excitement increases and the urge to pull is strong. You can use those places both as walking goals and training rewards.

Start toward the attractive goal, such as a bush or clump of grass where all the neighborhood dogs leave pee-mail. As soon as your dog starts to pull, stop walking. Stand still one second so the dog is fully stopped, too, then turn around and neutrally (non-grouchily) walk your dog five paces farther from the goal. Remember that spot, because that will be your starting line for this training session.

Stand there for a second, then start walking toward the goal again and repeat the lesson. The instant you feel leash tightness, stop walking, pause for one second, then retreat to the start line again. After that happens a few times, your dog will figure out how this game operates, and will be able to take a couple of steps closer to the goal each time. When you finally reach the goal, encourage your dog to sniff, and give it a few minutes to enjoy that spot.

Be Unpredictable

Sometimes the Stop-N-Go method (or Tree Method) doesn’t always work on every dog at first because your pooch may not be paying attention. This happened to me personally with my third puppy. At first I tried the Stop-N-Go technique. Although I found this method worked well for my other two dogs when they were puppies, it had little effect on my larger, more energetic Retriever.

Looking for a workable method, I reasoned that if I wanted my dog to pay attention to what I was trying to teach it, then he should behave in an interesting way. This is when I came up with the crazy walk, so to speak.

This is best done in an open space, not a narrow sidewalk. The crazy walk is erratic. I would take one step straight ahead, one 45 degrees to the left, one backward, two straight ahead, one side-step to the right, and so on.

At the same time, I also varied the length of my steps and the time interval between them. When the dog is sufficiently puzzled that it starts paying constant attention, I gradually start increasing the number of steps straight ahead. Eventually, the side and backward steps are eliminated.

It may take several weeks of training the crazy walk for your dog to learn that pulling doesn’t get it where it wants to go. After it’s learned to not pull, your puppy may still become excited at times and resume pulling. Use the crazy walk at these times to remind your puppy that it needs to pay attention to you, instead of pulling.

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Training Your Dog With Loose-Leash Training – Part 2

Gemma | September 13th, 2006
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When you put a leash on your puppy, can you go for a pleasant walk around the block, or is it more of a drag? Walks do not have to turn into a tug-of-war with your puppy. Train your little friend loose-leash skills by using these expert techniques.

Polite Vs. Free Walk

The reason loose-leash walking is so difficult for the average dog owner to master is because they don’t understand the absolute necessity of 100 percent consistency. When you’re busy or distracted, it’s too easy to forget and just let the dog pull. These intermittent lapses cause training setbacks because they reinforce pulling. If the dog discovers that pulling works some of the time, it will keep testing to see if it works every time.

Dogs that have an established pulling habit often start lunging ahead as soon as you clip the leash on. To retrain dedicated pullers that start out unable to take more than one step without lunging would require super-human patience and pre-planning for every outing. It’s especially difficult for people who don’t have a fenced yard and must walk the dog several times a day.

For dogs like this, it’s best that the owner use two different sets of equipment one for training polite walking, and one for just controlling the dog when you’re too rushed or tired to train. Use a flat buckle collar for training, and a no-pull harness or head halter for free walking – when you don’t have time to train.

When the free-walking equipment is used, the dog is allowed to walk the same way it’s always walked, but when you use the training equipment, you must be 100 percent consistent about not allowing pulling. The dog must not even get 1 inch closer to whatever it’s pulling toward. As the dog gets better on the flat collar, the free-walking equipment eventually won’t be needed.

The Simplest & Quickest Technique Ever Created

This is one of the most popular positive methods for teaching polite leash walking. It’s especially good with puppies just learning to walk on-leash. It’s simple, but you must be consistent. It’s called the Stop-n-Go, or the Tree Method, and here’s how it works:

Whenever the dog puts tension on the leash, you must stop and stand still. When it quits pulling, you walk again. That’s it! Simple, isn’t it? The dog is rewarded for walking on a loose leash when you walk forward again. This method teaches the dog that pulling on the leash doesn’t work. It takes longer to get anywhere when the puppy tries to hurry you by pulling.

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Training Your Dog With Loose-Leash Training – Part 1

Gemma | September 9th, 2006
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Dogs like to explore scents, sounds and sights, and tend to pursue those interests with enthusiasm even when that means towing a human behind! While your pup is young and small, leash pulling might not bother you, but the habit will grow as your dog matures.

If adults of your pup’s breed are large and powerful, you’d better fix its pulling habit early. Even if the breed is small, habitual pulling against the collar concentrates uncomfortable pressure on the dog’s throat. This causes gasping and wheezing, and can even collapse a dog’s airway and cause permanent damage.

The good news is, teaching your dog to walk nicely on a loose leash isn’t difficult if you know a few tricks. Old-style training for loose-leash walking was based on jerking the dog’s collar with varying degrees of force. But yanking a dog around by the neck can hurt it, and can also injure your shoulders, elbows, neck or back.

Fortunately, you can teach polite leash manners without having to jerk the leash. A number of gentle, positive techniques for teaching loose-leash walking have been proven to work when consistently applied.

Starting Out Right

Believe it or not, most dogs pull on the leash because their owners inadvertently train them to. When trying to control their dogs, many people keep the leash short and tight. Without realizing it, they’re teaching the dog to pull by habituating him to constant tension on the collar.

Instead of discouraging pulling, the taut lead makes tightness the standard for how a leash works. Therefore, keeping a tight leash won’t teach a dog to walk on a loose leash. Instead of letting your pup form bad habits, direct its behavior toward good habits.

Important Tip: About Leashes & Long Lines

Several types of leashes can be used for training loose-leash walking:

- 6 foot leash: This can be used either shortened or full-length, and is long enough to tie to your belt for hands-free walking.

- 4 foot leash: This is similar to the 6 foot leash but less versatile

- 10 to 30 foot long line: Your dog can learn to walk without pulling on any length lead. The long line allows safe control while giving the dog freedom to explore.

- Retractable lead: These are handy, but they’re operated by the dog pulling. Retractable leads directly reinforce (reward) pulling on the leash. This counters what you’re trying to teach.

Read Part 1 | Read Part 2 | Read Part 3 | Read Part 4 | Read Part 5

Your Leash Training Questions Answered

Gemma | September 4th, 2006
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Leash training is hugely underestimated by new dog owners. The process of getting your puppy or adult dog used to being on leash is fairly simple and just takes a little bit of your time. Trust me, this small investment of properly training your dog to walk politely on his leash will pay high dividends in the near future, especially if your puppy will grow up weighing 50 or more pounds.

Leash Training Questions

I get at least a dozen or more questions each week from new dog owners that ask me about leash training. They want to know what type of leash is best, what type to avoid, how long they should walk their dog, how to get the dog to stop pulling, etc.

Below I have listed a few of these common leash training questions for your benefit. Remember, there is no one best way to do anything so when it comes to dog training, whether it involves leash training or other lesson, it is okay to mix in your own training ideas so long as you keep it 100% positive. Negative dog training is not recommended and highly discouraged.

Having said that, here are a few basic leash training questions:

1. How much room should I allow the leash to extend when walking my dog? According to most dog trainers, your puppy or adult dog does not need anymore than 5 to 6 feet of distance to roam when you are walking him. This is plenty of room for you to keep control of the situation, while at the same time giving your dog a chance to sniff out small areas along the way.

2. What type of material should my leash be made of? If you walk into any pet-specific store you’ll find that the majority of leashes for sale are made of nylon. Nylon is easy to wash and comes in all kinds of pretty colors. However, they will burn your hand if the dog suddenly pulls and the leash moves through your fingers.

My recommendation is to use a leather leash. In fact, a 6 foot leash made of leather is the perfect size and material. It will last a long time and you will not experience any type of burning sensation if it is pulled. The grip is firm and your control is increased.

3. What about using chain leashes? Chain leashes are practically indestructible and will last a very long time, but just like nylon material, a chain leash can hurt your hands if the dog yanks hard and your grip slips. In fact, the injury could be much more severe than a nylon burn.

4. How wide should the leash be? This answer is very simple. A leash that is approximately inches to inches is ideal. Try to avoid heavy, bulky leashes.

Which Leash To Use When Leash Training Your Puppy

Gemma | August 31st, 2006
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What could be more adorable than a tiny 10-week-old German Retriever walking down the street with its owner, pulling at the leash as it excitedly greets anyone who walks by? These little puppies put so much effort into seeing what’s going on and are almost always greeted with a pat on the head and a smile from passing strangers.

This is all cute and adoring, that is until the dog reaches a bodyweight of 50 to 60 pounds and is literally dragging its owner down the street on the leash. The once happily smiling owner is now gritting her teeth and doing all she can to keep the dog from pulling her down the sidewalk.

As strangers pass by it takes all of the owner’s muscle and might just to hold the dog back from getting its dirty paws all over these people. Eventually, these types of dogs who have no leash control end up spending all of their time in the backyard without ever being walked.

Leash Training Should Begin Immediately

Many dog owners who purchase a new puppy totally underestimate just how vital it is to invest time into leash training, and from as early an age as possible, especially when they have a pup that will grow 6 to 10 times it’s puppy size. They do not realize that training begins the instant their new dog comes home.

Any and all behaviors a puppy practices will become a learned subconscious activity. In time the dog will not think twice about what it is doing, even though it may be a wrong action that you disapprove of. In all fairness to the puppy, what do you expect if you ignore sound training principles early in its life? What choice does the dog have?

The Importance Of Having The Proper Leash

Having the right type of equipment can make or break dog training. Using the proper tools can either make your training experience pleasant and productive, or a complete waste of time.

What is the best leash for training purposes?

Fortunately, when it comes to leash equipment, you can’t go wrong with most of them. However, there is one type of leash that is not recommended for training purposes and that is the retractable kind.

Retractable leashes are available in all sizes and extend at different lengths. These leash devices are simply a plastic casing that fits into your hand which has a control trigger that either releases the leash to extend up to a certain length and can then be locked at the specific distance you choose.

Yes these types of leashes can definitely be a benefit for many situations, but for training a new puppy or even an adult dog, you need to have a leash that can provide constant tension on the dog’s neck.

You also need to keep a very short distance between you and your dog, which is very hard to do when using a retractable leash. With too much distance, your dog will have no concept that you are even walking with him.

Lastly, you must have consistent leash pressure and release moments in order for the dog to understand the commands you are teaching him, such as heeling. With a retractable leash, it can extend at different distances and be locked inconsistently. Your puppy may become frustrated as it perceives unfair and irregular corrections each time you vary the length and lock it in place.

Leash Training 101: Try Using Food Instead Of A Clicker

Gemma | August 27th, 2006
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Though clicker training garners results with leash training, not everyone is comfortable with it. Personally, I do not use a clicker when training my dogs. I prefer to keep the rewards mixed. A rub, praise, toy or food can be intermixed as rewards when you get the response you want.

Food is great for luring a dog into behavior, but once the dog has the concept, humans have a hard time of getting rid of the treats. Be unpredictable in your rewards, make a game of it.

Always impress upon the dog that the fun stuff comes when the leash is slack. Learn how to use your voice and facial expressions so that your dog wants to be near you. These are training tools that you never leave at home. Practice different pitches and sounds to see which attract your dog’s interest.

Many trainers have concerns about using treats, but they must remember the significance of raising the criteria. This means asking the dog to do more before giving it a reward. Your dog may learn to walk beautifully by your side as long as you keep clicking and treating, but what happens when your pocket is empty? Try to make him do a bit more during each walk go a bit farther between treats or ignore bigger distractions.

Despite its age, your adult dog will need the same considerations as a puppy during leash training. When the leash goes taut, help the dog understand why you stopped by using your voice to get his attention. If he is too busy barking or pulling forward something it finds particularly enticing, use treats or a toy to distract it from its mission.

Have these special rewards ready before hitting the known problem area and work to keep your dog’s attention. This will help your dog learn to ignore the bothersome barking dog or that tempting squirrel nest.

Understandably, we all would like instant results, but dog training seldom works that way. It may take weeks or even months to persuade the dog that pulling is no longer effective. Owners can become discouraged, concluding that they are doing something wrong or their dog is hopeless.

So in the end, even if the results are slow in coming, keep in mind that even 2 steps without pulling is progress, and you must praise, praise, and praise some more! Soon it will be 3 steps, then 4 steps, and so on.

The change won’t happy overnight, in a week, or even a month it’s going to take time, fairness and consistency, which means practice almost every day, perhaps for months. Overall, it’s a relatively small investment to achieve years of benefit.

Leash training is a deceptively difficult aspect of training. Dogs learn to pull much more readily than they learn not to. For those who do dedicate the time and effort needed to train leash manners, the results are worth it.

Leash Training 101: The Golden Rule

Gemma | August 23rd, 2006
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The majority of dog owners address the issue of leash training only once it becomes a problem. In the beginning, when walking their dog, they initially think it’s cute that a puppy pulls away the entire walk to the park because, they think, that the dog just can’t wait to play with its ball. But once this pattern of pulling in ingrained, it take patience to retrain.

No matter what equipment and training method you choose, experts will tell you to abide by one golden rule when teaching leash manners: any pulling by the dog means all forward motion ceases.

As soon as your puppy or dog puts tension on the leash, you stop every time! Ah, but rather than just stand there and make this a battle of wills, we humans outsmart our clever dogs and convince them that putting slack in the leash really works on their favor. Therefore, training will include treats, praise and other positive payoffs.

Add A Clicker To The Mix

Help your dog learn that it’s a good idea to stay close to you, that good things happen when you’re nearby. To achieve this goal, we suggest that you use a clicker, which is a small, handheld device that makes a click sound when pressed.

The click marks the desired behavior the second it occurs and is immediately followed by a treat. A clicker is a good way to cut through the environment clutter that is a part of most leash walks, and helps your dog to focus on you and what it’s doing to get paid.

The clicker helps teach your dog to ignore tempting distractions because you become more interesting to your dog than anything else.

Not surprisingly, a young pup that has never had a chance to develop the habit of pulling is the easiest to teach. First, gather up your training tools and snap the leash on the buckle collar. Start walking and talking to the puppy in a happy, friendly voice. As he turns to look at you and the leash goes slack, CLICK!

This interaction teaches your dog that you are, indeed, an integral part of being walked.

Note: Frequent clicks and treats while walking will help teach your dog that the big payoff usually happens within a one-foot radius around you. Most pups will begin to stick around in hopes of another reward.