Five Things Every Dog Should Know
Whether you want a pooch you can let off-leash at the dog park or one who can stroll with you along a busy sidewalk, there are five key life skills that will get you there. With a little digging you will find a trainer who can help you perfect these skills. Whether you are looking for personalized one-on-one training, small classes in a relaxed environment or larger classes with more real-life distractions, all of these options are available in most urban settings. Be sure to consider what teaching methods suit your personal style when you are choosing your trainer. Dogs don’t come preprogrammed to understand human language or any basic obedience so a good trainer will help you develop the skills to communicate clearly with your dog while building a strong bond. You may also want to visit clickerleash.com where you can view videos that can show you how to teach your dog these important life skills quickly and with love.
Any time you are teaching your dog a new skill or if you are brushing up on one that may have gotten a little rusty, start off in a quiet environment like your living room or backyard. Once your dog is responding to your requests immediately, take your show on the road. Just remember as distractions increase, your expectations should decrease and you will have to reward good behaviours more often so that your dog understands exactly what you want him to do. Now onto those essential life skills!
A Fast Response to Their Name
Before you can give your dog any guidance through this crazy world, you have to have their attention. Teach your dog a speedy response to their name. Make sure you don’t waste your dog’s name by repeating it over and over, with idle chitchat or by using it if you are correcting a behaviour. Your dog’s name lets him know it’s time to stop catching up on the latest pee-mail and time to pay attention to you.
To play the name game, start off with your dog on a loose leash. Say his name and as soon as he turns around and looks at you, let him know what a good boy he has been. If he does not respond, back away from whatever is distracting him, until he turns around and looks at you. Keep your movements smooth and gentle. Only jerks jerk! Resist the urge to repeat your dog’s name as you are backing up. When we repeat ourselves, our dogs learn that the words we are saying have no real meaning and will not understand them. When your dog finally does look at you, let him know how happy you are with his choice.
Come When Called
You can keep your pet out of all kinds of trouble if he reliably comes when called. Whether it is a small child running with a tasty treat or a porcupine in the woods, your dog should be able to come away from these things and return to you before he has earned the privilege of being off-leash. If you are worried about your dog getting enough exercise before he has mastered this, invest in a long line that can drag on the ground. If you run into a situation that causes your pooch to lose his brain, you will be able to step on the long line and get control of the situation.
Loose Leash Walking
Loose leash walking prepares your dog for off-leash privileges. If you don’t rely on your leash to communicate then you are one step closer to off-leash fun in Point Pleasant Park. Loose leash walking also helps when meeting new puppy pals. A friendly dog can look aggressive to other dogs as well as people if they are pulling or lunging forward.
Many dogs become expert pullers because they are rewarded by getting to explore all of the exciting things at the end of a tight leash. If you would like to stay out of physiotherapy, start playing the red light, green light game. If your dog is pulling, stop walking forward and wait for the leash to become loose and reward your dog by walking forward again. If your dog has become a master puller, it may take you an hour to get around the block but with consistence your dog will quickly understand the rules of the game. For excessive pullers, you may want to jumpstart your training with a head halter like the Gentle Leader or harness like the Easy Walk Harness. Stay away from retractable leashes if pulling is a problem for you. Your dog will feel a constant tension in his leash as he moves forward and think pulling is the correct way to walk.
Whether you choose a sit, down or stand, your dog should know how to stay in one spot for extended periods of time, even if you are out of sight. Stays are a great way to prevent jumping up and can help an otherwise active or excited dog relax and be calm. A dog in a sit or down stay is under control and this will put other people at ease around your fur kid. At home use a stay if you are putting groceries away or preparing a meal and don’t want your dog underfoot.
Once your dog can sit, down or stand on command, gradually increase the length of time you want him to maintain the stay and intensify the distractions. Get creative with your distractions and try to incorporate things you are likely to run into out on your walks. If your dog leaves the stay before you have said it is OK, decrease the amount of time or the distractions so that you can build on success.
Give (Even if you Really Don’t Want To)
There are so many things your dog will think are great for chewing and eating. Pills, children’s toys, sticks, bones and litter are just a few examples that seem irresistible to the canine palate but can be dangerous if swallowed. Besides stopping your dog from ingesting dangerous objects, a give command will help prevent object and food guarding issues.
As long as your dog has not developed any resource guarding, begin by hand feeding as many meals as possible to get your dog used to your hands around his mouth. Once you have established a trusting relationship, begin teaching a give command by trading an object that isn’t very important to your dog for something he likes better. Remember to always trade up during practice so in an emergency your dog will be happy to give up what he has with the expectation that you will give him something even better.
Life skills training doesn’t have to be a drag and by incorporating it into your dog’s daily routine, you will have a four legged friend you can take anywhere. Remember to make things fun to keep your dog engaged, happy and confident. While timing and consistency are important, you will be successful as long as you keep things positive and focus on rewarding the behaviours you love instead of trying to correct the ones you don’t like.