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The teenage months part 2 – A cautionary tail

Hands up! I took my eye off the ball, or more correctly off the dog.

Poppy is now 14 months old, and just when I was congratulating myself on coming through the worst of the teenage months she has decided to make a break for independence! Not only that but she has developed a hunting instinct, something I didn’t expect from my Border Collie/Retriever/Newfie, and a few times recently has gone too far failing to come back when called. If that in itself wasn’t bad enough it is the start of the hunting season in the garrigue here so it is also extremely dangerous.

I know what the problem is and It’s entirely my fault not hers, she is just busy being a young dog, one with long legs and boundless energy. She was so good, not going too far, coming back when called that I became complacent and forgot the golden rule of not letting your dog ‘get out of hand’- that is to say call them back BEFORE they go too far. Add to that the fact that my 5 year old Lab x Jake is her ‘hero’ and focus of attention rather than me and the result is a dog that is at times out of my control and that I cannot trust to respond when she is ‘on a mission’

So what’s the solution? For me and Miss Poppy it’s back to basics. We are doing a lot more lead work and lots of one to one exercises and play to teach her to focus on me. We have separate walks several times a week, not easy at the moment when even one walk means an early start! She is a high energy dog who needs to run but this is now only allowed in short bursts, calling her back frequently and rewarding lavishly.

Will it work? It has to and I certainly believe so! The dogs of various breeds and ages, adopted from the SPAs and other refuges, that pass through the club gates are testament to the fact that it is never to late to change behaviour. With love, patience and positive reward based training you can indeed teach an ‘old’ dog new tricks!

Shirley Reddell www.clubcaninaude.org

Poppy….its not easy being a teenager!

Coping with a teenage dog

Poppy now almost 9 months old is no longer a puppy but an adolescent.  BANG! Just like that and seemingly overnight, my lovely, cuddly, obedient, follow me anywhere pup is now an unruly teenager!!

A dog is generally considered ‘ado’ once they have their canine teeth, at around 7mths, and until 18mths of age. During this time a pup’s brain changes and matures.! Just like their human counterparts an adolescent dog can be willful and obnoxious. They will test you, ignore you and push the boundaries. Recall goes to pot. They can be jumpy, bitey and downright disobedient! It can be disappointing, discouraging and challenging to say the least! If you are going through this stage with your pup or have adopted an adolescent dog don’t despair, what seems like complete disaster is a temporary phase. Here are some key points to help you cope.

Exercise

Like a human teenager an adolescent dog often has lots of excess energy that needs to be channelled so that it is not used negatively and destructively. Plenty of exercise, appropriate to age and size, is therefore important. Consider starting agility or cani-cross training, or make a walk more challenging by playing hide and seek or laying a scent trail.

Motivation

It’s important to keep up and reinforce the basic training during this critical period of development but also to make it more interesting.  Practice in different locations and add in more brain-challenging exercises.

Socialisation

Make sure your dog gets plenty of opportunities to socialise. Have ‘play dates’. Go to a good dog school. Not only will your dog have fun but you will get professional advice, be able to talk with other ‘parents’ going through the same thing and exchange ideas.

Play

Play with your dog, this is a very underused and undervalued training tool.

Take a breath

Above all be patient and calm, don’t get stressed. You will weather the storm and come out the other end with a stronger bond with your dog.

Shirley Reddell

Clubcaninazille@gmail.com

www.clubcaninaude.org

 

Teenagers playing at dog training club Azille…

My dog understands everything I say…

Poppy turned 6 months old at the end of November marked by two significant events. Firstly she was sterilised.  I was dreading it, it was not something I wanted to put her through but it was the responsible choice. The SPAs and other refuges are regularly inundated  with puppies due to irresponsible and ‘accidental’ breeding. Puppies are cute and generally get adopted quite quickly but a good percentage also end up back at the refuge when they become untrained and unruly adolescents.  If you are not a registered breeder and you take on a puppy or young dog please talk to your vet and have them sterilised as soon as possible. There are many benefits from having your dog sterilised, avoidance of certain cancers for one. It is also a popular misconception that a sterilised dog will get fat, they will only put weight through overfeeding and/or lack of  exercise.

The second event was a DNA analysis. It doesn’t matter of course what she is, she is my ‘baby’ dog and I love her but it’s fascinating stuff nonetheless.  I have learnt that she is, as suspected, 50% Border Collie but also 25% Labrador Retriever, 20% Landseer and 5% Newfoundland. A nice mix character wise plus I now know what her strengths are likely to be and what health risks to expect.

So far Poppy has proved easy to train and I can now target her known abilities. I say so far because at 6-7 mths old she is coming into adolescence, the age when boundaries get tested and rules need to be reinforced. She is quick to learn but how much of what I say to her does she really understand?

My dog understands every word I say

Really? Is that true?

Anyone who owns a dog will recognise those words and has probably even said them at times.  We talk to our dogs as if they were human and why not indeed!? Dogs are very good at listening and often give the impression that they are taking it all in.  They sit patiently cocking their heads from side to side whilst we explain what we are doing in the kitchen or the finer points of a football match and the referee’s bad decision making.

What do they actually understand though?

“Now then ‘Poppy’ I’m just going to nip outside and fetch something and I want you to sit nicely and stay there until I come back.”  Sounds familiar doesn’t it and she will probably do exactly that, thus giving the impression that she has understood everything I said.

What she really heard though was:  “Blah blah blah POPPYblah blah blah blah SIT blah blah STAY blah blah etc”.

Our dogs are of course not born with an understanding of human language although they are capable of learning the meaning of a great many words. Only words though not sentences. That said, dogs are very accomplished at filling in the gaps and more often than not correctly.

So how do they do it?

Although vocalisation and scent also play a part, dogs communicate primarily by the use of body language and they are extremely adept at reading visual clues. Ears, tails, stance and facial expressions are all important in the dog world.  We humans don’t have tails and in general cannot waggle our ears at will but we do have hands that move about a lot (many people ‘talk’ with their hands), bodies that can bend in many different ways and a great many facial expressions.  This is why our dogs often seem to know what we are about to do, sometimes even before we know ourselves. They read all the visual clues that we, albeit unwittingly, give out.  They are also very sensitive to emotions; they know when we are sad, happy, angry or ill.

Try this.  Ask someone to strike a pose depicting an emotion or an action (e.g. I’m very angry!  I don’t know!).  I bet you get it right and that’s how dogs do it.

How does this translate into our everyday lives with our dogs?

Well it’s very useful for training purposes, as body language, hand signals and facial expressions are often much more effective than spoken commands. However our body language can also have a huge negative impact on our dogs and often contributes to training issues and even separation anxiety, a subject I will return to in the New Year.

Unfortunately for our dogs we are not as adept at reading their body language as they are ours and misunderstandings regularly occur.  Something I hear often is, “I know that Fido knows he has done something wrong because when I come in he creeps around/hides/rolls over, so why does he continue to do it?”

Does the dog really know that what it has done is wrong in thus instance?  It depends on the circumstances of course but mostly the dog is just picking up on the owner’s emotional reaction to whatever has occurred in their absence.

Let’s take a common example of a dog that raids the rubbish bin whilst its owner is out, the rubbish is tipped out and the dog is rewarded by some tasty morsels.  The owner comes home and there is rubbish all over the kitchen floor, they are understandably angry and the culprit (because there is no question who did it) is in trouble.

There is a problem here though because whatever the misdemeanour you need to catch the culprit ‘red pawed’. Punishment, (which must never be physical) after the event, is futile and may even exacerbate the unwanted behaviour. By the time the owner arrives home Fido, probably by now asleep in his basket, will have completely forgotten that it was he that caused the damage.  All the dog will understand is that when it goes to greet its beloved human, tail wagging happily, they are angry with him.  It’s also evident that they are not happy about all the rubbish on the kitchen floor.

How did that get there by the way!?

The next time the owner is absent the bin gets raided again because it brings an instant reward in the shape of last night’s left-overs or the wrapping of something tasty (or smelly!).  Then, having done the deed Fido suddenly realises that there is rubbish all over the floor!  He doesn’t necessarily associate it with him tipping the bin out but he knows from previous experience that this makes his Mum or Dad angry, so he is now worried and when they arrive home the dog assumes a submissive or fearful posture.  This in turn is taken as a sign by the owner that Fido knows he has done wrong. A vicious circle ensues with the owner getting more exasperated and the dog getting more stressed.  In this instance a simple solution is to either remove or lock the bin.

 If you remove the reward you stop the unwanted behaviour.

 

A very happy festive season to you all. Please remember that a great many of our seasonal treats are harmful to our 4 legged friends. Notably, chocolate, dried fruit (mince pies, Christmas pudding/cake etc.), cooked bones and fatty foods, onions, garlic, mushrooms and of course alcohol.

Shirley Reddell

www.clubcaninaude.org

clubcaninazille@gmail.com

 

Merry Xmas from Poppy…

CONTACT, TEACHING YOUR DOG ITS NAME and A BIT ABOUT RECALL

If you have a new puppy or a dog what is one of the first things you need to teach it?  The answer: ITS NAME

“Of course,” I hear you say. “That’s obvious!”

You would think so wouldn’t you?  However, I’m sure you have often heard an owner either calling a dog or trying to get the dog’s attention in order to give it a command, meanwhile the dog is looking anywhere except at its master.

“Jake”(no response)“Jake”(still nothing). “JAKE!!!” (no joy)  JakeJakeJakeJAKEJAKEY!!” The pitch and the volume are going up each time but the dog pays no attention.

The first problem here is that the dog has not been taught to respond 100% of the time to its name.  Add to that the fact that the tone of voice changes with each call, that the dog can sense the mounting frustration and sometimes anger in its owner’s voice and there isn’t a hope in hell of getting it to respond.  When the name is then called in rapid succession the sound changes completely so how could the dog possibly even recognise it.

Take human babies for instance, one of the first things they hear repeated over and over is their name, they learn to recognise this sound and to respond to it. As babies grow and become toddlers they will learn that this sound is their name and as children they will be taught to spell and to write it.

A dog however will never know that the sound it hears is its name any more than it will ever be able to spell or write it.  In fact when dogs change owners, often their name is also changed and they have to start again.  Dogs have no problem with this as to them it’s just a word; the change may even be a positive thing, eradicating any bad association the dog had with its old name.

To  teach your dog its name you first need CONTACT

As with all the training you will do it’s about rewarding the behaviour you want to be repeated and the first phase is always silent.

First teach the action then give your dog the one word command associated with it. 

Contact, also  referred to as ‘look at me’ or ‘the look’ is an important first step in training whether starting with a puppy or older dog. This is about teaching them to focus on you and all other training you do will depend on the success of this step.

Why is that? Because if your dog’s attention is elsewhere, giving any instruction is a complete waste of time. Successful training is not about dominance but about complicity. It’s about having a dog that is focused on you, ready and waiting to see what they should do next, because they want to  and because it’s fun; or maybe just because they know you have a pocket full of treats!!

Step 1. Start by siphoning off a portion of the daily ration and keeping it about your person. You are going to be dishing out a lot of rewards and you don’t want a fat dog!*  Pick a quiet place with no distractions for your dog and then simply wait, silent and relaxed.  When your dog looks at your face immediately give a treat, if you are using clicker then the sequence is click, treat. To start with just a lift of the eyes to your face is good enough but then you need to raise the bar so your dog looks you in the eyes and, after that, holds the look for longer. It sounds complicated but your dog will ‘get’ super fast that pay attention =reward

Once you have ‘contact’ you can then

 TEACH YOUR DOG HIS NAME

 Step 2. Now when your pup /dog looks at you reward whist simultaneously saying his name each time. Dogs are smart, it won’t take long for them to work out that this word means treats, so he is already associating his name with good things.

Step 3. Say his name when he is close to you but not looking at you, using a normal tone of voice. If you have practised well and not tried to rush it he should instantly look at you.  When this happens be ready with several treats and lots of praise, be aware that your timing or lack of it is critical; the treats must be dished out the minute he looks at you.  If at this point he didn’t look at you then you have gone too fast, go back a step or you will inadvertently teach your dog to ignore its name.

If you succeeded in getting his attention straight away continue in the same manner, you are aiming for 100% success rate so again don’t rush.  This is the crucial stage that all of your other training will be based on.

Step 4. So far you have been working within the confines of your home where there are no distractions. If you have succeeded up to now then you are ready to attach your dog to a  lead and take him outside.  Say his name as you are walking and immediately reward him when he pays attention to you.

If you continue in this way, making sure that each step is successfully completed you will end up with a dog that looks at you for guidance, one that is ready and waiting for your command and comes when called.

A word of warning, if you use his name in anger or associate it with something unpleasant you will have negated all the work you have done and will have to start again at zero!!

*If your dog  really isn’t food motivated, is on a special diet or you just don’t want to go that route then use a different reward. There are dogs that are treat driven and those who would do anything for a ball or a ragger. Some just want a stroke or praise. It’s all about motivation and finding what works for your dog.

A word about recall

When taking on a rescue dog it is wise to first build up trust and put the above training in place before letting them off the lead. A safe enclosed space in which to practice initially and a long line/lead (8-10 metres) is recommended. If you have a local dog club this is an ideal and safe environment in which to practice. As always, the time this takes depends very much on the individual dog.

Puppies however are a different thing entirely, people regularly come to club with 6 month old pups who have never been off lead because they are too worried about them running off.

My advice?

PUPPIES ARE HARD WIRED TO FOLLOW and the best time to teach them to stay with you and come when called is from the very start.

So after a couple of days just at home to familiarise the pup with its surroundings, gain their trust  and initiate ‘contact’. Let your pup go, on a long trailing line initially if you prefer, and when they  stay close (because they will!) reward and reinforce that behaviour.

Shirley Reddell

www.clubcaninaude.org

clubcaninazille@gmail.com

Poppy learnt her name very quickly!

Poppy’s training snippets – socialisation

“One size does not fit at” True

“Every dog is different” Also true

“They have their own characters and instincts” True too.

However…

Only so much of your dog’s ability is innate, in other words, what they are born with, what they now become is up to you. My family pack is comprised of a scent hound, a sight hound and a herding dog. All completely different but the one thing they have in common is they are sociable and know how to behave in a human environment.

Socialisation is a subject very dear to my heart. Whilst I am going to approach this from the point of  view of having a new pup it applies equally to older dogs especially those from rescue centres who may not have been socialised as puppies.

The day I met Poppy, that fateful day when I was asked to foster her. When she crawled onto my lap on the floor of the SPA Carcassonne office and stole my heart, she was 3 months old and a very frightened little puppy. I will never know what happened to her but no pup should ever be that traumatised. Socialising her was of primary importance and as it was people who frightened her most I needed to expose her to as many as possible in a positive way. My friends, family and dog club members became willing guinea pigs but I also took her out and about to meet perfect strangers. She hasn’t completely overcome her fear and I still have to be vigilant but at almost 6 months olď she is now a confident young dog who can walk through a crowded market and settle beside me in a café.

Puppies by nature are generally friendly and curious. They learn by exploring the world around them, by smelling by tasting and touching, but mostly from their mother and by playing with their siblings and extended family. That, however, does not fit them for living in a human world so when we take on a puppy, or indeed any dog, it is up to us to teach it how to behave and survive in our environment.

The optimum age for socialising your new puppy is between 3 and 5-6 months of age. At 2 to 3 months they should have had their essential vaccinations and can be taken out and about. At 5-6 months the fear factor kicks in; this is basic survival instinct and anything unknown becomes something to be wary of. As you can see it is a very small window of opportunity!

What is socialisation

In simple terms, this is taking your pup out and about and exposing them to everyday life. To the market, a cafe, the school gates, along busy roads, where there are cyclists and joggers, to the duck pond or to meet the horses in the local farmer’s field. Making sure your dog says ‘hello to as many people and animals along the way as possible.The experiences your puppy has now will never be forgotten so positive encounters with people, including children, and other dogs/animals are very important and the time you consecrate to it will repay you many times over.  Conversely, bad experiences now may be difficult to overcome in the future.

A dog that has not been socialised often has no idea how to behave when placed in a social situation. A young child who has never played with other children and who is suddenly taken to a playground, or sent to a nursery, will have no idea how to interact with others in their peer group.  They may be frightened and run and hide or, through fear, may be aggressive in their attitude towards them. So it is with dogs and aggression through fear is the worst kind because it can be unpredictable. A frightened dog has only two options, flight or fight; if it feels trapped it will choose fight, often without warning.

If you have a dog school near you this is an excellent way to accustom your pup to other dogs and people in a safe environment. At a Puppy School you will be shown how to train your puppy effectively and without stress but even more important your little one will learn how to ‘play nicely’ with other puppies and to inhibit their bite.  They will meet other dogs of varying shapes and sizes and other humans too, (also of varying shapes and sizes!), with glasses and hats, big coats and umbrellas.  They will learn to walk on different surfaces, to go over jumps and small bridges and through tunnels.  All these experiences will help ensure that they will become a well-rounded dog, friendly to humans and other dogs, and one that you can take anywhere, which ultimately is what most of us want.

Dos and don’ts

Always be very calm around your dog. Shouting is ineffective, they hear better than you, and it will only serve to excite or frighten.

Your body language is important, be relaxed and smile at your dog.*

Always praise good behaviour and ignore unwanted behaviour. To be rewarded your dog will repeat the desired behaviour and unwanted behaviour will gradually disappear.

Most importantly NEVER reassure a frightened dog! This goes against our nature, we instinctively want to protect and cuddle, but this is the worst thing you could do. Your dog will perceive the reassurance as there bring something to be worried about.

Don’t force your dog to confront something it is worried about, work around it at a safe distance until they feel comfortable enough to approach. If the problem is a person then It’s imperative to allow your dog to make the first move. **

Shirley Reddell

clubcaninazille@gmail.com

www.clubcaninaude.org

 

*&** more on these subjects in another blog

Poppy’s Training Snippets – Toilet Training and Feeding

Poppy training snippets!

As well as being a trainer I also foster pups for the SPA at Carcassonne. It’s very rewarding!

Should you have the time to dedicate to this, new fosterers are always welcome and support is on hand.

As a trainer, it is easy to stand in front of a group of puppy parents and tell them “if you do this, the result will be.. “

In reality, the pups I’ve fostered have taught me a valuable lesson, one that I hope will make me a better trainer.

One size does not fit all!

Poppy is now 5 months old and already knows all the basic commands – sit down, come, stay and she walks well on the lead. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? I have put the training in place of course but can claim little credit I fear! That honour goes to my two other dogs from whom she has learned ( SIT/DOWN/COME/STAY ETC =REWARD !!!), plus she is part Border Collie, reputed to be one of the most intelligent breeds.

Indeed one size does not fit all but that just means that you need to adapt to the dog you have and these particular training guidelines apply to all.

In the next few episodes of Poppy’s training snippets we are going to cover, not sit, down, stay but the questions I most get asked at ‘dog school”.

 

Contact/teaching your dog its name

Recall

Separation Anxiety

Destruction in the home

Plus a subject very dear to my heart- socialisation.

 

Toilet training

For me, this follows on from cage training and is linked to feeding.

By training your dog to sleep in a cage /crate as described in the last snippet, and also in a leaflet obtainable from Dog Rescue Carcassonne, you will be well on the way to having a dog who sleeps all night and is clean/dry in the morning. This is because they are hardwired not to foul their own den/sleeping area. Imagine how it would be in a den with a whole litter of pups if they all pooed and peed where they slept. Yes, of course, there are accidents at first but every pup I have fostered and trained in this way has ‘got it’ within the first few days.

If you don’t want to use a crate for your dog do at least restrict the area they are allowed in unsupervised. A couple of movable child safety gates is all that is needed. Dogs need boundaries and a feeling of security and will settle much quicker if not allowed to roam. Place their bed in a corner, against a wall even under a table, but never in a corridor or the middle of a space. Some toilet training and behavioural problems are caused by anxiety due to too much freedom and the lack of a ‘safe’ place to sleep.

Puppies can, and will, poo up to 10 times a day and wee even more. Like young children, they cannot at this stage always control their bodily functions. So, to avoid ‘accidents’, ideally, take your pup out at regular intervals and always as soon as they have eaten/drunk, giving lavish praise when they ‘perform’.

Feeding

Pups up to 6 months old need to eat 3 times a day (daily ration based on final adult weight  ÷3). Whatever food you choose, make sure it is good quality and suitable for puppies. Always weigh the food so you can monitor how much your pup is eating. To make sure your pup eats regularly never leave the food bowl on the floor. Place the bowl in front of your pup (if they have learned SIT now is a good time to reinforce this behaviour) if they refuse to eat or walk away, remove the bowl. Give no more food until the next mealtime and only the prescribed one-third ration. In this way, your pup will quickly learn to eat when food is given.

Bonus – regular food = regular poo

Dos and don’ts

Never tell your pup off for pooing or weeing in the ‘wrong’ place. They don’t know it is the wrong place, they may think you are telling them off for toileting which in turn could cause stress. You will almost certainly prolong the toilet training period.

It is us up to you to teach your new companion where to relieve themselves so just remove them to where they should go and clean up calmly. White household vinegar (vinaigre d’alcool) in solution is excellent for this purpose as it neutralises the smell of the urine.

Take your pup to the same place each time to ‘toilet’ as the scents will help them to ‘go’

Always praise your dog when they toilet outside in the ‘right place.

Never leave a food bowl on the floor. Your dog will learn to graze rather than eat properly. This will affect your dog’s ‘output’ and possibly the workings of his digestive system.

Always feed as good a quality food as possible.

Shirley Reddell

www.clubcaninaude.org

clubcaninazille@gmail.com

 

 

Poppy’s Training Snippets – Crate training

 

Poppys training snippets…Shirley Reddell

People often refer to me as a dog trainer, the truth, however, is that the only dogs I train are my own and the SPA puppies I have in foster from time to time. In reality what I do, or try to do,  is help people understand and train their own dogs. I recently adopted Poppy a border x puppy who was in foster with me.

Here is the first snippet from her training diaries.

Day 1 Crate training.

The first thing Poppy needed to learn was to be happy in a cage, despite being a very frightened pup she took to it straight away and a peaceful night for all was the result.

I am a great advocate of cage/crate training for new puppies and also for some adolescent or adult dogs, especially those adopted from a refuge who may never have lived inside, in a house/home. Some may tell you this is cruel but actually, it is the complete opposite. Dogs do not see it that way, being in a cage for them resembles a den and is security, safety and comfort.

Why crate train your dog?

Essential for a puppy, a scared rescue dog or bewildered adult. Your dog will look on it as their safe place and will go there of their own accord when they need some peace and quiet.  For a rest after a long walk or to get away from the kids!

Many people make the mistake of giving their new puppy or dog too much freedom which can cause house training issues. Puppies especially need to be kept safe when left alone, or they will inevitably get into trouble. Peeing and pooing everywhere and often chewing whatever is available. Shoes, electrical wires all is fair game to a bored pup.

For you there are even more plus points.

Your puppy will very quickly sleep all night and as an added bonus will be clean and dry in the morning.

For pups and older dogs you  will be able to leave them in the cage whilst you go out for short periods and there will be no destruction or mess as to come back to.

You will avoid the issue of separation anxiety.

How to crate train your dog.

Initially at least put the cage in a place where you spend a lot of the time, place a bed/cushion in there along with a toy or two and encourage them in with some tasty treats.

Leave the door open and allow your dog to investigate the space. Once they are comfortable and settle down close the door for a few minutes at a time. Most pups get used to this super fast. Make a habit of imposing an hour in their crate morning and afternoon. Just like toddlers they need down time or will get fractious.

My pups have the bonus of having other dogs around and generally settle in their cage in the kitchen with the others. If you have just adopted a single puppy or dog I would encourage you to have their cage in your bedroom for a couple of nights until they settle.

Dos and don’ts

Never use the crate as a punishment, always make it a positive experience with treats and praise.

Make sure your crate is large enough for your dog to get up and turn around.

Do not leave your dog crated for too long during the day. (a couple of hours max). Dogs are social animals and need company, if left too long it could have a negative effect.

Over the next few weeks we will be discussing,

Socialisation

Toilet Training

Separation Anxiety

And much more..

Shirley Reddell

www.clubcaninaude.org

clubcaninazille@gmail.com