A blog about my life with dogs.......

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Walk, talk and sniff bum at the same time.

     There was a time when walking the two younger dogs together was a rodeo not worth my time. Loose leash walking on a 6ft leash is not a skill a puppy comes hard-wired to understand. Bugsy, adopted in his young adulthood, was once such a horrific mess on leash I had to work just to get past my own embarrassment to take him out…But at about the same time the two of them finally seemed to really get it and I made it to the next level. Double dog walks.

It was like going back in time. At first, both dogs forgot how to walk nicely on a leash whenever they saw anything move, smelled something interesting, or wanted to pee on something. Luckily for me, I had expected this (luckily?). Obedience is all about proofing under a circumstance and then adding a variable to get to the next 'level'.

Think of it like a game board. “Stay” for example. You start at level 1 in your living room with no noise, distraction, movement or other live beings. You perfect your dog staying in one place for 10 seconds, then 20 , then 30. Then your plus one becomes moving further from your dog, two feet away, 4 feet away, 6, then the other side of the room, walking out of the room etc. Once this is ‘proofed’ by perfecting it from all these distances you go back to step 1 (10 seconds, 1 foot) and add a distraction, TV, another person, an animal, or a loud truck driving by when the window is open. After all this is proofed then you move to level 2, working on stay in a different room. Next you move to the front fenced yard, eventually the back unfenced yard and once you have practiced and proofed with distractions and different distances you give it a go at the park (on leash, for 10 seconds, from 1 foot and move up from there). All the while rewarding your dog for the behavior you are looking for and marking and ignoring unwanted behaviors.
A marker is a cue that you use to convey a message to your dog. For example the sound of a clicker is a marker that tells your dog he made the right choice. In my house "ah ah ah!" is the marker to let the dog know he has made the wrong choice.
Your dog will not know what these markers mean unless you teach him. Teach a dog that the sound of a clicker is the marker for good behavior by first charging up the clicker by clicking and then quickly giving the dog a treat or two. Teach your dog that your marker word means "that is the wrong choice" by ignoring your dog and not handing over the treat you have in your hand. This may involve looking away,  turning your whole body away from your dog, or even leaving the room. This depends on the sensitivity of your dog.

Loose leash walking is just the same. You work with your dog for short distances, in one area, and then when that is perfected you add distractions. Then you work on it in a different place, for short periods with no distractions. A doggy best buddy to get excited with while on a walk (smells, sights, squirrels oh my!) is a mega distraction and all good manners can be easily forgotten.
Keep this in mind when considering adding another four legged friend!

Tool Box!
Lupine Collar/harness- a must have! I found lupine collars by fluke. They were sold at a doggy day care I worked at. In general I was attracted to buying fancy or cute looking collars. But after I realized how quickly they began to look ratty and how quickly I was replacing them I tried Lupine collars. They guarantee the collars for the lifetime of your dog and will replace a damaged collar even if chewed! My dogs have been wearing them for years. When they get dirty, I throw them in the wash. When one dog got bored and chewed the collar off another dog, I received a quick replacement free of charge.

I recently discovered these super cool toys at a local dog event. These colorful wool toys apparently retain the smell of sheep (I can't smell it, but the dogs seems to catch the whiff) for an extra draw. My dogs love them. I am training a dog who doesn't like to catch hard things in his mouth to play frisbie, and the wool frisbies are perfect for working on the game. The Tugzees are super fun as well.
A friendly cattle dog named Jack.

1 comment:

  1. Oh! I almost forgot to tell you the best part about the fuzzywumpet toys! The distributer said if the toy is chewed and a hole begins to form in the toy you just get that portion of the toy wet, and toss it into the drier where it will felt back together again! My boys have enjoyed some rough tugging with the Tugzees but no damage has been done. If that changes I will let you know how the 'felting' goes!