When two dogs meet there is always an element of arousal until both dogs have learned a little about each other. During this time a few things can occur, both dogs engage in play, or the dogs sniff each other and the interaction is over and finally, one dog wants to interact but the other does not. In order to have the smoothest meeting all handlers should learn to communicate their dogs needs, likes and dislikes with others at this time. Human communication and respect at the beginning of an interaction is a key ingredient in managing dogs effectively.
Take this scenario as an example. Two dogs meet, Rex a green dog with little impulse control and Fido a more reserved or mature dog. Rex will be over the top bouncing around Fido’s face trying to initiate play. Fido will be moving his head away, possibly trying to sniff the ground or trying to completely avoid Rex. If Fido’s subtle cues of ‘no thank you, I don’t want to play’ are ignored he has no choice but to turn up the volume by growling, teeth baring and air snapping at Rex, meaning ‘I said NO!’ How could have this been avoided? Continue reading
In my spare time I enjoy mountain biking and during the winter I head up to the snow fields for some skiing, these sports have colour coded runs based on the terrain and skill level of the participant. And just like mountain bike and ski runs dog walking locations could be colour coded too, being aware of the conditions and you and your dogs’ skill level means you can take responsibility for the difficulty or ease at which you want to walk and train.
Effectively training a dog is about learning to make the most informed decisions while you are walking your dog. There are no ‘run police’ on the ski slopes telling you that you cannot go down a particular run, you must make this decision based on a realistic understanding of your skill level. The same should occur when walking your dog, think about the distractions present, your dogs’ skill level, the equipment you have with you (such as food), temperament of your dog and your level of confidence before entering any area.
Examples of graded areas (streets and park spaces) may include the following. Continue reading
Dogs do throw tantrums, this behaviour often begins as experimental and normal but then is rewarded in one way or another so it becomes a habit that turns disruptive. Tantrums are a reactive behaviour to a situation in which your dog becomes frustrated or anxious and dogs who throw tantrums are usually green in their training, lack impulse control and may lack confidence too.
Tantrums can take the form of behaviours such as defiant barking, jumping (especially with arms wrapped around you), assertive biting/tugging clothing and/or the lead, refusal to move, or a combination of all of these behaviours. These are not to be confused with normal young dog mouthing and excitability, tantrums are usually much more intense, assertive and sometimes scary.
There are no teachable moments during the throes of a tantrum. It would be a mistake to Continue reading
My last post was all about training your dog to check in with you during on lead and off lead walks. To reinforce this topic further I thought I would make a short video of my walk with Nemo today. I have highlighted the check ins Nemo gives and what you will also see is something I call orbital walking.
Orbital walking is a natural byproduct of teaching your dog to regularly check in with you, when you dog checks in he will also begin to follow you, this means any direction you move he will move with you, usually in a circular pattern. From a birds eye view it would look like your dog is orbiting you. When this has been mastered it will look magical because you do not need to call your dog to you, it is a true partnership, a thing of real beauty. Pat Parelli (a master horseman in the US) calls this ‘at liberty’ when he does this with his horses and I think it describes what you will see perfectly.
Nemo at liberty……
Nemo checking in with me at the beach. Learning how to check in = more freedom
Usually when people bring a new dog in to their lives the first thing they teach is ‘sit’, while sit is a valuable skill there is another skill that is easier to teach. Teaching your dog to check in with you could be the best thing you do for your partnership. The check in simply means ‘look my way’ and be aware that we are walking together, it means your dog has to learn impulse control and turns walks in to thinking walks rather than mindless, uncontrollable behaviour.
When your dog checks in with you he should periodically stop what he is doing and look towards you, he does not have to ‘come’, sit or do anything else apart from glance your way, he does not even have to look at your face, dogs read the whole body when they need information, so a glance to your hands or legs is acceptable, especially if you use hand signals to communicate with your dog. Checking in should be taught on lead and off lead and can also be paired with distractions such as other dogs.
Teaching your dog to check in with you while off lead is vital to his safety and the safety of other park users. If you can establish a routine of having your dog check in with you while off lead walking them becomes so much easier because your level of control is far higher if your dog is mindful of where you are. Teaching an off lead check in is easy, Continue reading