Category Archives: Dog doc – reader’s questions

NO! Don’t tell your dog off – it’s mean

NO! Does your dog need to know this word?

Dogs can be so annoying can’t they?  Especially puppies.  Always getting into something they shouldn’t be doing, or chewing something.  Jumping up.  Going to the toilet in the wrong place.  Running off.  Getting too excited at other dogs, or people.  Or life in general.  It’s what dogs do best.  But should we say no to them?

I remember my mum telling me years ago, that the only two words a puppy needed to learn were its name and no.  I also remember days when my sons were young, feeling as though every time I opened my mouth it was to say no.

noSaying No!

I was walking my girls the other day around the lake that I live beside.  A woman was walking her two dogs in the opposite direction, so I passed her a couple of times.  The first time I saw her, the dogs were wet and looking to go back into the water.  She very grumpily told them “NO! You’re not going into the water again!”

A bit later I saw her again and the same thing was happening.  She was telling them off for wanting to go back into the water.  Wtf?  Why would you do that?  Why let them into the water in the first place if you don’t want them going into it?  But why tell them off for wanting to go in again?  And if I was confused, imagine how they felt?

noBe consistent – please?

My lovely new agility trainer, Emma from Beancroft Agility is absolutely right when she says it is not OK to accept one rule one week, but then change the criteria the next week.  Just as for children, we should be fair to our dogs and expect the same behaviour from them if we give them the same commands.

So if you let your dog get away with going on the sofa (why wouldn’t you?) you can’t then expect them to get off for no reason.  Of course if you need to sit down, you might make them budge up a bit, or ask them to get off, sit down and then get them back up onto your lap, lol.

noWhy say no though?

It’s not really necessary, is it?  I went through a list of situations in my head this morning and I could come up with alternative (and more appropriate) commands for all of them. For example:

  • chewing something they shouldn’t – Leave it!
  • barking at squirrels – also leave it, or shh! or use their name.  Ideally in a quiet voice, not joining in the barking by shouting
  • running away from you – “Name of dog, come!”  said in a ridiculously positive way
  • heading into danger – ‘wait!’  Once you’ve mastered stop the dog you should be able to do this easily
  • jumping up  – Off!  Although ignoring and turning away is even better
  • play biting – use a toy instead of your hand.   This is one situation where I might say ‘no!’ sharply, as this behaviour is never acceptable.  But a distraction would be better, or not allowing things to escalate to this point better still.

I hope you have found this post thought provoking?  Let me know if you think there is a situation that demands a no?

Ask for help?

You are very welcome to CONTACT ME to ask for my advice.  I can help you with a variety of issues and problems around getting a dog and suggestions for tackling training issues.  Go to the What Dog? page for more information on my service.

Please let me know if you have found this post helpful?

Remember..

Please CONTACT ME if you want to know more about me and my dogs?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think.  If you want to know more, why not FOLLOW ME?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.

NB: If you read my posts in an email, you may be missing out on the lovely pictures!  Please click through to my website to see the post in all its glory!

 

Come here! Some Dos and Don’ts with Recall Training

Come back dog! How to build your recall – my top tips

I’m revisiting this post having seen a lovely 7 month-old Border Collie puppy on a lead this morning.  When I asked why she was on lead I was told she would run off, or chase cars.  I could have punched the owner – YOU ARE SO LAZY!!  It really is not rocket science to get your dog to come back.  Just do some work on it, please?

Of course some breeds are harder than others and not all walks are safe, but if I can walk 5 Border Collies off lead you sure as hell can manage one.  <angry face>.  Here are my top tips:

DO: Keep using treats

Some people think they only need to use treats when their puppy is little.  Why?  I still like chocolate and I’m 55 years old!  If you asked me to do something and offered me chocolate I would DEFINITELY do it!  Sunny will always come back to me, no matter whom I call, just in case I feel like giving her a sweetie.  Well of course I do!  She’s 12 years old but if she comes when I call, she deserves a sweetie.  Of course it’s not very big, but so what?

DON’T: Use rubbish treats

The one in my photo here might not look very exciting but my girls like them.  If they weren’t brilliant at coming back and/or didn’t think much of these treats, I would use something else.

Top treats can include:

  • cheese – mild cheddar is not too crumbly, nice and cheap.  Cut into small cubes
  • sausage – ordinary cooked sausage, cut small
  • frankfurters – I slice up quite finely and then cook in the oven for a while. This dries them out so them are easier to handle and last longercome recall
  • liver cake – if you must.  I never do, but people swear by it: liver cake recipe

Whatever you use, it should actually be a reward for your dog.

DO: Be exciting!

Why exactly would I come back to you if you are boring?  What I am doing over here is much more interesting.  Smells!  Dogs!  Rabbits!  What are you offering?  Hmm, no thanks.

You must be AMAZING!  Look what I’ve got!  Look at my toy!  Do you want it?  Come and get it!  Here it is.. here… or here…  Have a look at the video clip from a post of Ounce on Exciting recall

 

DON’T: Shout at your dog

It’s really not a good idea.  They may never get over it.  Dogs are sensitive creatures; they do not like it when you are unhappy.  If you have several dogs and children, try shouting at one of them (or your other half, even better). What happens?  Everyone disappears!

Yes I know it’s incredibly annoying when they don’t come, but were you exciting?  Did you have yummy sweeties?  Did you offer to play?  Or have a toy?  No?  Well that’s your own fault then.

I’m not even going to mention any kind of physical reprimand.  All that does is make your dog hate you.  Not a top plan.come recall

DON’T: Chase your dog

What a brilliant game that is for your dog!  Yay!  Chase me, chase me!  You can’t catch me though, obviously.  Can you hear your dog laughing?  I can.  Hilarious.

DO: Run away from your dog

Turn and leg it.  Seriously.  This is the time to get on a turn of speed.  And if you can add some excited shouting, such as “Come and see what I’ve got!”  “Sweeties!”  Then you might get their interest.  This is much more likely to work than standing still.  Or chasing them.

DON’T: Wait until the end of the walk to call them back

It’s been a lovely walk but now it’s the end.  Oh you’re not tired and you don’t want to go home yet?  Well too bad, I’m in charge.  Or am I?  When I’m walking the puppy on her own, I might call her back to me twenty times during a 20 minute walk.  These days, walking her with the pack, I only call her back to me 10 times per walk.  “Ounce come”.  Be excited to see her.  Give her some praise.  Feed her a sweetie or two.  Every day, every walk.  She automatically comes to me at the end of the walk.  It’s no big deal.

DO: Use a clear, simple command come recall

“Ounce come”.  Don’t stand still repeating the dog’s name over and over again.  You sound like a wally.  (Unlike when you are running away, shrieking in excitement, when you look AND sound like a wally.)   The more often you say the dog’s name, the less likely they are to wonder what you want.  Be clear, be positive, be firm (but not boring).

Ask for help?

You are very welcome to CONTACT ME to ask for my advice.  I can help you with a variety of issues and problems around getting a dog and suggestions for tackling training issues.  Go to the What Dog? page for more information on my service.

Please let me know if you have found this post helpful?

Remember..

Please CONTACT ME if you want to know more about me and my dogs?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think.  If you want to know more, why not FOLLOW ME?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.

NB: If you read my posts in an email, you may be missing out on the lovely pictures!  Please click through to my website to see the post in all its glory!

 

Settle please! When do they calm down?

Settle your dog – how to make them calmer

I saw an interesting post the other day on ‘The Wonderful World of Border Collies’.  Someone asked for some tips on ‘tiring out’ their BC puppy.  She gave a long list of activities and toys that the puppy had; interactive toys, stuffed Kongs, walks it went on, etc etc.  Some people (rather unhelpfully I thought) said “Oh he’ll calm down in a year or two”.  The rest of us all said that he needed to settle:

“Teach your dog to calm down, please?  Dogs need to learn that they cannot be on the go all the time.”

Thinking about it, I realised that I had already written about this very subject.  In fact it was almost the first ‘training topic’ I wrote about: settle down.

settleRushing all day long

Do you ever have days where you spend the whole day rushing around?  Maybe you are at work and you have a whole string of meetings to go to, with phone calls and emails to cram in between them?  Or you are at home and have a series of appointments to go to, with other errands or jobs that need doing as well? Do you ever feel as though you are ‘chasing your tail’?  When the day is like that, you might get halfway through the day and feel exhausted, but then you get a ‘second wind’ and carry on anyway.

Dogs, particularly Border Collies, can be a bit like that.  They will keep going, and going and going, till they drop.  They are so keen to please you and so willing to work, that they are often described as not having an ‘off switch’.

However, they are not supposed to be like that!  Have a look at the Border Collie Breed Information page.  I think this sums up perfectly the pace of life that this breed are designed for.  I also think it shows how life has changed for all pet dogs; it is hard work for them.

Take time to recoversettle

It is important for us all, both dogs and people, to have time out.  Time to recover, to recharge our batteries, to reflect on what has happened and think about what comes next.  I often think about the poem, Leisure by W H Davies.

How to teach a settle

I believe that calmness teaches calmness.  If you are calm and quiet, your dogs should be too.  My dogs know that I spend most of my days sitting at my desk writing, so they know that not much will happen once we get back from our walk.  They know I won’t play with them; if I am up and about I am cleaning, or going out without them.  Their expectations are low, so they don’t make a fuss if I leave them, nor expect much to happen.

As a side note, I believe that children need to learn the skill of stillness too.  These days we are so often bombarded with information and entertainment.  Chillax!  It’s good for you.  Don’t forget to smell the roses!

settleAsk for help?

You are very welcome to CONTACT ME to ask for my advice.  I can help you with a variety of issues and problems around getting a dog and suggestions for tackling training issues.  Go to the What Dog? page for more information on my service.

Please let me know if you have found this post helpful?

Remember..

Please CONTACT ME if you want to know more about me and my dogs?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think.  If you want to know more, why not FOLLOW ME?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.

NB: If you read my posts in an email, you may be missing out on the lovely pictures!  Please click through to my website to see the post in all its glory!

Neutering: When should you neuter your dog?

What is the best age for neutering in dogs?

This is not a simple question and as with so many aspects of dog ownership, it is subject to fashion and cultural context.  When I was growing up, I don’t think neutering in dogs was done routinely; it was more often carried out when a dog was becoming a problem.  Male dogs were often allowed to roam the streets, looking for a mate and puppies were very often produced through a neighbour’s dog appearing in a garden one day.

Of course these things do still happen, but happily we are inching forwards to a culture where responsible dog ownership is becoming more commonplace.  There has been a view that dogs were who were not ‘entire’ would be affected in their personality; that this would be detrimental to their character.  Increasingly, I am of the view that any changes are positive, especially to male dogs.

neutering

 

Freedom to roam

In the past, dog owners who were being responsible would whip their puppy off to the vet’s to be neutered almost as soon as it was brought home.  When I got my first puppy, in 1987, it was expected that he would be castrated at six months, so that his behaviour would remain more manageable.  He still cocked his leg and enjoyed playing around with Sunny when she was in season, but he didn’t hump your leg, (which was good!) and he didn’t try to go off roaming the neighbourhood.

More recently, we are finding that it is good to allow dogs to reach full maturity before they are neutered, both male and female.  If you search online, you will find articles such as this one from the Blue Cross about neutering your dog.  This says that there are a number of health benefits to neutering early, such as reducing the chances of cancers.

However, another article cites the benefits of neutering later:

“When a dog’s testes or ovaries are removed, the production of hormones is interrupted, which affects bone growth. Because the bone growth plates may close earlier in dogs neutered young, orthopaedic problems such as hip dysplasia and cranial cruciate ligament tears may result. Neutered dogs also tend to gain excess weight, further stressing the joints. But neutering does not equal obesity. It’s more difficult to keep neutered dogs in shape, but it can be done.”

Personally, I think it does come down to good management.  If you feel that you will struggle to cope with an unneutered dog, get it done from the age of six months.  If you can manage for a while, leave it until the dog has reached maturity, which for collies would be around a year to 18 months.  If you can’t be bothered with the hassle, definitely get them neutered.

Coming into season

Elsewhere, I have written about what happens to a bitch coming into season and how to manage this.  If you are prepared for the need to pay attention to your dog every 6-8 months and make sure that they do not come into contact with uncastrated dogs, then you may choose to leave your dog unneutered.

As I said earlier, I had my only male dog castrated at the age of six months.  My first bitch was done in middle age, having had two litters of pups.  Much safer to have the operation, I thought at the time.  I had planned to have Sunny spayed once she had had her third litter.  I hesitated because I felt that it was a major operation that she did not need to have.  I can manage my dogs, I thought.

Neutering – emergency procedures

I am revisiting the neutering argument today, having brought Sunny home from the vet.  She has had an emergency spay, aged 12 years, following pyometra, or pyo.

Pyometra is defined as an infection in the uterus. Pyometra is considered a serious and life threatening condition that must be treated quickly and aggressively.”

neuteringSymptoms of Pyometra include: 

  • Abdominal distention (from an enlarged uterus)
  • Vulvar (vaginal) discharge
  • Closed cervix
  • Lethargy
  • Depression
  • Lack of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Frequent urination.

Fortunately for us, Sunny’s condition was picked up quickly and surgery was straightforward.  She stayed in overnight for observation, but is now home and recovering well.

Other emergencies

Sadly, Luna had to have a Caesarian with her last litter and when the vet asked if I wanted her spayed as well, I thought ‘why not’.  I asked if it would make the operation more complicated and he said “No, it will be simpler, as it’s easier to remove everything.”  I then didn’t have to worry about post-op infection in her uterus as it had all been taken out!

neuteringLuna made such a great recovery from the operation and really rocked the shirt provided by the vet, which was brilliant compared with the stupid lampshade they usually provide.  She was moving around normally within a day or two and a month today since the op she if fully healed and back to her usual self.  On the strength of that, I decided to go ahead with Aura’s spay.  Aura is more active than Luna, so I thought it might be harder to manage her recovery.  Silly me!  She is younger and fitter than her mum, so was completely better within the week. Amazing.

Now I don’t have to worry about them being in season when I enter shows and I have less girls to clear up after.  No more worrying about dogs chasing us when we are out – at least with these two.  I am a total convert!

In conclusion

Leave it until they reach maturity, so that their bones have a chance to develop fully and normally.  Then do it!  Stop the production of unwanted dogs and make your life easier.  Then make sure you keep your dog fit and healthy, through exercise and training.

Ask for help?

You are very welcome to CONTACT ME to ask for my advice.  I can help you with a variety of issues and problems around getting a dog and suggestions for tackling training issues.  Go to the What Dog? page for more information on my service.

Please let me know if you have found this post helpful?

Remember..

Please CONTACT ME if you want to know more about me and my dogs?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think.  If you want to know more, why not FOLLOW ME?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.

NB: If you read my posts in an email, you may be missing out on the lovely pictures!  Please click through to my website to see the post in all its glory!

Obedience in your dog: is it worth it?

Obedience – why your dog will thank you for it

I’m such an old nag.  Always going on about practising this obedience with your dog, work on that with your dog.  Then they will be better behaved and your problems will be gone.  Really?  Or am I just saying that because I have ‘easy collies’?  Yeah, it’s probably that.

This week, I have had a few occasions to be grateful that my dogs are well behaved.  And a few times when I have found myself feeling sorry for a dog who has not been trained to behave nicely. This morning, for example, the girls and I encountered a lovely looking Labrador up in the woods.  He was on lead, and as my girls filed past at a safe distance, not making eye contact (miserable buggers I know!) he leapt across the path towards them in a joyous, exuberant way.  The woman holding him was hanging on for dear life (he was much stronger than her) and making placatory comments to him.

The lifestyle of your dog

I confess I felt really sad for that dog.  I considered the life of my 5 Border Collies:

  • An hour’s walk off lead every morning, in 5-6 different locations each week
  • Free access around the large house and garden for the rest of the day
  • At least one really mentally and physically challenging training session per week
  • Life in a pack of 5 dogs – with plenty of companionship, play and engagement with each other
  • Regular, daily training sessions with me, either on walk, at home or in class
  • Busy (and now Luna) also goes into school for 3 hours per week to work

What does your average single dog in a family home get, if he’s lucky?  A walk, on lead, along the same paths?  Cuddles and pats from family members?  Toys to play with?

It’s no wonder then, that this dog is absolutely beside himself to see 5 potential playmates go by.  You would be too, wouldn’t you?  But equally, if some large person came rushing into your face, you would not say “how lovely to meet you” would you? Training that dog would:

  • engage his brain
  • reinforce his relationship with his owner
  • allow him to actively engage with other dogs without being a pain in the arse!

Obedience and safety

Another reason for having dogs that understand obedience is when an emergency arises.  Of course if your dog is always on lead, they probably won’t run towards danger, but what if (like this morning’s Labrador) they are really strong and get away from you?  How would you cope if they were running off towards a road?  Do you remember Fenton?

Incidentally, I saw a muntjac out in the open up on the Heath this morning, searching for a drink.  So deer are a real issue.

Stop the dog

This is the training you need.  It’s not competition level obedience, just an ability to make your dog wait when you need it to.  Something like this:

Now I am not going to promise that if you teach a stop, you will be able to prevent your dog from ‘doing a Fenton’, but maybe you could stop them from chasing one deer?

Stay calm

I was happy to have some obedience in the puppy when she went into the lake earlier this week.  Due to the drought, the level of the water had dropped so much she struggled to get back out onto the bank.  As soon as I realised, I scrambled down the bank towards her.  It was my turn with the platitudes; it’s OK I’m coming to get you, wait there.  And do you know what?  She did!  Ounce waited calmly, until I got to her and hauled her out by the scruff of her neck.

A final video then, showing me messing around.  I saw someone being able to say their dog’s name and then give them an individual command.  I have tried this, but as you can see, when I say ‘down’ they all tend to go.  This is because I regularly put them all into a down at once.  So I decided to have a go at calling them out of line and then giving them a command.  Mixed results.  But a bit of fun in the sun. Play with your dog it might save their life?

Ask for help?

You are very welcome to CONTACT ME to ask for my advice.  I can help you with a variety of issues and problems around getting a dog and suggestions for tackling training issues.  Go to the What Dog? page for more information on my service.

Please let me know if you have found this post helpful?

Remember..

Please CONTACT ME if you want to know more about me and my dogs?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think.  If you want to know more, why not FOLLOW ME?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.

NB: If you read my posts in an email, you may be missing out on the lovely pictures!  Please click through to my website to see the post in all its glory!

 

Punishment: When should you tell off your dog?

Punishment – is it useful for your dog?

Here something different for you, a quick quiz.  I’m going to give you some scenarios and you can tell me which action you would take – when is punishment appropriate?   Be honest with yourself, it’s just for fun.

punishmentQuestion 1

Your year old puppy drinks lots of river water while on a walk, then pees in the house.  Do you:

  1. Rub her nose it, whilst shouting at her
  2. Go and smack her
  3. Sigh and clear it up
  4. Remind yourself not to let her drink too much when it’s hot?

Question 2

Your dog runs off out of sight whilst on a walk. Do you:

  1. Call him positively and excitedly, squeaking a toy.
  2. Wait for him to come back
  3. Chase after him, angrily shouting his name
  4. Remind yourself that you need to carry on working on his recall training, although he is much better than he was?

Question 3

Your young dog jumps up at your husband when he gets home from work and jumps up at visitors.  Do you:

  1. Give her a smack and shout at her for being naughty
  2. Push her off and say ‘Down!’ at her
  3. Ask your husband and visitors to turn away from her and ignore her
  4. Remind yourself that you need to ask people to help you continue her jumping up training and explain what you want?

punishmentQuestion 4

You leave your sandwich on a coffee table while you go to the toilet.  You are only gone for a minute, but your dog eats your food.  Do you:

  1. Wonder where your sandwich could be
  2. Yell at your dog for eating your food
  3. Smack your dog to teach it a lesson
  4. Remind yourself that if you leave food in front of a dog, it will only not eat it if it is ill?

Question 5

Your children love playing with your dog but struggle to leave him alone.  One of your children comes over and puts her face up to the dog’s (whilst he is on his bed) and your dog growls.  Do you:

  1. Praise the dog for being patient with your child
  2. Shout at your child for getting in the dog’s face
  3. Smack your dog for growling at your child
  4. Remind yourself to work with your child and your dog about good interaction and to make sure that you never leave them alone together?

Question 6

Your dog snaps at another dog that comes into her face when you are out on a walk.  The owner of the other dog calls out “it’s OK he’s friendly” but your dog growls and shows her teeth.  Do you:

  1. Shout at the owner of the other dog
  2. Give your dog a treat for not killing the other dog
  3. Smack your dog and shout at her for being aggressive
  4. Remind yourself to work on distracting distracting your dog away from approaching dogs and reward them for ignoring other dogs?

punishmentQuestion 7

You leave your dog out in the garden for an hour or so. When you come back there is a big hole in the middle of the lawn.  Do you:

  1. Beat the dog for being so naughty
  2. Punish the dog by shutting it away for a few hours
  3. Drag the dog to the hole and yell at it
  4. Remind yourself not to leave the dog unsupervised and bored where it can do damage?

Question 8

You come in to find your dog has chewed one of your trainers.  Do you:

  1. Ring the rescue centre because you are sick of the bloody dog
  2. Shout at the dog
  3. Show the dog the shoe and give him a smack
  4. Remind yourself to buy some more dog toys and to tidy your shoes away in future?

I am hoping that you have enjoyed my bit of fun?  Of course we can all get fed up with our annoying dogs and all their bad behaviours.  However, I hope you can see that it is important to manage our expectations and to understand that any dog is still a dog.  How well it behaves is entirely up to you and the way you manage it.  Some dogs are easier to train than others, but none of them need punishment.

Ask for help?

You are very welcome to CONTACT ME to ask for my advice.  I can help you with a variety of issues and problems around getting a dog and suggestions for tackling training issues.  Go to the What Dog? page for more information on my service.

Please let me know if you have found this post helpful?

Remember..

Please CONTACT ME if you want to know more about me and my dogs?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think.  If you want to know more, why not FOLLOW ME?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.

NB: If you read my posts in an email, you may be missing out on the lovely pictures!  Please click through to my website to see the post in all its glory!

Fighting Dogs – how to cope if your dog is attacked

Fighting in dogs: what should you do?

A friend was telling me that her poor dog was attacked while out walking.  Apparently another dog was running around with a man calling out to him.  This dog ran up to my friend’s dog and went for her.  Needless to say she retaliated and within seconds they were properly fighting.

fighting in dogsIt’s scary and difficult, knowing what to do in this situation.  How do you deal with it?  I’m lucky that it has happened rarely to me in all my years of dog ownership.  I think our first instinct is to try and grab your dog and pull it away.  Don’t do this!  It is quite likely that your dog will turn round and bite you, thinking it is being attacked from behind.  Or you will get bitten by the other dog.

My top tips for fighting dogs:

  • Shout!  A loud, fierce “Get off!” or similar might startle the dogs into stopping.
  • Pick up your dog.  If you have a small dog being attacked by a large one, removing your dog is a good idea, if at all possible.
  • Try to force yourself between the two dogs.  I would be reluctant to do this personally, but you might feel able to.  If your dog is on a lead, you can try physically pulling it off and dragging it behind you.
  • Kick it!  If a dog has run up to yours and started an attack, I think you are within your rights to use your foot to push the dogs apart.  It’s a lot safer than grabbing and should be more effective.  A push with your foot (a kick) is going to inflict less damage than the dog’s teeth.
  • Drop the lead.  If you are not able to intervene, leave them to it.
  • Wait.  Dogs usually attack each other out of fear, or misunderstanding.  It is usually over within a few seconds, even though it might feel like hours.

happy dog not fightingHow to prevent the fighting

  1. Let your dog off lead.  I know it’s scary, but a dog is much less likely to go for your dog if it is not attached to you.  Dogs can communicate with each other perfectly well and given the choice, will move apart or around each other.  When a dog is on lead it becomes guarding of you and unable to move away, which makes it defensive.
  2. Distract your dog.  I have just talked about the importance of being able to play with your dog and this is when to use that technique.  If your dog is not making eye contact with the approaching dog, there is less likely to be an engagement.
  3. Turn and walk away.  Even if you just do this for a few metres, you should find that the situation is diffused.  Again, rewarding your dog’s attention on you will help with this.
  4. Say ‘STOP!’ to the approaching dog.  This is more about distracting the other dog than anything, but might work on some dogs.

Reactivity in dogs

Once a dog has been attacked while out, they may become fearful and ‘reactive’.  This means that they will bark, lunge and snap any time another dog approaches them.  This is horrible to live with.  It makes you as an owner fearful of other dogs while out walking.  It is difficult to train out, because you don’t want other dogs to come near you and get attacked by your dog.

When you have a reactive dog, you keep it on the lead.  You walk at times you think will be quieter, along less busy routes.  Maybe you are constantly on guard, watching out for other dogs.  When other dogs coming bouncing over, with the owner calling out “it’s OK, he’s friendly”, you can become angry or tearful.

You may find it helpful to invest in a Nervous Bandana for your dog.

happy not fightingTeach good manners

Having a reactive dog is not very nice for anyone, is it?  Which is why it is so important to teach your dog good manners in the first place.  Teach your dog to come back to you when you first get it.  Have it on a Long line if you need to have some control.

Teach your dog that not all dogs are bad (in fact very few are, really).  The best way to do this is to meet up with friends for a group walk.  Walking alongside other dogs helps build confidence and you can observe your dog interacting with other dogs.

Reward your dog for ignoring other dogs, either with play, or with treats.

Ask for help?

You are very welcome to CONTACT ME to ask for my advice.  I can help you with a variety of issues and problems around getting a dog and suggestions for tackling training issues.  Go to the What Dog? page for more information on my service.

Please let me know if you have found this post helpful?

Remember..

Please CONTACT ME if you want to know more about me and my dogs?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think.  If you want to know more, why not FOLLOW ME?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.

NB: If you read my posts in an email, you may be missing out on the lovely pictures!  Please click through to my website to see the post in all its glory!

Play with your dog: Why you need to do this

Why does play with your dog really pay off?

Here’s a common problem:

Play“We’ve had an Irish Wolfhound puppy for 7 months now and he’s a great dog, but we are having trouble with him at the dog park, as many other dogs and people are scared of him because of his size!  Do you have any advice about what we should do?”

Teaching good manners

My advice would be: work really, really hard to teach him his manners!  He is not allowed to go up to any other dogs or people unless you say so.  Mega hard, I know!  He is just being friendly and wants to play, but it is not wanted.  It’s no good calling out to people “He’s really friendly, it’s fine!”  No, it’s not fine.  It is your responsibility to manage your dog.

DO NOT CHASE YOUR DOG SHOUTING IN A CROSS VOICE!

The trick is for YOU to be his exciting play mate.  Have squeaky toys and lots of treats. Whenever you see someone else, it’s playtime! Engage him with you, chasing, playing, tugging, being really fun. You must be better than anything else! Then he will look at you, not at what is going by.

playThen he won’t want to rush off and you won’t be calling/chasing after him.  If he starts to go – turn and leg it in the other direction, shrieking wildly!  Idiotic I know, but it works.  Eventually he won’t be bouncing up to others and once you’ve rewarded him for not doing that, he can politely say hello. It’s not easy!

Warning!

As puppies grow and mature, they become worse before they get better!  He’ll be going through a bit of a rebellious stage soon, so training will go backwards! But if you persist, you should get a dog who knows his manners and can be enjoyed by everyone.

Play – what does that mean?

Here’s a short demonstration of me playing with Ounce:

This is demonstrating ‘engagement’.  Ounce is totally focused on me and the game of tuggy.  The reason I am patting her sides and touching her is to reinforce this process further.  I am making sure that she is working hard on the game and is not easily put off.

Dogs do not automatically do play like this, necessarily.  Some dogs are really tenacious and will tug a toy really happily.  But many will be easily distracted.  The more you play with them though, the better their focus will be on you and the game.

Why bother to play?

When your dog knows that you are exciting and rewarding, you can then teach them to do something far more easily.   They want the end reward, so they will work harder to get it.  This means that if you grab their attention and ask for something, they will be much more keen to get it at the end.

Here’s another clip, showing Ounce ‘working’ for the reward:

How brilliant is that?  She is excited to be playing the game, because she gets the great reward at the end.

Play is the best distraction

If you want a better behaved dog, you need to have a great reward to hand – play!  Of course it’s never quite that simple. As I’ve said, a puppy can still get a bit above itself and ignore even your best efforts.  You don’t want to have to go into mega play mode every 5 minutes on walks, so a balance must be maintained between nice calm walking and super fun.  But if your dog feels stimulated and excited by you some of the time, they are much more likely to return to you if you need them to,

Ask for help?

You are very welcome to CONTACT ME to ask for my advice.  I can help you with a variety of issues and problems around getting a dog and suggestions for tackling training issues.  Go to the What Dog? page for more information on my service.

Please let me know if you have found this post helpful? More information about training a great recall can be found on the recall training post.

Remember..

Please CONTACT ME if you want to know more about me and my dogs?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think.  If you want to know more, why not FOLLOW ME?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.

NB: If you read my posts in an email, you may be missing out on the lovely pictures!  Please click through to my website to see the post in all its glory?

Separation Anxiety: How long should your dog be left?

What is separation anxiety?

Separation anxiety is defined as when your dog shows signs of stress at being left, usually in the house on their own.  The dog will often bark, or howl, sometimes for long periods.  This may result in complaints from neighbours.

separation anxiety
Can your dog stay calmly in another room?

Other symptoms can include repetitive behaviours, such as chewing their paws or over licking themselves.  Or they might become destructive; chewing furniture or even the fabric of the house itself.  Sometimes dogs become ‘naughty’ – soiling in the house, or pulling rubbish from the bin.

It may seem obvious that these behaviours are seeking attention, but that doesn’t make your life any easier!   Basically, your dog is not happy without you.

Starting young

In order to avoid separation anxiety, you first of all need to develop confidence in your dog.  They need to be certain of your love and your presence.  You need to spend time with them, playing and petting them.  If you have obtained a puppy from a KC Assured Breeder then it should be well socialised and used to normal family life.

When you get your puppy home, it might be tempting to spend all day, every day with it, or to take it with you everywhere.  However, it is vital that your puppy is used to being left, right from the start.  I always have a Crate for my puppies and they sleep in this, in the kitchen, from day one.  They know that this is their bed and their safe space.  The puppy should be rewarded every time they are put into their crate.  Never use it as a punishment – if something has gone wrong, it was probably your fault!

separation anxiety
The front door is Sunny’s preferred place

Create calm

When you are in the house, try to encourage an atmosphere of calm.  Easier said than done, I know!  If you have children, there will inevitably be comings and goings, visitors and the normal hustle and bustle of family life.  But try nonetheless to ensure that for some of the day at least, the dog is able to relax, while you are relaxed.

Reward the behaviour you want

When you see your dog lying calmly, reward it.  The best way to do this is with a calm, gentle stroke and quiet verbal praise.  You can say something like “Good settle, well done”.

The next stage is to have your dog calm and relaxed away from you, while you are in the house.  Your dog might like lying at your feet, but they should equally be able to lounge around elsewhere.  Some dogs actively seek other space – Sunny prefers to lie by the front door.  Again, if this is a challenge for your dog, try leaving them for a few minutes, then return and praise.  Gradually build up the time, until they are not fussing to come back to you.

separation anxiety
A favourite spot

Go out without them

It is hard for dogs to understand that you will be back.  You cannot explain to them that all is fine and you’ll be back soon.  However, if you make it seem like no big deal, there is more chance that they will remain calm when you are not around.  Try to avoid giving them a great big welcome when you come back – just walk in and get on with making a cup of tea.  Then when you are settled, give them some love.

As with all training and behaviour, you must practice if you want success.  So don’t spend all day every day with your dog and then expect them to manage without you.

Equally, going out to work for ten or twelve hours every day is a bit unfair on a dog.  I used to think that no-one should ever work full time and have dogs.  But I understand now that it is not that simple.  Dogs naturally sleep for most of the day.  So if they are given a walk or two, are able to go to the toilet every few hours (or have a run or yard to stay in), then they are probably fine.  Equally, if you have more than one dog, they will interact with each other.  NB: I am not suggesting you get two puppies together!

Provide stimulation

Dogs do need something to think about!  In the wild, they would be hunting for food, which they clearly do not need to do in our homes.  Having said that, you can now buy interactive feeding bowls that help the dog eat more slowly, or keep it entertained for longer.

You can also buy interactive toys for your dog.  Although to be honest, having a box of toys and a few bones to chew will provide plenty of stimulation.  Empty yoghurt pots or drinks bottles can provide hours of fun!

Dogs do like company, but there are lots of options.  I always leave the radio on when I’m out.  If we are out in the evening, I might stick the TV on – lots of dogs watch TV.   And dogs don’t have to have other dogs for company; many dogs enjoy being around other animals, such as cats.

Finally, you can of course hire a dog walking service, such as Paws2Pavement, who will come in and let your dog out, spend time with them or take them for a walk.

Ask for help?

You are very welcome to CONTACT ME to ask for my advice.  I can help you with a variety of issues and problems around getting a dog and suggestions for tackling training issues.  Go to the What Dog? page for more information on my new service.

Please let me know if you have found this post helpful?

Remember..

Please CONTACT ME if you want to know more about me and my dogs?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think.  If you want to know more, why not FOLLOW ME?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.

NB: If you read my posts in an email, you may be missing out on the lovely pictures!  Please click through to my website to see the post in all its glory?

What is an Agility Show?

Agility Show – what is it and why would you go?

If you follow me and read my posts then you will know that I am pretty passionate about dog agility.  I have done other things with my dogs, most notably flyball, with Aura.  I have competed in obedience and had a go at heelwork to music.  So what is the attraction of an Agility Show?

agility showFor me, it is about having fun with your dog, pure and simple.  It is about spending focused time with your dog, working together and doing something they enjoy.  This is particularly important if you have more than one dog, as you need to spend some time with them on their own.  You need to pay attention to them as an individual and learn about their personality and what they like.

Training vs competition

Classes at an Agility Club are a great way to have fun with your dog.  They are very sociable too; you get to hang out with other lovely dog people, chatting about your dogs.  You get to run about, keeping yourself and your dog fit.  And you have to think, following instructions and trying to remember the course and how to handle it.

agility showBut if you want to go to the next level, you need to enter a show.  Agility shows are run throughout the year, around the country.  However they are mainly concentrated over the ‘summer’ months, ie April to September.  During this time there will be several shows held over every weekend.

Different heights

I have already explained about the equipment and the different grades and rules in my beginners guide to agility, but I forgot to mention the height differences.  This is important, as it puts the dogs into (currently) three main categories: small, medium and large.  It is complicated by the introduction two years ago of an optional (for show organisers) Lower Height, which can be added to all three of the current heights.  Usually, at the moment, shows offer a Lower Height Option (LHO) in the classes for large dogs, as there have historically been many more large dogs than small and mediums.

agility showDogs are measured to confirm their height at official measuring sessions.  A metal hoop is placed over their shoulders and they must be under the hoop to get into the category.  Border Collies have nearly always measured as large dogs, hence the majority of competing dogs are large.

Over the last few years however, there have been several changes to this situation, in addition to the LHO being added.  These include:

  • more medium and small dogs being run, making these classes bigger
  • smaller collies being bred, measuring into medium and even small classes
  • an increasing number of other dog breeds coming into agility

agility showVery tall dogs might be able to ‘step over’ the jumps, but any jumping, climbing or running puts strain on their joints.  They will also have more difficulty getting through the tunnels and the weaves.  On the other hand, there are plenty of smaller dogs who struggle with even the ‘small’ jumps.

Small dogs are easy

You might think that a small dog would be easier to run in agility.  Dream on!  They are in no way easier, in my opinion.  For a start, as I have explained many times, Border Collies are simply motivated to do it.  Other breeds have different motivations; in the case of terriers, for example, they just want to run off after a scent.  Some dogs are just not that fussed about doing it.  When they are motivated, they are just as fast as a collie.

It might also seem that small dogs find it easier to negotiate the obstacles.  This is also not the case, as I saw yesterday.  I watched around 30 small dogs do a course and none of them went clear!  And then I saw an amazing character fail to touch the bottom of the dog walk!  Bless her, and well done to her handler.  I do not think I would have her patience :p

What happens at a show

Briefly, there are different classes for different grades and heights.  You enter the ones appropriate to you and your dog.  Usually a dog will run in a maximum of four classes per day.  You receive a ‘running order’ a few days before the show.  This tells you which order the classes are being held and in which ring they are happening.  You also find out when you are supposed to run your dog in each class.  This might be at the beginning, middle or end.

For example, you will find out that you are doing a grade 3 agility class in ring 4 and your running order is 64, out of 107 dogs.  The class is the second class in the ring, with the first class having 58 dogs.  This tells you that your class won’t start for at least an hour into the show, and that it will be at least an hour after it starts before you should run.

The complication is that in addition to knowing when you are supposed to run, you also have to know when the class is ‘ready for walking’.  You need to go round the course, without your dog, learning which way to go.  This is a crucial part of the competition.

In an ideal world, we would teach the dog to read numbers, so they could figure it out.  Sadly, they are not able to do that, so we have to tell them what to do.

Why I love an agility show

Agility is fun!  Did I mention that?  The dogs absolutely love it.  They get a real buzz from being around it, even when they are not competing.  It is really stimulating for them and they love to run with you.  They don’t know or care if they have won or lost, they just know that they are doing something really special with you.

agility show
Are you sure you want this jump?

The people are great.  Unlike some sports and activities, where people are all really competitive and can be bitchy, or ‘cliquey’, agility is a real community, where everyone supports everyone else.  If you want to see examples of good sportsmanship, go to an agility show.  We all know how hard it is to work with your dog, so we all celebrate the victories and commiserate with those who have struggled.

As a way to spend a day, or a weekend, it’s pretty cool.  You get to hang out with lovely dog people, and your dogs.  It is time being outside, moving about.  Oh and you get a rosette, if you’re really lucky 🙂

What I’m not so keen on

It’s tiring!  You spend most of the day walking and running about.  Agility is demanding, both mentally and physically.  There is also a lot of hanging about.  Each run takes around 30 seconds.  Four runs = 2 minutes.  And it can be quite expensive.  We don’t camp (in a caravan) at shows, but most people do and this all adds up.

Still, it is a lot better than sitting in the house all weekend watching the telly.  See you there!

Ask for help?

You are very welcome to CONTACT ME to ask for my advice.  I can help you with a variety of issues and problems around getting a dog and suggestions for tackling training issues.  Go to the What Dog? page for more information on my new service.

Please let me know if you have found this post helpful?

Remember..

Please CONTACT ME if you want to know more about me and my dogs?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think.  If you want to know more, why not FOLLOW ME?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.