Companion Dog Training
For me this is the most important training we can give to our dogs. For my training I have four goals;
Loose leash walking/heelwork
Socialisation – means respectful play, when appropriate, with other dogs and people. It is easy for dogs to forget/ignore the rules and signals which allow them to get on with other dogs. When dogs meet they want to know are they speaking the same language and are they obeying the universal rule of no aggression.
We don’t know how to interpret all their body language, they are much better at reading us!
However, there are a lot of behaviours and calming signals that we do know to help us interpret what is going on, and how to encourage the desired behaviour.
Reliable recall – a fuller article is here http://www.regansdogtraining.co.uk/articles/recalls/
We need to ensure that the ‘come’ (and heel) word of command doesn’t become an aversive. Inevitably you will be calling the dog from something they are interested in, and the familiar i.e. you, will not be as exciting. There also needs to be an element of compulsion, we don’t want the dog to believe that it has a choice. This does not mean that we use force, it means that we practise a lot on the lead (2metre loopless) so that the recall becomes automatic. Of course the challenge is to keep it interesting especially when we first go off lead.
Loose leash walking/heelwork – Here I would use different methods for puppies and older dogs. With puppies I start off luring and creating a pleasant association with the words of command such as ‘heel’ & ‘come’. A fuller article is here
With older dogs it tends to be a case of re-learning or creating better associations. I start off walking in a circle, dogs like to get ahead and explore, I worry if a dog doesn’t want to explore! If you continue to walk in a circle the dog soon learns that there is no point in pulling, as your not going anywhere. I don’t tell the dog to ‘heel’, but when he does, I say; “Heel, good heel” and give a treat on the ‘good’ (or any other word that I want to use as a reward marker).
This way the command ‘heel’ becomes a reward in itself, not an aversive.
Scent training – this is a great activity to share with your dog and develop his abilities and the bond between you. Engaging in hunting games with your dog is a great way to build a relationship. A fuller article on scent training is here
I also use scent training as a useful tool to teach dogs to ignore distractions, all breeds of dogs love to work, from Chihuahuas to Labradors and Great Danes. It is simplicity itself ,when on a walk, to discreetly discard an old purse, then 50 yards further on turn around with the dog and send it to search for the purse. On finding the dog should sit or lie down next to it until you arrive and reward it.
All this training also covers the dog’s needs in terms of emotions, as Temple Grandin lists;
Social contact, so that their panic system doesn’t get activated.
Develop their frustration tolerance, and remember that behaviour training is all about impulse control and emotional restraint.
Games and play with owners to activate seeking system.
Interesting things to do – especially long walks- that also arouse the seeking system.