Training in the hot weather – no one likes to do
it! I’ve always wondered what people who live in constantly hot
locations – Arizona, Las Vegas etc – do about the hot weather when
there’s dogs to be trained. Does everyone just rent air conditioned
Luckily, Oregon is really only truly hot for a few weeks out of the year. Here’s some of the ways I’ve found to cope:
Train early! It really, really, really is worth
it to get up an extra five or ten minutes early and do a very short
training session, especially if you’re working on something that’s high
energy like recalls or jumping.
When many dog owners view highly-trained dogs, especially dogs competing in the obedience ring, they
see a picture of strict formality. The handler stands straight as an
arrow and verbal commands are often brisk and firm. There is no talking
to the dog during a training exercise and only limited praise
afterwards. The dogs are not performing for rewards; the handlers are
not carrying rewards. Everything is as tight and polished as a military
I think this gives people the idea that in order
to get their dogs to look like those highly-trained ones, they should
look and act just like the handlers in the ring.
Before determining that your dog is truly non-compliant, make sure of the following:
Is your dog in any pain or is it feeling unwell?
Often the first signs of illness will be non-compliant behavior. Years
ago I was called out to work with a dog who was causing some trouble in
the yard. He was digging in the flower beds and then refusing to move
out of them. This sounded bad, but when I went to see, the dog was obese
(like, morbidly obese.) The yard was out in full sun and the dog would
drag himself, panting, to the only shady cool spot (the flowerbed.
I always pick up great new methods and techniques whenever I attend a
training conference or seminar; sometimes I also pick up good concepts
or “themes” for training. At this most recent seminar I attended about
working with fearful, aggressive or reactive dogs, a discussion popped
up about how “small” a dog needed its world to be on any particular day
or any particular time, and it was great so I thought I’d share it with
Many fearful, anxious, reactive, aggressive or stressed dogs simply
can not cope with too much at one time.
Many dog owners search and search for the correct tone of voice, hand
signal, or word to get their dogs to do what they want. If there was
just a magic “tone” that would get the dog to come when called, for
example! People will try a friendly tone, a calm tone, a warning tone, a
growly tone. Maybe a new tone works once or twice, but then it stops
working, and the owner is back on the search for yet another tone. Or
hand signal. Or body language and posture. Or whatever.
Now, tone and body language and hand signals and cues definitely all
figure in to your dog’s obedience, but not in the “magic” way that many
Some people swear by electronic collars (also called “e collars,” “stim collars,” or “shock collars”), and
some would never even consider putting one on their dog. Recently
several countries in Europe have begun banning them; the Humane Society
of the United States and the American Veterinary Association have
officially recommended against them, and the number of both professional
trainers and pet dog owners who use them is greatly reduced.
So how do they work? And what makes some people such believers in them?
Once your dog has received basic training, great!
You have put a lot of time into training your dog. He’s functioning at a
high level. You’re having a great time taking him out and about and
doing all kinds of fun things together. Your friends and neighbors are
jealous. Everything looks great.
As the months go by, however, there’s a little
slip here and a little blip there. Your dogs once good leash-walking
skills are now “usually” good leash-walking, but sometimes he pulls
towards things he really wants.
Every so often there’s a dog who does not
really care to work for treats or toys or praise; it may enjoy those
things but not care enough for them to have a motivational impact. What
do you do about these dogs?
The long answer is that you slowly, over time,
build up the “value” of the treats, toys and praise – hand-feeding meals
is a time-honored way to develop more food drive, or making the dog
work for some or most of his kibble (“no free meals!”), and spending
time encouraging your dog to play with you (in some cases, especially
with rescue dogs, you have to literally teach them how to play), and
building your relationship with your dog until your praise really starts
to have meaning for him.
I’m experimenting with a new system for homework –
one of the things that gets tough for more advanced dogs is just
keeping track of everything you need to practice. It’s easy to practice
the things that are easy and fun, but harder to remember to practice
things that are more of a challenge. And what about the things your dog
learned two months ago, but you haven’t really made use of; is he going
to forget all of those?
I tried making some flashcards for my own dog
Halo, and so far so good.
Throughout all training, you must respect the
dog. Respect the dog, its history and experiences, its learning process.
More than a few times, I have seen people rescue a dog, often a stray
off the streets, have it for a month or two, and be bewildered by its
fear and aggression. Their reasoning is the dog has nothing to fear now,
since it’s got a loving home, and the aggression is just plain uncalled
Now obviously you’ve got to change this behavior
(I’m not saying that it’s acceptable!