Testing out your dogs skills and your training
abilities in the competition obedience ring is a great way to see how
you’ve done, but even if you don’t want to compete (many people don’t)
you can still occasionally “test” yourself and your dog to see how
Dr. Ian Dunbar, the veterinary behaviorist who
popularized both puppy classes and positive reinforcement-based
training, uses the “test, train, test” method to ensure that your dog is
in fact making progress with its training.
Very recently I saw an article intended for parents/guardians of young kids; the article described the benefit of reframing kids who were “misbehaving” as kids who “were struggling to cope in a particular situation.” If you saw the kids as misbehaving you were more likely to get frustrated, angry and punishing. But if you saw the kids as struggling to cope, you’d be more likely to remain calm, patient and helpful.
Like many things, there’s a parallel here with dogs. Maybe especially with dogs.
One of the most difficult situations I see people getting into with their dog is when the dog is refusing to do something (usually failing to come when called, or refusing to get into a car or crate) and the owner or handler can not get the dog to do it and is trying to "trick” the dog into doing it.
This team problem does not develop overnight. Instead it develops over many days, weeks or even months, taking so long to become an official “problem” that most owners can’t even define when it actually started.
K-9 Prodigy Cyber Rally Club was started earlier
this summer to provide both current and former clients a fun, free
extra-curricular training activity. It’s also intended to bridge the gap
between private training, where the distraction level is specifically
tailored to each dogs needs, and group training, which features its own
distractions (mainly via lots of other dogs and handlers.) Now you can
Cyber Rally is a dog obedience sport that’s
video-based; generally you download courses from the official website,
video you and your dog working through them, and then submit the videos
for qualifications, titles and ribbons!
When you bring your new puppy home,
right off the bat you get started in housebreaking! Housebreaking a
puppy seems so mysterious to so many, but it’s really not. It’s really
just establishing a habit of going to the bathroom outside, and not
going to the bathroom inside. I’ve housebroken many puppies and they’ve
all been very reliable and you can do it too! Here are some hints:
give your puppy free reign of the house right away. Free reign of the
house is for dogs who are housebroken.
Living with a leash-reactive dog isn’t the
easiest thing in the world. Most leash-reactive dogs are at least
moderately fearful of various things in the world – usually people or
other dogs – and when they see one of these feared beings while out and
about, they respond by putting on an aggressive display, usually
barking, snarling and lunging to the end of the leash.
It can be embarrassing and scary and potentially
dangerous, depending on how strong your dog is. A simple walk can turn
into a major chore.
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.