Heeling Exercises for the Weather Challenged…

Ah NJ winters…a mix of slush, rain and general damp nastiness is in the forecast for today and tomorrow. And the dog is bouncing off the walls.  Maybe you are too.  Put some fun in your step and burn some calories doing indoor exercises that will tire your dog mentally and physically and help you to get things under control with your outdoor heeling.

Step one…after you have warmed up your dog with some simple sit-down-sit combinations and some attention work set up two cones or even dining room chairs and start with a nice figure eight around the dining room chairs.  Throw in a sit occasionally to keep your dog guessing, or circle one cone twice just because you feel like it.  Remember to communicate with your dog using your command, praising the good position with a YES and varying your pace.  You will remember one side will be easier than the other. Have a long hallway?  How about some linear heeling forward and maybe even backwards? Or you can back up facing your dog and praise for a loose leash then turn into your dog so that she is on your left.  You turn right and she is on the left.  Simple with practice.  Put on a Samba, and Irish Jig or whatever and prance around the house.  Add some WAITS and STAYS at different times and connecting it all some hand targeting.  Now you are ready to put on a show.  Have some hula hoops?  Lure and encourage your dog to walk through.  Or put your feet or a broom across a chair and do some indoor jumping, starting low and gradually raising.  For more tips and games please read my preceding post on Bored Dogs.  Have a great day training and remember this will all pay off when those nice Spring days return and you want to go for some walking and dining with your dog!

Does your dog have the winter blues?

February is one of the busiest times for dog trainers because this is when dogs having been cooped up from cold winter days are bouncing off the walls, jumping on countertops and chewing on hands among other things.  “But I walk him,” many owners will say.  But sometimes our estimation of the amount of exercise or frequency can get a little like my Weight Watcher’s log ins…a bit fudged.  Or the walk may consist of multi-tasking and not much interaction.  And with sometimes long days spent in the crate things can get a little ho-hum and the urge to be naughty to gain attention becomes so tempting. What is an owner to do?  Mental exercise can actually tire a dog more than physical exercise and can help to get destructive behavior under control by re-channeling and creating a canine Einstein.  There are many fun mental activities and games that the whole family can participate in.  Dog pulling on the leash?  How about setting up soccer cones inside or out and doing weaves, figure eights and circles.  You can add rugs for pause spots and place a broomstick across two chairs and voila’ instant indoor agility course! Want to train your dog to use his head and his nose.  Hide his treats and put him in a WAIT and then release with OKAy asking him to GO FIND. After assisting him the first one or two he will catch on very quickly. Or if you love music and dancing pick a favorite tune and choreograph a routine including spins and steeping forward and backward keeping your dog guessing as you sashay across the floor. Your dog will thank you with better behavior and you will feel better too!

Here’s how to get the most out of group training classes…

ImageAre you ready to accelerate your dog training education?  These tips will help you get your dog to not only listen and learn in class but in everyday life as well.

1. Have your dog come to class HUNGRY and bring something of high value as a treat when training.  Those hard biscuits and dried kibble just may not cut it with all the distractions so make it special based on your dog’s dietary restrictions.  Some of my favorites include cheese, cooked hot dogs, chicken, freeze dried meat from Omaha Steaks for Dogs, cooked liver, etc.  WIll your dog get fat?  Not if you reduce this amount from his daily intake.  Will he become treat dependent?  We use intermittent reinforcement with treats gradually raising the bar for performance, and substitute praise and petting kind of like a roulette of payoffs.

2. In the home between classes training is part of everyday life.  Training sessions are ANY time you are with your dog.  They do not have to be long. In fact five minutes here and there can be very effective.  I often train between television commercials and when cooking in the kitchen.   And remember always for your dog they must EARN EVERY REWARD.  It’s like saying “please” and it will help get your dog to understand you are his fearless leader.  Does your dog sleep in bed with you?  Alas, your task will be more difficult since he equates himself as your equal with this high honor.  To restore the pecking order have him get off and on.  If he won’t comply then opt for separate sleeping arrangements until the obedience is under control.  I use the crate and invite the girls up when I want to. It is not their decision. Going outside, leaving the car and entering a store always requires that my dogs go AFTER me. They must wait.  This also teaches self control.

3. Train in many places.  Here I am training at Porcelanosa in Ramsey, NJ.  I have also trained at the Apple store in Chestnut Ridge and other public places including the entrance to Home Depot.  Again high-reward treats and a hungry dog will help with this in addition to patience and consistency.  You will need to work up to this level but it is totally worth it! I am having a FREE walk 2/9 at 1 pm in Glen Rock by the Duck Pond.  Here is a chance to meet other owners and train with new distractions.  And we always have fun!

4. Get the entire family on board.  The more impressions that you have or experiences that are consistent with everyone the better your training will be.  I encourage families to post a list of their commands with their meanings on the refrigerator.  Keep it simple with four or five basic ones. This way when company comes you can figure out what words you will use to command Fido.  And if Fido ignores you and you keep saying the word he will learn that he doesn’t have to do it. They are smarter than we think.

5. Consider a private lesson. I am not trying to drum up business. Really.  I have many customers. But honestly I find that a one-hour lesson often helps owners get on track and sets a nice foundation for future training.

6. When in class get started with your dog right away. If you can multi-task as I give brief instructions you may continue to work with your dog.  You may ask questions but for the sake of fellow students they must be short as we progress through the lesson. The last five minutes of class are for all other questions on any topic.

HOMEWORK: Please watch this video and do these exercises: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7V3EwEoPF7Q  You can use the clicker or YES

NEXT CLASS:  Lots of Loose Leash Training

Here are some excellent training resources…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=csuMGROvvVU&feature=related  Teaching a Polite Greeting (note the use of YES it is like using a CLICKER)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kfiNFtembDA  We will be doing this in class

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VDFL14SYUk8  Teaching your dog to STAY (I like this series of free videos)

http://centerforshelterdogs.org/Home/DogBehavior/ProblemsandManagement/JumpyMouthy.aspx   Interesting video on the Jumpy/Mouthy Behavior

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zX3ChYTrpYs  Learning self control at the doorway