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We are running all classes, one to one and behaviour consultations online! Sessions are all held with Karen Wild, CCAB, Certificated Clinical Animal Behaviourist and Animal Behaviour and Training Council registered Animal Training Instructor.
We can take puppies from all over the UK so don’t hesitate to get in touch and give your lockdown puppy the best chance at quality puppy training!
Karen has over 20 years experience and is able to help you through the early weeks and months of puppy training and puppy behaviour.
Don’t delay! Class space is limited and we are taking bookings now.
What a strange thing to suggest! Playing with your dog is something we all do, isn’t it?
You’d be amazed how many pet dogs sit alone for long periods of the day, then get fed, and sit on a cosy sofa or lap for the evening, and that’s their daily lives. They may get a walk, they may not. ‘They are too old’, people say. ‘They never pick up their toys’.
In fact, a lot of play is social. This means that whilst some dogs when younger might fling their toys about and chew most things around them, this wears off after a while.
The novelty value of items fades, the longer the dog has access to them. Toys get put into the toy basket and lose their interest.
Playing is such a great activity because it’s really useful for teaching lessons. Our dogs learn to be gentle, to calm down after the excitement of the game. Play is mentally stimulating, leaving the dog tired as a result. Not the sort of tired we get from flopping onto the settee after a day at work. The exhilarating tiredness that we might get after playing on a bouncy castle, or winning the latest round of Call of Duty.
Here’s a few tips on how to wake up the play instinct and get a happier dog.
Firstly, pick a toy they enjoy. Hard rubber toys aren’t usually fun but softer ones can be wriggled about and made to ‘come alive’. Of course, if you know your dog is likely to grab and not let go, or shred it and swallow the contents without giving the toy back, then choose a stronger one. Pick a time when your dog is looking for mischief, or is excited about something else such as you coming home.
Keep the toy low to the ground and wiggle it about, moving it away from your dog. Imagine how a running rabbit might dart away, and get the toy to mimic that movement. If you decide to use a squeaky toy, only use the squeak part once or twice. Apart from the sound being annoying to us humans, it tends to switch the dog off rather than on.
To get the toy back if your dog has decided they really want it, have some treats ready. Tiny bits of sausage or chicken (or other meat, as long as your dog isn’t allergic to it). Swap the toy for some of these goodies, and you can continue the game.
Long before your dog gets fed up, swap the toy for a treat and put it away out of reach. This will keep it exciting and new for next playtime!
We all pat the dog! Please don’t!
Working with owners every day brings lots of stories about their problems with their dogs, but also their experiences in the community, too.
One big worry for dog owners is that children are not asking first if they can stroke their dog. I have even been in situations where parents encourage their kids to come over and pet the dogs in my care. They then become upset when I ask them not to. This is not because I am a mean old lady (and less of the ‘old’, please!). Instead I simply don’t want my dogs to be scared by a child that has been a little clumsy. In the past a child has swooped onto my dog and tried to pick him up. My dog is a good sort and very used to children, but seeing his little shocked face was horrible and told me that he was not enjoying it one bit. If the parents can’t control their children, then I have to. Even if we are nice, we dog owners are still seen to be ‘rude’ when we say, ‘No, please do not touch my dog’!
As a parent myself I know that we want our kids to be friendly and kind. Whilst we want this for our dogs too, there are risks. A child that a dog does not know, going over to ‘pat’ it on the head is NOT friendly, even though the child thinks it is. Few dogs enjoy the attention. I witness dogs simply putting up with it. I also meet owners that are too embarrassed to say no. Imagine if a stranger came up and suddenly put their hands on you?
Our poor dogs don’t talk using words, but their body language speaks for itself. Dogs draw back from unwanted contact – their ears pull back, their heads lower, they try to move away. Remember that being patted on top of the head means reaching out (scary( and touching the dog right over their eyes. Rarely a welcome place to have a stranger place their hand.
The more we take note that children often get bitten when they are being friendly, by a known dog, the sooner we can act positively towards prevention. Let’s be proactive in our community, by learning how we can all work together to teach our kids and dogs the better way to behave.
Love is important, for other humans and for our pets. Did you know that petting your best friend (in this case a dog, but I suppose the choice is yours as long as you’ve asked first) increases the ‘love hormone’ oxytocin? Even more incredible is that it releases that same hormone in your dog.
It is fair to say that your dog ‘loves’ you, but why? Does he read your mind? Can he completely understand the blurb that we humans utter all day? Unlikely, but if he did I’m sure he’d listen to Positivity radio. I’ve yet to meet a dog that was unhappy when allowed to do the things that come naturally to them. They are very positive creatures. Even Simon Cowell says his dogs cheer him up. That’s some skill, right there.
The truth is, dogs have co-evolved alongside us humans for many thousands of years. They might not always listen, but they do watch us. All the time.
Dogs like ‘practical’ love – the things you do, not say. Rather like your beloved partner buying you a gift, flowers, taking your hand when you walk together. Making you laugh or fetching a cup of tea. Practical care, the kind that you can see, is what your dog notices most. (By the way, if you do all those things for your dog, can I apply to be your next one?)
So, if dogs can’t read our thoughts but they learn by seeing what we do, how can that help us haphazard owners?
This is what positive training is all about. It’s a means to physically show your dog that he or she made a choice you like. It’s as simple as ‘sit – gets a treat’. Or as complicated as teaching the dog to search for a lost person. Dogs learn by being shown what to do, followed fairly swiftly by being paid well in something they value. They don’t value expensive watches or fast cars. They like eating cat poop, or rolling on dead fish, or hunting for rabbits. We might need to provide alternatives to these (!), but basic dog happiness is formed by food, strong scent, exercise, safety, play with toys, and social contact.
Next time your dog does something you want them to repeat, show them the love. Mostly, a food treat is cheap and easy to give (cupboard love, my mum used to call it – but don’t over feed your dog).
Play gently with the dog and the dog will play gently with you. Act rough, and guess what – you’ll be training up an expert wrecking ball on legs.
Let him pull you on lead, and before you know it you’ll have draft horse or sled dog equivalent. Ouch. Instead, a bit of simple training and a well-designed harness saves the day and buys beautiful walks.
If, as most owners do, you have plans for your dog to sit nicely at the door, not pull on their lead, not bark… The answer is in the practical love. Decide what you want to physically see your dog doing, and reward it. Make that plan. Training is something you do daily when you want to reach your goal. And most of all it has to be fun, for everyone.
It’s as simple as A-B-C
A – Anticipate the situation
B – Behave! – what do you want to see your dog do?
C – Consequence – make it a nice outcome for your dog and he will repeat B over and over when A happens.
A – Visitor coming to door
B – I want dog to sit so he can’t jump up
C – When he sits, he gets a food treat and he gets petted by the visitor
Result? In future, with practice, he will sit for visitors. He might need guidance and to be put on his lead whilst he is learning but that’s ok. Many folks learn to drive in a dual-controlled car.
Which gives me an idea for my next dog training project. Dog Formula One, anyone?
Karen Wild, CCAB is author of 3 books on dog behaviour and training published by Hamlyn. She is a Certificated Clinical Animal Behaviourist and Dog Trainer based in Peterborough, UK www.karenwild.co.uk