With this being “National Train Your Dog Month” (and with me being a passionate advocate of training), I thought I’d share a few training tips from fellow DVGRR colleagues. Dog training ideas are one of those things that – in my opinion – you can never get enough of. There’s always something new to learn, a different perspective to consider or try, an unexpected challenge to brainstorm solutions for. And when you’re feeling stuck or frustrated, often another dog friend knows just what to suggest. So let’s hear what some of my rescue friends (aka “tipsters”) have to say…
“Keep Away” vs. “Come Close”
Tipster: Dennis Stauffer, DVGRR Kennel Manager
Here at Golden Gateway, there are always a few dogs that don’t want to come back in when playtime is over. They may be timid or scared, a bit on the stubborn side, or just plain untrained. Usually, however, they would simply rather stay out and play instead of going back inside…quite understandable really.
But then the “keep away” game starts – after all, it’s far more fun to be chased around the exercise yard (and perhaps cursed at a bit!) rather than coming to the staff person trying to round them up. Why? Because as soon as they do come, the leash gets clipped on and the dog is led back to the kennel. So they quickly learn that coming to a person is a “bad” thing. They think: “Why should I come to you when all you are going to do is put me inside and the fun stops?”
Our staff counteracts this “keep away” game in a few ways:
1. First, we make sure the dog’s living conditions inside are as appealing and inviting as possible, with plenty of toys and comfy bedding. We want them to see their indoor space as a good place to go, not something negative.
2. Second, we make going inside itself a rewarding event. We don’t just lead them in and shut the kennel door; rather we spend a few minutes petting and talking to the dog, then they get a special food treat before the door is closed.
3. Third, and most importantly, we work on getting the dog used to coming to us while outside playing, used to being petted while sitting or standing in front of us, and used to having their collar touched with no problem. We do this by repeatedly rewarding them with praise or small treats whenever they approach – and then letting them go again!
Most of the dogs love playing ball, so we teach them that we won’t throw another ball for them if they stay away. Instead, we encourage them to come close enough for us to touch their collar, we make them sit, we pet and praise them, then we throw the next ball. This teaches the dog that coming to us is a GOOD thing. They get reinforced with pets, treats, and then the best part – they get to keep playing! We do this over and over so when it is time to stop and go inside, we can easily put a leash on the dog and walk them back.
Any dog owner can use this same principle to teach their own dogs that playing “keep away” does not get rewarded, while “come close” is a very good thing!
Here’s a video of Dennis working with one of the “keep away” artists currently in our program and demonstrating some of these techniques: Tennis Ball Loving Riley Learns a New Skill!
Tipster: Kathy Gardosh, DVGRR Board Member/Volunteer/Adopter
I saw a post on Facebook the other day with a link to a professional trainer’s website. She had written a blog about house breaking puppies and recommended using a leash while doing so. It made me think back to house training my past and current dogs and what a blessing it is to have your dogs leash trained when you are out and about with them.
I was owned by my first three Goldens before I had a fence, so it was important to me that they relieve themselves before we headed out for a walk or a ride in the car. Car rides usually meant a trip to obedience class, a vet or groomer appointment, or a community event we were covering for DVGRR.
I was always a bit of a nut about taking care of potty time before a walk as a) I didn’t want my dogs going on a neighbor’s lawn, partly out of respect, but more importantly as b) you never know who chemically treats their lawn and c) let’s face it, the point of the walk is to get exercise so we can’t be smelling each and every blade of grass as we go.
As in all training, the reward for the desired behavior has to be worth your dog’s time and trouble. If your dog is food motivated, you are home free. If he loves his walks, you can use the walk itself as his reward.
With my Bridget (04-149), potty training on cue was fairly easy – although the first few days post-adoption were not easy! She was too timid to walk through my sliding glass doors to the backyard, so I would take her out front, let her sniff around, and carefully watch her behavior. It took nearly 36 hours of doing this almost every hour on the hour when she first came home until she finally went pot for the first time. I praised her and gave her a special cookie treat right away!
Once Bridget got a little more comfortable, out the door we would go and I would again watch her behavior. As soon as she looked like she was squatting, I would praise her by saying “Good pot dog” (putting words to the behavior). I would then say “pot-pot” until she finally eliminated. After that, we would have a BIG celebration with many treats and go on to our walk or hop in the car for our outing. Soon all I had to do was start the car or say, “walkies” and off she would go to do her business in no time flat!
Now Sam (07-224) was a bit more challenging. He came to us three years after Bridget and of course, I needed to install a fence to be eligible to adopt him. With the fence in place, I just opened the door and off he and Bridget would go into the yard. I realized later when I would take him off home grounds that he did not know how to go “on leash” and this was a big problem as we are always on the go. Believe me, it is no fun spending your first night out in a motel when it’s raining or snowing and your dog won’t go pot!
So…I basically, had to start from the beginning as I had done with Bridget. Out every hour on the hour with leash on, big time rewards for correct behavior, and finally adding the words “good pot” when I saw him about to eliminate. Because I do not reinforce this as often as I should with Sam, he is not as quick to respond – but, at least he is now comfortable going on leash. I just wish I had started from day one in the backyard, on leash, so that I could have a) trained him to go in one spot in the yard (easier pick up) and b) made him more comfortable going on leash when we were out and about.
One other related tip: I use a Flexi lead for my dogs when going pot and keep their normal leash around my neck. They quickly get the idea that the Flexi is for pot and the other leash is for fun stuff. Ordinarily, I really hate Flexi leashes as most dog owners do not use them properly and they can be quite dangerous for both you and your dog. However, they do work well for potty purposes. Please only use them for training and only in an area with low stimulation for your dog. Don’t use them in areas where your dog could get excited by passersby or by a squirrel or rabbit. The dynamic force of those leashes can pull you down or cause you to lose control of your dog. I have seen some very serious injuries to both humans and canines when such leashes pop.
Bonus Tip: Kathy’s Recommended Training Treats Recipe
A gal I train with at the Suburban Dog Training Club in Wyndmoor, PA shared this relatively inexpensive and easy-to-make high value training treat. With all the recalls these days on commercial treats, I jumped on this one!
1 lb. of chicken livers
1 cup of tapioca flour (Whole Foods)
Puree chicken livers in food processor or blender. Mix in tapioca flour. Spread on foil lined cookie sheet with lip. Bake 1 hour at 250°. Turn off oven and let sit overnight. I cut these into strips and freeze. You can then take out the desired amount when ready to use and break off little pieces or use the long strip for luring. I have had many of the other dogs in class try to pick my pockets!
Healthy Indoor Fun
Tipster: Maurice Furlong, DVGRR Board Member/Volunteer/Adopter
My Tucker (09-152) may be getting older but he still has a couple of new tricks in him! Lately, I have been playing more indoor activity games with him. As incentive, I use cut-up vegetables as treats and when he sees the carrots or broccoli come out he gets into “game mode” right away.
The game is very simple — I get a few cups out and put a carrot or some other treat underneath them on the floor. Tucker has a ball upsetting the cups and getting the treat. Sometimes I show him the treat and let him look for the previously hidden ones, He loves the hunt so he gets excited and runs around until all are found and then he gets the last one that I keep in my hand.
This is not formal training but he is sure using his brain while learning how to play! He gets mental exercise, a bit of physical exercise, and a bunch of healthy treats! Just the ticket at his age on a chilly winter day.
More tips coming in Part II!