Live Oak Animal Hospital in Vero Beach offers training tips!
Training Tip from Amy Robinson, CPDT, D.A.R.T.
School days for kids and dogs
Now that the kids are back in school, families can get back into a routine. Schedules are made and followed, and everybody stays busy.
What about the dog?
During the summer, dogs are accustomed to lots of activity. When school starts up in the fall, the dog has less to entertain him. Dogs need education, too, in the form of mental stimulation as well as physical exercise. Here are some tips for parents and kids:
- Be proactive with positive commands, instead of waiting for bad canine behavior to say “No”.
- Sprinkle in a few easy commands during walks, like “come” and “sit”, so you stay connected with your dog.
- Identify your dog’s bad habits, and rehearse better behavior.
- To get your kids interested in training, teach the dog an easy trick like “shake”. Kids will want to show this off again and again.
- Help motivate kids to pitch in on daily care tasks like feeding and walking by making a weekly job chart. All family members can volunteer for age-appropriate tasks so one person isn’t doing all the work, and mark the chart when the job is completed. At the end of the week, parents can offer rewards for a job well done, like movie passes or a favorite take-out meal.
At the dog park
The most important command at the dog park is the ‘Come’ command. Once you have practiced this in areas with few distractions, you can start working on it when other dogs are present.
When you first arrive at the dog park, stay away from the action and put his long leash on. Allow him to sniff around and start to move closer to the other dogs, and then ask him to Come back to you at least three times, making sure you are bending and putting a coaxing hand down at the dog’s eye level. Repeat this process, until he comes willingly. If he is especially distracted, you may need to tug the leash once and give him a tasty treat for compliance. Praise him lavishly for coming to you and proceed closer to the other dogs on your long leash. Once you do allow him to leave you and play, give him just two or three minutes of playtime, and then get closer to him. Once you are no more than 10 feet away, wait until he is paused for a moment, and call him to you. Use your inviting body language to encourage him, and when he comes, praise him and let him go play again right away. Do this a few times during play, always making sure you are close enough to have some influence over him.
New baby? New rules.
A new baby on the way means big changes for you, and for your dog. Take steps now, before the baby arrives, to help smooth the transition. Dogs are pack animals and require leadership. Brush up on commands ‘sit’, ‘down’, and ‘stay’, which have practical applications in the home. Hold a doll as you would hold a baby, and sit in a chair. Ask your dog to lie down at your feet, and praise him in a low-key way.
If you’ve spoiled your dog a bit, by letting him sleep on your bed and giving him table scraps from your plate, you may want to transition some of those into more desirable behaviors before the baby comes.
Discourage pushy behavior like jumping into your lap on the sofa or pushing his head under your hand so you’ll pet him. Teaching your dog to ‘back up’ helps discourage pushy behavior and gives you some space. Hold a treat over his head, toward the middle of his back. When he steps back to see it, reward him.
You can purchase a CD or MP3 file of baby sounds, and play this at home to desensitize your dog to the noise. While the baby sounds play, ask your dog to sit and give him a treat. This is a good tool to help cats acclimate, too.
Rehearse the good behavior you want to see from your dog before the baby’s arrival, so he can follow instructions when the baby comes home. Commands help your dog feel useful and included. Be calm and confident, and the dog will follow your example.
Does your dog become very anxious just before you leave for work or to go out in the evening? Signs include rapid panting, whining, circling or pacing, and following you obsessively. In severe cases, the dog may dig at the doorway that you left through, or dig in his crate. He may chew carpeting and furniture, but dogs that only chew may just be bored, under-excercised or need confinement. Consult with your veterinarian first for a diagnosis and to discuss the latest in medical treatments.
Often the dog reacts to “triggers” such as when you pick up your car keys and turn off lights in the house. Try the following exercises to help your dog feel more relaxed about your absences:
- Put your dog’s leash on him. Now slip the wrist loop over a door handle or tie it around a stout table leg. Now ask him to Stay and walk briefly into the next room. Come back into your dog’s view almost immediately, ignoring him. Do this again, staying out of your dog’s view for 15 seconds. Return to him and praise him only when he remains calm. Repeat this several times a day.
- Think about the things you do before you leave the house. Do you lock a back door? Pick up a purse or briefcase? Pick up car keys? Now go through these motions as if you were leaving, but instead of walking out the door, un-do the things you just did. Put the keys back, your purse; unlock the back door, etc. Go about your business as if nothing has occurred. Do this at least three times per day, especially in the morning before a long absence.
- If your dog is successful with exercise 2 (he is not reacting to the triggers), now take it a step further. Go through the motions of leaving as in exercise 2, but now walk out the door and lock it. Count to 5 only and re-enter. If your dog seems calm during this exercise, increase your time away to a minute or two. Do this at least three times per day.
The goal of these exercises is for your dog to stop reacting to the triggers of your getting ready to leave. When you return home, always keep your greeting very low-key. With patience and practice, your dog should begin to accept your absences.
More training tips from Amy Robinson at: www.droolschool.com
Contact Amy Robinson:
Phone: (772) 696-2032
Amy Robinson is a certified dog trainer, teaching classes and private lessons in
Vero Beach, Florida. She is a frequent guest on WPTV channel 5 and has been
featured in the Chicago Tribune, ABC News.com, the Palm Beach Post and Vero Beach magazine.