Monday, September 26, 2011

5 Tricks to Teach Any Dog

Not everyone wants a perfectly obedient companion but all dogs need certain essential skills to keep them and the people around them safe. Here's my suggestions for "must haves" in doggy skills:

#5 - Leave It

The all important skill of relinquishing objects or food (or anything else a dog might want to grab). This will help prevent bites, ruined possessions and keep your dog safe from consuming dangerous items left lying around. Luckily leave it as an easy skill to teach and most dogs are quite happy to trade! 

#4 - Stay

Essential for doorways, greeting visitors, a moment when you have to drop your leash, going up and down stairs. Really there's no limit to what stay can do for you. A good, full proofed stay is absolute must have for many dogs and owners. Stay takes some time and effort to teach but is well worth your while. 

#3 - Walking On Leash

A dog that walks well on leash is a dog that gets lots of walks and socialization. Walks are a crucial part of keeping both a dog and owner happy. Teaching your dog not to pull you down the street is something every dog walker can apperciate. 

#2 - Quick Down or Drop command

Having a cue word that immediately stops your dog while running or jumping can help de-escalte any situation where your dog is over excited. This one needs to be taught in small steps. 

#1 - Coming When Called

To me this is the number one skill ANY dog needs. It can be a lifesaver! 

Thursday, September 8, 2011

How Obedience Skills Are Used During Everyday Walks...

Last night I took the crew out for a run around 9pm. We chose a long stretch of grass that allows the dogs to really run and play. The grass is directly beside a road that sees moderate traffic although it was late at night. Our neighbourhood also includes rabbits, cats and the occassional coyote. 

Here's where obedience skills made our walk safe and fun. We saw a cat right after leaving the front door. A simple "watch" cue told my dogs that they should be focused on me instead. We used our loose leash walking skills to make it over to the grass and as a result I wasn't pulled or hauled around. 

Before taking the dogs off leash they were asked for a sit stay. This gives me to do a once over of the area before giving them freedom. It also gives me a chance to practice sit stay (with a real life reward of play for completing the task). 

Once off leash we needed to use "recall" aka "come" a few times when the Aussies went too far. Remember it's dark out so I wanted to make sure I could always see them. They also discovered various pieces of garbage that I didn't need to touch since they all know "leave it" means forever. 

Occassionally when I saw headlights coming it was time for everyone to offer a down stay. This keeps my dogs safely near me and away from traffic. If I had had a beginner dog with me it would have been the perfect chance to practice leash on (and then showing the dog that they can be unleashed again once the car is past which makes putting on the leash a non-issue).  My dogs are taught to hold stay until I release them verbally with an "all done".

The entire walk took about 30-40 minutes. They practiced almost all their basic obedience commands. We didn't use any additional reinforcers (aka food, toys, etc) because I had the best reward available (running free and playing with each other). Remember that obedience is a way of life and not just a class you take when your dog is young. Practice all the time and incorporate it into any activity you do with your dog. Make playing "obedience" the best game and you'll have a dog that can listen anywhere.