Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Tips to Help You and Your Dog at Your First Obedience Trial

We call them “Backyard Champions”. When our dog or puppy has learned his lessons so fantastically well that we are ready to take him into the show ring and prove to everyone how smart he is. No one warned us what is likely to happen instead.

We have spent 3 months, more or less, working our puppy on- and off-lead every day for at least 15 minutes. We have worked him at home, in the park, alone and with other dogs nearby, near children playing, every single distracting situation we can come up with. We are sure he is ready. One way we know is every time he sits at our side at the end of a command, a big long yawn comes whining out of his mouth. This long yawn does NOT mean he is bored or sleepy, it means he is sure what is going to happen next.

Dogs love to show us how well they know what is going to happen, this is the basis for obedience training. So we pack him up and take him to a practice obedience trial. It is more informal and less expensive than the real thing, and it gets us and our dog used to the tension and excitement. But little did we know that our backyard champion would stare at us like we just met, and we are giving his well-known commands in a foreign language!

We are horrified, we whisper his name to get his attention. Though he seems sane and healthy, he has turned into wood and plastic, an alien creature that will not obey a single word! Take heart. This happens to every single dog in training. Part of the problem, depending on what stage you are in in his training, is he is transferring his lessons from short-term to long-term memory. Until this is accomplished the stress of being in a strange place with many new dogs and people will short-circuit what you thought was a sure thing.

Another part of the problem is you, fair trainer. Every tense muscle, every frayed nerve, has its own scent to your dog, who spends his entire existence learning your every move, body language and smell. Try to stay as calm as you possibly can. Remember, every other dog and trainer at the show is in the same condition and the calmest ones always win the ribbons.

Remember it is all just practice and is a fun game you are sharing with your best friend, not the life and death situation it feels like when it is your turn to be judged. Make sure you do everything you can to plant the image of FUN in your dog’s mind. Reassure him of what a good dog he is, praise him and love him up, even bring treats. Let him know how special he is. You do not want anything to happen that will make him dread his next show. You need a few practice shows before he is ready for the real thing. Of course that will be another new and tense situation, but by then, he will be used to the newness and the tension and will honestly look forward to the fun.

Take him home after his first fiasco (it will be, trust me) and just go back to doing all the lessons you THOUGHT he knew so well. He will be the Amazing Backyard Champion now, so much so you will laugh at him. Enjoy your best buddy and know that the next time will be better for both of you. Do not give up, his first ribbon will be the memory of a lifetime.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Switch your Dog from On-Lead to Off-Lead Commands

Watching a dog perform his obedience routine with no lead attached to his collar is a thing of beauty! It appears to be magic, the way he anticipates his owner's moves and wants to just BE there, exactly on the money. Here is how to achieve that doggy ballet of movements.

One secret to good obedience training is never to give your dog the chance to disobey. Make sure he understands the command and what you want him to do, and move toward it with baby steps so he always ALWAYS succeeds. Your happy praise at every turn is what he lives for.

When he is at that comfortable stage on lead where he yawns at every new command, this means he is sure of it and relaxed, then it's time to move on to removing his lead. This will cause a little anxiety at first because his lead is his life line and guide to pleasing you. So make sure everything you are about to show him off-lead is something he knows VERY well with the lead attached.

On-lead heeling, turning and stopping is very smooth and controlled. Before starting off, instead of hooking the lead into the ring, slip the entire lead through his collar, not in the ring, and wrap the end around your hand so you can eat it up as you walk, until the lead slides completely out of the dog's collar. He will barely notice this, just keep walking with no change in gait or tone of your voice, act like nothing new is happening. When you come to a stop and your dog sits predictably at your side like always, pause a moment then PRAISE PRAISE PRAISE! Your dog will look at you funny, as if to say, "What's the big deal? We do this all the time". It's quite funny. That's when you know it has worked the way it should and your dog has made the transition effortlessly.

As you work, keep the dog close at hand, you do not want him to get the idea he can run off. If he makes the slightest off move, take his collar by the live ring and tug. Remember those little tugs that he dislikes so much he learned quickly how to stay in the exact right spot? Remind him that off-lead has the same controls, so you must be vigilant. If he backslides, go back to on-lead. He will learn quickly that he prefers the independence of off-lead work and to get it he must obey your every command.

As to the long line "Come" command, go back to the short line and leave it on the ground so you can grab it if he does not come to you in a timely fashion. Give him no room to think about disobeying. Gradually extend the distance until he is coming to you at a run totally off-lead. He loves this! With patience and vigilance, your dog will be just as dependable off-lead as he became on-lead. And you both will enjoy it more!

Monday, April 9, 2007

A Fast and Easy Way to Teach your Puppy what NOT to Chew

We all know that you never need to strike your dog or puppy to teach him, not ever in his life. We know that, just like kids, getting his attention with a happy tone and big smile will be all it takes. A little reward, whether a tiny treat or just loving him up with squeally praises, presses home the lesson and makes him happy to return to work sessions again later. Naturally, the younger the puppy is when he starts this session the better. Hopefully he is 6 weeks old or so, before he has had access to something he should not have, and blissfully ruined it.
But so many things entice a puppy to chew, since it is a natural behavior for him anyway, how do you teach him what NOT to chew before something valuable has been ruined and his feelings have been hurt with scolding? The method I use is so easy and fast you won't believe you didnt think of it!
Instead of teaching him one thing at a time, which works best with behavior training in general so as not to confuse him with too much information at a time, do it all at once! Place everything you can think of on the floor within his reach. Shoes, socks, clean and dirty (two different things to a pup), 5 or 6 different "legal" puppy chewies, pencils and pens, newspapers and magazines, articles of clothing, wires, keys, anything you can think of that could some day wind up on the floor. Leave lots of space around each item so that he will have them separate in his mind.
First, take him out to go potty, we want no distractions here. Place him on the floor in the middle of all this wonderful stuff, and get on your knees or haunches to stay very close to him as he explores each item. Be a part of this "play" time with him. As he approaches each item, give him one second to sniff it so that you know he has smelled it and placed it in his brain. If it is a good item like a puppy chewie, make a happy face and say "Good chew! GOOD puppy!" [use his name] If it is a sock or other "illegal" item, make a scowl and slam your palm on the floor beside the item and say "NO chew! NO chew!" and swap the bad item with a legal chewie as you say it, wiggling it to make it more enticing to him to play with and chew, and as he goes for it say, with a big smile, "GOOD chew! GOOD [puppy]!" After ten minutes, he will be only going for legal chewies and having the time of his life. If you do this one more day with some different items, this will reinforce that only certain items are legal and some new items may turn up that are not legal because they are not the legal items. See? It works like a charm and they never forget it.
Your happy face is what a puppy wants to see more than anything. Learning the difference between what is legal and what is illegal to chew is the fastest and easiest thing your puppy will ever learn when you use this method, and it will save you and him much heartache and disappointment in the life of his training.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Puppy in Training

See this 6-week old standard poodle puppy? He is in his first day of crate training. See how he is alert and a little tense but he is not in distress. He is in his "session" mode. He knows he is working and will be supported and encouraged throughout the entire process. With gentleness and consistent commands, this can be learned in one day.

Remember that puppies do not know our language, they must be taught, so use the same words over and over.

Crate Training for your Puppy by Dy Witt

Teaching your puppy crate training is the first and best step in his life. It makes all the other steps in his training go so much smoother, much like a solid foundation makes for a superior wall.
Establishing you as the Alpha member of his “pack” is one very good reason for starting your puppy in a crate when he is very young.Another reason for crate training is that dogs love predictability. To know what is going to happen in any given situation makes him happy, and more apt to be the best-behaved dog he can possibly be.
A strong crate is the very basis of good puppy training. A wire crate with a lock is the best kind. Make sure it is large enough for him to stand up and turn around. But not so large that he can roam and wander around. A too-large crate will inhibit house breaking. A crate that is just the right size will be perceived as his “nest”, where puppies never “go potty”. They will learn to hold it if you don’t make a prison out of it. Never leave a puppy under 8 weeks longer than one hour in his crate. He will soil it, after struggling and suffering as long as he can.
Put a nice pad in there with a bone. Start with placing a tasty treat in there, he will go in and get it. Do this several times without closing the door, let him come in and out freely for an hour or so. Praise him highly each time he goes in, make it all very pleasant.Then when his attention is on his treat, close the door. Praise him quietly, “What a good boy, it’s ok, such a good boy!” In 10 or 20 seconds, no longer, let him out without a word, no praise, just a pat. Do this for increasingly longer intervals, but do not give him a chance to get upset. You can do this several times the first day.
Make sure every training session ends on a happy note, this is crucial. Once he sees the crate is his own private territory, he will go in there on his own, expecting treats and your attention. When he does, say, “Wanna crate?” with a happy face while getting his treats. Start leaving the room while he is in there for 2 minutes and onward, gradually. When you return, don’t make a fuss, just walk over and open the crate. In 3 days he will be officially crate-trained, ready to be left alone for an hour, no longer at first. Leave him gradually longer, slowly and carefully.
Q. Why do I want a crate for my puppy?
A. Because they love it is the best reason. They feel very safe and secure in there. Here are some more: When you leave a puppy alone, he always has some measure of separation anxiety. This leads him to any behavior that brings him comfort, which is chewing, digging, or when it is severe, voiding his bowels. When placed in a crate, he feels safe because nothing can get to him, nothing can harm him. He will sleep and chew and wait for you to return.
When leaving him overnight at the vet, if your dog is not crate trained he will cry the entire time, feeling lost and abandoned. With crate training, he is sure you will return, you always do. Of course the vet’s office is strange and will cause him some anxiety, but nothing like the pure terror he will feel without experience in being locked in.
NOTE: About crate-training, do not make a prison of his crate. Do not use it as punishment. Do not leave him there for more than 2 hours, just time for a long puppy nap and some chew time. After that he will cry. Do not remove him while he is crying. This will train him into thinking he has to cry to get out. No matter what, make sure he is being good when you open the door. He will learn he has to be quiet to get out.
Do not make a fuss when you are letting him out, just quietly open the door and take him out to potty. When he potties, praise him to high heaven! Dogs naturally do not go where they nest, but sometimes it happens. Do not scold, just clean it out with a bland face. He will learn the lesson. If possible, try to clean it while he is outside so he returns to a clean crate. In 25 years of training dogs, I have never seen any one thing more critical for a dog's well-being than good crate training.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

How to Train a Happy Dog in 15 Minutes a Day!

Hi, naturally I want you to buy my ebook, but the main thing is to get your dog trained, to make him happy. Dogs are very much like kids, they WANT to do what you want them to do. They don't know the language, so teach it to them with love and patience and they will stand on their heads to do your bidding.
Feel free to go to my web site and read the free articles to help you, and write me with your questions and I will try to answer. The only reason I have a book to sell is because for over 25 years I have used this training method and they LOVE it! They dragged us to class, they jumped up and down with joy when we said, "Wanna work?", so I want to share this. And I also guarantee it will work. Go to DogTraining15MinsADay