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Retraining heel work and searching from the beginning

My week in Romania is at an end and still frozen from minus 15 with loads of snow and Ice. Never the less it was very interesting. As Romania is not a usual translation computer programme, the Romanians have taken to speaking English. It was interesting to watch a film in English with Romanian subtitles but from the laughter cheers and yes applause, they understood very well.

I certainly think that decisions on how future dog ownership will become in the future EU is already being decided it is just the words and presentation to the populous for how we will react to such decisions is the only main priority. As I said before there are far more letters ending up on EU members of Parliament desks complaining of dangerous dogs than those in support of the benefits we receive in having a dog as a companion. Do you know if you relax and stroke your dog, you lower your heart rate? If we do not control our dogs, the EU will do it for us.

As far as the publicised problems of Romania roaming dogs, I think the media have overstated this. I have seen more humans begging on the streets of York than the number of dogs begging in Bucharest. There were no signs of packs of dogs showing major aggression to anyone. I think that Vier Pfoten and the Bridgett Bardot Foundation have failed to command support in their demands for humane methods of solving the roaming dog problem. Certainly talking to Romanians, they all want rid of the dogs and alarmed at the danger publicity portrayed to foreigners. I think that if I can use the simile of people liking to see the view of farm cattle in the fields but also wish to see meat on the table they are unwilling to view what actually happens in an abattoir to accomplish this transformation. I feel sure that the Shelters and the Mayor of Bucharest share the same aims but have taken to personal criticism rather than finding a middle road, they can all agree to.

I also face one further problem in that promoting an easier and more efficient way to train dogs that is three times faster that the choker enforcement method is a bit like telling the media that the world works a lot easier if they accepted that the world is round, not flat. I have come up against a number who wish to continue with the flat world society no matter how improved training could be. I am hoping to obtain a meeting with the Mayor Traian Basescu some time in the future and maybe bypass some of the narrow-minded belief. I have told you that I have no patience and want action now so I was soon called the Rogue which is a coincidence as my daughter wanted me to call may next dog by that name.

I have had a look at the dog books available for Christmas but nothing intrigued me enough to buy or offer advice other than I know Jan Fennel has two new books out about her way of behaviourism. They are well worth a read but do not be too bogged down with hierarchy and dominance as these do play a part in understanding dogs but are not the whole story. Keep an open mind.

One book on training I had a look at that was re-written again but I simply dived straight into the equipment page and there under a new name is the lethal thin linked choker now called the jewelled collar. The statement was this is only a choker if used the wrong way. Rubbish, it only becomes slack easier. When pulled tight it is a choker whichever way round it is used. Romania is not the only country steeped in dogma.

I have a question to how to retrain a dog from having trained by using the choke chains for heel work. This is just back to basics and to change to a nice big collar and a suitable strong lead for use simply as handle. You need to show to your dog that you will not tolerate your dog walking in front of you and that it should walk at your side. So how do we achieve this when your dog already walks ahead even with a choker. You must prepare yourselves with taking the decision that you always go first in every case. Any deviation of this is to stop dead in your tracks or to go back in the other direction. You must train for this and not simply use the time when you normally go for your daily walk as the only time to train. Start earlier for your walks and head for the door. If your dog goes first go back and sit down saying nothing. After ten minuets try again until you are out of the door first. When you then find the dog tries to go in front again so back to the front door. (Bored yet?) This does take a little time but do not give in. At no point, give titbits except for walking by your side. As you are waking in one direction that your dog wishes to go and starts to move ahead then walk in another direction.

Take your dog for non-walks that is walks to nowhere in particular and for no apparent benefit to you or your dog and please do not give any verbal commands to your dog like ‘heel’. The reason for this is remember your early lessons at driving school you had to physically think about what you were doing. Changing the gear moving the clutch etc and so much to do. Now you can travel from home to work and never remember the trip because you drive on auto pilot. Unless something out of the ordinary happens you will never remember the trip. It is the same with your dog. If you teach your dog to walk by your side as you do in the real world you will teach your dog to keep an eye on your legs and always know where you are without needing commands for moving left or right stop or move off. You will condition your dog to run on auto pilot and be aware of where you are but still be able to look at the doggy world.

Try this test after completing some training, walk towards a corner of a building or going through a door. Leave no room for your dog to walk on your left and it must have to move behind you or it will go smack into the wall. If you are succeeding your dog will move behind you. If your dog is still trying to be dominant, it will try to get ahead of you. A good one is to walk towards a friend walking on your left as they approach you they walk right up to your left side leaving no room for your dog unless its moves behind you. A good socialisation test is to hand the lead over and for you to walk off leaving your dog with your friend who then walks off in the other direction but will meet you at the other side of a building. Instructors do teach this in classes but it is outside where it is important too.

Do not walk in straight lines or all at the same speed. Walk slowly or try running but encourage your dog with a titbit when it is walking by your side but only by your side. If you like try some motivating music and do heel work with your dog to it. Your dog may get a bit excited at first but it will begin to follow you. Why is this you may ask but it is simply it puts you in a good mood and your dog can read this in you and it will enjoy.

The authorities have reminded me that when training please will you use soft-soled shoes and non-flapping dresses and you will appreciate the reason why.

Now for the search square training you do not start with a search square at all. You must start to get your dog to use its nose. It may work for them but you have to make it work for you. This brings us back to the simple way of training by translating not inflicting pain. Once you start with working trials, you soon learn that pain will yield you nothing but problems. It all must be a game and for your dog to enjoy pleasing you.

Try whilst you are out walking just dropping your glove and walking on for a while and then send your dog back to fetch it by only giving the command away. (Not fetch or seek yet) When you dog comes across the glove you can only then say fetch and give plenty of praise and when the glove is back in your hand give a titbit. Your dog knows your scent so finding the article was easy you simple gave praise for your dog finding it.

Move onto dropping your glove behind something so your dog goes back the way you have come. At first you may need to redirect by pointing with your arm to go left or right even move your body in those directions to encourage your dog to follow that direction even if this is at a short distance from you. (Still do not say seek yet) Eventually it will come across your glove by your scent but what you are actually teaching is a short distance send away and redirection in its infancy. The reason I ask you not to say seek is that it will encourage a send away to become a search or seek. Seek command will mean the dog will find a person. The search will be for articles to find and will not have your scent on them. You can also just teach the items individually like when you are out point left with your arm and encourage your dog to move to your left. If it does then say, stay and run up to your dog with loads of praise and the titbit. (I should cut this to LP&T) Then you can try the right and away by walking up to your dog and saying a pointing away with encouragement to go further and further away from you then say stay and walk up and give LP&T.

If you were to build a house and have all the skills and the materials but if you do not know what the house should look like when it is finished how do you know where to start without making mistakes and starting over again. The same is with Working Trials. If you know the standard that you need to attain, you know what to train for and you need to try to minimise your commands and save confusion. Many people train differently for every different exercise when you will find that the same commands are applicable to other elements. You need to learn that your dog can actually work things out for itself all it need to know is what it is you want it to do.

These are a few simple exercises to encourage you to have a go. If you begin to enjoy these then there are advanced classes where you can go to watch the finished exercises. I hope after seeing a square worked by a dog and handler you will understand how this early training will take you to this higher standard without you having to start all over again.

What I am doing is telling you the way I would work with my experience of having got it wrong and having learned or been told the right way to save you time. As I said before why keep reinventing the wheel.

Next week I hope to have permission to print the article on castration. Why is it when you hear that word men cross their legs and women rub their hands? I will move onto some more exercises for nose work for you and describe how a dog works a square to find articles that you have not touched. If you have any questions or queries please contact me.

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