Dog Behaviour Advice - Dog Advice Articles
Click here for a printable version.
Training classes and how to win the lottery
A start of a new year where we make all those resolutions that we break by the 2nd January. How should we start the New Year with dog training? Do you have any resolutions in this direction? I hope to make major contribution into solving dog aggression, as this is becoming an issue where great changes are likely to take place.
Scientists tell use that dogs are similar to us in the need to have aggression and compassion in us as traits in order to survive. Looking at the standard method of training dogs using the enforcement method, do we not teach a dog that we use aggressive techniques to train the dog with pain to make it conform? Are we not teaching a dog that aggression works? Should it not think that if it works on them why should it not work on lesser dogs or even lesser children? It should then think it therefore has a right to use aggression to get its way as we do.
This is the concept taught by most schools around the world of using chokers for inflicting pain to gain control. Those of you who may know someone who has worked in Working Trials will tell you that pain is no gain. I found this out to my cost and in order to succeed you need to restart the training all over again. It is for this reason I do not use a lead in training so removing any temptation to choke. I have that reaction in me still.
We have already heard from a reader who has trained her dog to a satisfactory standard by the translation method and wanted to attend lessons purely for sociability with people and dogs but told she must train with a half-choker. Why if the dog does obey commands why should she need to choke the dog? I am certain the first choke used on this dog would put its training back weeks and hate returning to classes.
So, what are the dog-training classes suppose to achieve?
No club or class should require a minimum age, as there is no minimum age to start to train. Six months is far too late. I would also welcome any one even if they only trained for one element or problem. People and dogs coming and going will only reinforce the concept of the infinite pack.
I have been asked a number of times would I run dog training classes, instructor classes, personal training and talks. My main wish is to reach as many people as I can through this paper and anywhere else in the hope that I can promote painless training and control of aggression throughout the EU. A reader asked had I written a book or would I write one. Please send all donations to me but why when all you need is contained in the pages of the Costa Blanca News. These are free of charge or at least for the costs of the paper but my articles are only a small proportion of the paper. You can purchase back copies or I will gladly send you by e-mail any article you need.
You should start training as soon as your dog enters the family home. You should start by simply translation commands of word, hand or both into action by your dog. Many people will wait until they can enter a training club before commencing real training. If you have a pup in your family start now. As pups and in order to survive they want and need to learn. Good heel work starts with the lead fastened to the wall during grooming so it learns it only has enjoyment when the lead is slack. Recalls always equals food and fun.
If you met an alien would you put a choker round his neck to explain to him this is sitting and this is down and my name is Alan. I think he would have drawn his ray gun by now and used it. It is easy and very logical to train simply by stating the command when the dog completes a sit of its own choice then given loads of praise and a titbit. It is only the socialisation with other humans and other dogs to complete your dog’s education. That does not mean specifically an organised class. If you take the positive step and take your dog out to meet people and other dogs as an exercise, socialisation classes are unnecessary. Unfortunately, not all dogs and all humans are the same so problems do arise and there is always a need for corrective treatment where socialisation classes are a help.
What should be the aims of a dog-training class?
Some people may wish to train for competition but the majority of most owners simply want to achieve an obedient dog as quickly as possible without great time and expense. They need a companion dog that does not rule their lives. I would rather teach for free in order to socialise as many dogs as possible than have many dogs stay away and possibly become a danger to children becoming another dog attack statistic.
What then should a socialisation club do in its weekly classes?
First, train dogs to meet one another. I know this sounds odd but many dogs do not know how to make the normal ritualistic meeting of dogs coming into the infinite pack. We may find such meetings a little embarrassing when dogs sniff one another but this way they gain considerable amounts of information by sense of smell and body language. Dogs jerked away from such meetings become more aggressive with successive meetings. The correct way is to encourage your dog to leave with a titbit.
Dogs should walk normally among all the member of the club as you would if you were out in the streets. Any dogs showing aggression or nervousness are then introduced to dogs within the club that do not show aggression or are keen to play with any dog. This is where a good instructor can see and read the dogs body language to help to teach the correct meeting ritual to all dogs so when all dogs meet up none have a problem.
I would have a puppy fun class with a couple of older dogs that love pups. All dogs entering training classes should show their current vaccination certificates so pups can attend without the worry of contracting anything. Here pups can learn to meet with other pups play and meet older dogs as well as meeting more and more people. Many toys are need including balloons and cap guns to help for noise training for sensitive pups. The children that come to the clubs love to play with the pups and an excellent exercise. This class should not be too long but enough to make the pups wish to return.
Walking amongst one another and swapping dogs is an excellent exercise where handlers work another dog as they would work their own with praise and titbits. Again, an instructor can see any dogs that may need extra help to except this leap forward in sociability.
Walking to heel should be mingling with your dog at your side not the regimented method we usually associate with training clubs. The instructor will watch and suggest help where the dog is failing to walk by the owner’s side but with so much activity, most dogs prefer to stay by the owner because there is too much information coming in for them to fully comprehend. A good instructor will see any dog showing concern at this and slow things down to support the dog. The aim of the class is for all dogs to mingle with sit stand and down yet still only keep their attention on their handler who ever they are.
You do find some dogs are still just interested in playing with any other dog it meets so any exuberance needs channeling towards the owner not the dogs. This is where titbits are a definite help but there are so many titbits in the hands of other handlers it is important you teach your dog away from the school during the week. If you find your dog likes someone else’s titbits then change.
You do need to teach with titbits and much praise when the dog remains by your side. Classes are for fun and for evaluation on how your normal home training is proceeding. If your dog is still pulling then the instructor should help to show you how to train to keep your dog by your side.
Recalls are best carried out with all the dogs sat (never the down) in the middle and one at a time the owner should call their dog to leave the middle and come and sit it front of them for some reward and then move round to be sat at the handlers side. The best command is by hand signal only as to say come may encourage other dogs to move so any dog that does is returned until it is their turn. Another situation is to recall your dog to come through a group of people standing in between you and your dog. A well-socialised dog will walk in-between the people. A dog that needs more people socialisation will try to return to you by walking round the group. Recall from dogs playing during class breaks is another important test of your control. Taking it in turns each week to wear the Aboistop if needed helps reinforce this most import of commands until you dog comes to you every time.
Place each dog on a table as if for a breed show and then someone would examine the dog all over, as would a judge. This way the dogs become use to people touching them like a vet or a friend.
Stays are taught in all sorts of ways but one of the best ways is for all the handlers to go off in one direction then go out of sight but return from behind the dogs. You should teach this every week to confirm to the dog two things. One, you will always return and two, when you disappear there is no point in moving as you could return from any direction. Stays in sight serve the purpose when everybody has refreshments are similar to when you are sat a having coffee somewhere and your dog must stay put during this time and not wander about even if a dog comes up and wants to play.
Retrieve can be for any article and by any handler. Swapping handlers is not confusing as you might think if you are training for positive socialisation. If the new handler gives lots of praise and a titbit the dog should go to the new handler. If they do not the dog may take the article back to the owner. I find it a pleasure to work another person’s dog especially if it can complete an exercise my own dog cannot.
There should also be some fun on the agility equipment and playing with your dog to encourage it to use its scent ability for you.
Instructors should design classes for your everyday life and incorporate anything else if requested.
The instructor should set time aside for aggression testing. It is a common worry when dogs tied up outside a shop where children may go up to a dog to pat it or even cuddle it. This could be a dangerous situation but if you teach your dog that there is no fear from such meetings then attacks are less likely to result. Training dogs to love and play with children is so rewarding so I like children to come with their parents to work the dogs as well and learn to understand dogs.
Here we can cater for any problem of aggression giving advice on the appropriate training in the class with help for home training. To some extent this is problem solving so time is set aside for questions and answers whilst all the dogs are in a down and stay together. This is a good time for tea and biscuits whilst there is a talk given on a topical problem.
If there are any individual problems like excessive savage barking for protecting the owner’s car, we bring the car into the class for everyone to stand round the car ignoring the barking by not looking at the dog. (Earplugs are optional) It may take a little time but eventually the dog will realise its barking serves no purpose. If the dog is persistent then the instructor can use the Aboistop. The owner sits next to the dog in the car boot to praise the dog when the dog no longer barks.
Running with your dog shows up chase problems as does people running past you. Children’s riding a bike is another common problem and yet so easy to solve as is reacting to teasing. All types of aggression are controllable given the correct training.
A good instructor will structure the classes for the needs of all the handlers not the instructor so you obtain the benefit needed by you and your dog’s everyday lifestyle. Most of all you and your dog should like to go to classes for training yes but also for both dog and handler to enjoy the experience. You are not joining the army.
I am meeting with as many people as I can to organise Trials training and a competition for both Police (Patrol) Dog and Tracking Dog. I believe we have some Companion Dog Judges in Spain so we can cater for the first rung of Trails Competition regularly. Such Judges can sign our qualifying certificates that will reflect the current Kennel Club standard. This way if anyone would like to return to England to compete then success here should mean success in the UK. I also need to find some land and set up a Working Trials club so if you are interested please send me your details. Those of you who have asked I can confirm I am prepared to offer personal training to handlers in all of the Trials elements including Patrol work.
Now my wife tells me the latest interesting information is that scientists have proven dogs are precognitive. If true I will purchase forty-nine balls which I will number on to forty-nine. On Saturday, I will ask my dog to fetch me six balls and I will win the lottery. (I wish.)
Next week I will look at how to control dog aggression using modern behavioural techniques and harmless equipment. If you have any questions or queries then, as before, please contact me.