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Training Winston Heel Work

You may recall my very first training session with Winston was to correct his lunging at small children whilst he was on the lead. Whether he would have hurt them, we are uncertain but it certainly it was worrying to look at. He was originally suppose to go to his first owners in Switzerland once I had solved this problem but they changed their minds at the last minuet and so the Shelter asked me if I would have him as my bomb proof dog for my behavioural work.

One major advantage about Winston was he had lived all of his life in the shelter. For me his three years of accumulated knowledge about living with dogs and their language was ideal for my work. By watching Winston play with other dogs, I can interpret their language and understand their interaction. It is then possible to make a better assessment of many problem dogs. You could say Winston is my translator as well as being a dog trainer.

If we meet an aggressive dog Winston loves to play and will try to make the aggressive dog play with him using his unique experience and knowledge of the correct body language. It is a common problem that owners will protect their dogs when they notice their dog is becoming increasingly aggressive the more dogs it meets. Gradually the more protective the owners try to protect their dogs the worse it gets.

I only wish such owners would only use Winston; he will show the dogs the correct way of meeting and displays the correct body language to achieve this without using aggression. If necessary, I can also use compressed air to calm the dog so that Winston can teach it how to play again. Once they are playing happily, we can then take the dog through socialisation lessons to remove its previous reason to show aggression.

Winston’s shelter life has made him a very streetwise dog and I have witnessed a number of dogs that have attack him had the ability to duck out of the way. In a flash, he would have the other dog’s neck in his jaws. He was that quick. He did not wish to harm the dog he would only use the ritualised form of aggression to make them submit and stop further aggression.

For my work, I need Winston not to retaliate no matter how much a dog is aggressive towards him. I just want him to encourage a problem dog to play with him or if necessary to dart out of the way of any trouble. This has confused him a little and as an example, the other day a dog shot out of its gate and viciously attacked him. I called Winston to come to me and not to retaliate. This he did but as the dog was between us, he was unable to reach me and so the dog chased Winston all the way home.

Winston loves to play and can get any problem dog to play with him after a while. Now with having met so many dogs, he is becoming an expert. Roger Mugford and David Ollie have similar dogs for exactly the same reasons. Using dogs in this way will teach any aggressive dogs the correct meeting rituals that will in turn curb its aggression.

Winston has a lot more qualities about him that I am now finding very useful. He certainly has an exceptional nose and I am training him for various types of scent work. This is coming along nicely. He has shown that he can track so I am going to purchase a tracking harness for him and see how well he works.

I have tested him in how he bites my padded protective sleeves to see how he would work at criminal work for the detention of a criminal. We only treat this as a pull game for the padded sleeve. As I am the one wearing the sleeve, it is only in fun and so there is no real aggression from Winston.

I eventually let him win the sleeve by sliding my arm out and he is able to walk about with it proudly for a short while. For the control, I then tell him it is MINE and take it away. I hope to train him for a demonstration of non-aggressive patrol work. This will illustrate dogs are still effective as police dogs without the need for aggression.

I am teaching him building searches but he is still only searching for me and I must now move onto searching for other people as if they were a criminal or an injured or lost person. I would like to try him at search and rescue in mountain and disaster areas as well as wondering if I should try him on body (cadaver) searching. I would like to see how far we could go together just for fun.

Along with his speed, I have found he is also very agile. On our walks in the forests and on the seashore he can jump many natural obstacles and can scramble up some very steep slopes very similar to the scale jump in working trials competition. I have taught him the command to jump over small obstacles so now he is able to jump low fences. Gradually we will try higher fences that would simulate the competition hurdle. I have him jumping a narrow gorge near the shore, which is similar to the long jump, and he jumps it easily. I just wonder how he will do when he sees the real competition agility equipment.

When Winston first came to live with me he wanted to be with me all of the time. I was able to use this to teach him to walk close to me off the lead but not compulsory to heel. Initially I would walk from the house and walk my walk not his walk. He had the freedom to move away from me and even walk ahead of me but as soon as I heard a vehicle coming, I would clap my hands to get him back to stand by my side.

By walking along the roads that Winston had not chosen, he then has to turn round and chase after me in order to keep me in sight.

Had Winston been a dominant dog I would have had to go through all the anti-dominant training routine before I could do this type of walking as a such a dog would believe the walk was his walk and think it should be me who follows him not him following me. This would mean that I would end up looking for him when he got out of sight, as he most certainly would not be interested in looking for me. In the dogs rules the leader chooses the direction of the walk.

How often have you taken your dog for a walk and you have had to go to look for your dog that was busy doing something and totally ignoring your calls to return to you.

As only the leader of the pack dictates where the pack goes if your dog feels it is the leader, it will not accept any commands willingly from its subordinates. If you find this is the type of dog, you have then for an alternative please read Jan Fennell’s book “The Dog Listener”.

In this book she describes very accurately the methods you need to follow in order to correct all the dominancy problems you may encounter. Only after curing this problem is it possible to commence your training because only then can you feel secure that you dog will be looking for you and not you looking for your dog.

When Winston was walking ahead of me, I would suddenly turn round without saying any command and go in the opposite direction. Sometimes I would head back towards home, then go off down another road, and take a different route all to keep Winston in a state of insecurity. I would not let him have any time to rest and have a secure walk. The point to this training was that he would have to learn to constantly keep me in site or I was gone.

Whenever I came to a junction in the road, I would wait to see which one Winston would want to walk down then I would choose the other. I would set off and not look back to see where he was and I was sure that after a short while and once I was out of site Winston would dash round to corner to catch up with me. He would then walk in front of me again but at the next junction if would repeat the same action.

I repeated this routine time after time until Winston would by his choice stand at a junction to see which road I would use. Once this happened I knew I had succeeded in establishing myself as his leader.

If I were to walk every day the same regular walk, Winston would become so use to it that he would feel secure in knowing where I was and not worry so he could wander off and search. This would mean that on many occasions we would probably be out of each other’s sight and this is not a safe way of walking my dog.

This is not teaching walking to heel it is just the normal taking the dog for a walk but it is creating a necessity for Winston to always maintain visual contact with me least I disappear. This frequently altering of my route will continually reinforce his need to remain close to me for better safety and his survival.

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