Tuesday, 2 April 2019

The unanticipated side-benefits of training (or, why you should just listen when Morag tells you to do something…)

So last week Laura sent me a draft blog article.

It's always nice when I get a wee break from writing, and it's even nicer when the title is basically - do what Morag told you to in the first place!

And though I might claim otherwise, it's not really because I have all the answers. But it turns out some of the core skills that are important to me actually help with a whole range of other potential challenges.

For background, remember that the first dog all of my very own that I adopted (Finn) was a beautiful but troubled border collie. We had to work through baring and lunging at dogs, biting people and children, and much more.

So it was essential that we had good lines of communication, Finn needed to be able to focus on me and respond quickly, plus my sciatica meant that walking nicely was non-optional.

Does loose lead walking and obedience training solve everything? Heck no!

But when your dog understands
  • it's important to check in
  • that dragging you down the street isn't a good choice
  • calm behaviour pays dividends of cheese....
then suddenly life in general can become much easier to deal with.

Read all about how some simple training games helped Brian and Seamus cope with seeing other dogs AND two cats on their walk two days after the session - it's the closest we can get to a magic fix!

I have to start this blog with a small confession – I have never really got round to training my dogs to walk nicely on the lead.

This isn’t to say that it hasn’t been on the training list but, fundamentally, I have small(ish) dogs who I do like to pull for some activities and the fact that they pull at other times hasn’t really bothered me.
So it keeps getting pushed back behind other priorities.
Recently though, Brian and Seamus have been getting quite barky on walks when they see other dogs – Seamus just wants to be friends with everyone and Brian has had some unfortunate encounters this year that have left him a bit suspicious of bigger dogs that he hasn’t personally vetted.
To combat this, we’ve been working on switching their brains on at the start of walks with a combination of nice lead walking and focused attention.
Today, we went for a twenty minute toilet walk and used our strategy as usual, with the result that we were able to be calm with all 10 (!) dogs that we met on route.
Then, as we left the little nature reserve that we walked in, we saw a cat dart across the road.
Seamus and Brian’s usual response to cats is best described as horrendous.
They forget anything else exists and it involves a lot of barking, squeaking, scrabbling and straining on the lead because WANT TO HUNT THE CAT - it is deeply obnoxious.
So, I steeled myself… …and they both just stared.
Intent focus, yes, and a little bit of squeaking from Seamus, but with their brains pre-switched on, there was none of the usual cat-related chaos.
They were both able to check in with me (ish) and even walk almost-nicely past the spot where the cat had run into.
Then we turned the corner and I watched as Brian saw a second cat ran away from us down the street and just sat down, while Seamus stood next to him and visibly shook with the effort of holding himself back.
A few more check-ins and we were even able to carry on walking nicely all the way home.
Self control is a muscle, not just for our dogs, but for us as well. It would have been so easy for me to just not bother with the training regime this morning (“eh, it’s only a short walk for toileting and I’m tired, what harm can it do?”).
But then I doubt we’d have been anywhere near as calm with the many dogs we met on our way round, so by the time we met the cats Brian and Seamus would have been wound-up and already frustrated.
I guarantee we’d have had all the usual chaos, and I’d never have had the chance to see how calm and controlled my boys can be if I set them up right.
And really, if that’s not motivation to carry on with the training plan, I don’t know what is!  
Laura, Brian and Seamus


What’s on at Well Connected Canine in York?

New 5 week class blocks starting on Mon 8th and Wed 10th April covering sports foundation skills, good companion obedience, sniffing school, parkour AND bodywork plus relaxation.
You can see the full programme here:
grab a weekly class!

And if you’re not sure what’s right for your dog just email me to chat it through (morag@wellconnectedcanine.co.uk)

Or if you’d rather opt for a short, sharp focused set of lessons, why not try a three week intensive to concentrate on nice walking (Stay By My Side), coming back (Baby Come Back), and polite behaviour (Mind Your Manners).

These have been really popular so make sure to book on early or you might miss your chance!

3 week intensives here

Want to try out a new sport?

Why not check out our evening Taster Workshops in Parkour (urban agility for dogs of all ages and breeds)

Getting Started with Parkour

Or enjoy running with your dog as a team!  Canicross really is for any breed (over the age of 1yr)

Canicross Introduction (evening)

Are you ready to dip your toes into breed specific training?

Try our half day workshops (Gun Dog Games or That’s Not A Sheep – for herding breeds)

Gun Dogs and Herding Breeds - Oh My!

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