Puppies and dogs do not come knowing how to walk nicely on a lead or recall away from that dog in the park. We need to show them how to interact in our world. There are many training methods out there, but we show you a way that is not only backed by science but also builds a positive relationship with your dog through fun training games. Let’s talk about what we do and don’t do and why!
Firstly, here is what we DON’T do:
We don’t use ‘Aversive’ training methods:
We do not use fear, intimidation or show our dog who’s boss. We don’t use aversive training such as choke chains, shock collars, check collars, collars that pinch, rattle bottles or shout at our dogs. This can have major fallout creating a dog that is shutdown and damages relationships.
Dogs are very good at pairing things, however they decide what they pair that aversive punishment with. For example, if you hit your dog on the nose for jumping up at people, you may think you have paired that punishment with jumping up. However it may be that your dog pairs visitors with something horrible. This can then make matters worse and you may end up with a dog who fears people and barks and lunges at them to make sure they stay away.
This type of training can have major fallout creating a dog that is shutdown and damages relationships.
So how do we actually TRAIN our dogs?
Instead of focusing on the behaviour problems, we go straight to the source of the behaviours, we inspire and transform!
Why dogs behave the way they do
When we put our dogs in certain situations there is a behaviour outcome, depending on their strengths and weaknesses.
Here is an example, if a dog’s weakness is calmness and you attach a lead to them, they pull all the way to the park. Or if visitors arrive, they jump all over them.
Most young pups will do this because they don’t yet have the skills needed to be able to make better choices and offer a different behaviour.
Not just about teaching a sit
We go to the source of the ‘problem behaviours’ and look at what skills are missing to reshape their brain, practice and rehearse these skills so when faced in that situation again, they can offer a much more appropriate behaviour.
Here are just some of the skills and strengths we can give our dogs through training games that can really help to overcome their behaviour struggles
- Impulse Control
A calm dog doesn’t jump all over guests, a confident dog doesn’t bark and lunge at the postman, a dog who can disengage is able to come away from that squirrel in the park.
How do we teach these skills?
We do all this by playing cleverly designed training games at home that strengthen these skills. We are careful not to put them in the same situations again and again for them to keep getting it wrong. Instead we set up the environment for success! They get very good at what they practice so we make sure they practice the right things.
Play at home and out & about
Once they know the games we take them to different locations in the house, garden, out the front door, a quiet park and gradually make the environment more distracting at a level they can handle.
3 Games To Get You Started!
Teaching our dogs to love their bed and learn to settle on it will grow so many skills such as calmness, impulse control, disengagement. These skills are all needed to help prevent problem behaviours such as jumping up, stealing food from the counters and having the ‘zoomies’ in the living room!
Stage one – add the value
- Start by adding a few pieces of their food onto to bed and see if they will choose to go on there.
- Keep rewarding small pieces onto the bed to add value to the bed so they learn it is an amazing place!
- Test the value by placing one piece of food away from the bed for them to eat and see if they choose to hop back on. If they do, say “yes” and feed onto the bed again.
This is a super fun game great for focus, recall and loose lead walking. It will play a big part in preventing struggles such as ignoring you, running off to greet other dogs, chasing squirrels and so much more. It can be played on or off lead at home:
- Take about 10 pieces of food in your hands ready, throw one piece away and allow your dog to chase and eat it.
- When they turn around looking to you for the next piece you can mark it with a “yes” and throw another piece past you.
- Then repeat! Each time your dog comes past you to chase the next piece you become the centre of all the fun.
We play this game to build confidence and optimism, this is one of the biggest gifts you can give your dog! There are plenty of things in the home that is novel to your pup, so get creative and dig out that umbrella, raid your cupboards and shed for buckets, crinkly ikea bags and anything safe you can find.
- Scatter some of their daily food around it. As your pup explores and goes in, under and around the objects things will move and make noises around them.
- Your dog has the choice to carry on exploring as they overcome barriers and novelty in search for their food.
- If your dog seems too worried by these things, take the difficulty level down a notch and start with some simple items such as a single cardboard box and work from there.
How do we stop the unwanted behaviour while training?
While we are training these life skills we need to make sure we are using management alongside this. Management is used to limit rehearsal and prevent the problem behaviour from occurring.
It is key for real life results. If they keep practicing the behaviours we don’t want, they will keep doing it.
Let’s take a look at some possible management options:
- Putting shoes in the cupboard so they don’t get chewed
- Push back food from the edge of the counter to limit stealing
- Use a long line to prevent chasing and ignoring recall
- Use a baby gate to prevent jumping up at guests and family members arriving
- Don’t expose them to the things they react and bark at
Do we need management forever? Don’t worry, it’s not forever. As we build on these strengths and train our dogs to make better choices, we will eventually no longer need the management.