Using a Crisis to Create Focus – Why training your dog should be your priority

 

We are in the weirdest time known to the current majority of people. Social distancing is something crated by the COVID-19 Pandemic and hopefully something we’ll never have to repeat.

While we should all be socially isolating from people, and this means staying at home unless you are one of the super star key workers and those key to the supply chain. We still have an obligation to our dogs to walk them, and keep them sane as they don’t understand the situation. We can’t be lazy and we can’t be dismissive. We have an opportunity here as dog owners to help our dogs at a time like no other.

One good walk a day is going to not be enough for some dogs, and some owners. As a country where 1 in 4 houses have a dog, we know that our dogs part of our world and such need to maintain some semblance of consistency in this madness.

We then owe it to them to use this time stuck at home to our advantage. Right now no one is going to run up to your dog demanding to touch it as its ever so cute. No one is going to be walking up the road towards you for spite as they see you struggling with your dog. No one is going to stop you and ask you about your dog. We all all social distanceers!

This is now a time where we have control of our dog training, and how other can behave towards us. Regardless of hitting a stagnant patch of training, not getting opportunity to practice at your pace, we have a chance now to make some real progress in our training without the excuses. We now have a few weeks to remedy out dog training goals.

Dog walks are no longer rushed to work around your busy work day. You have time to prepare yourself and the dog for the new routine, a routine you will be maintaining once your back at work as well. Break the bad habits and build in new ones!

A new routine where the dog doesn’t door dash or focuses on you on walks better because your no rushing, you have time to put the restart or revisit the basics, as well as having the luxury in many cases of less distractions.

You have an opportunity here to break down the training issues your having into bite sized chunks to work on daily. Not to break the habit of a life time, but to right here, right now help your dog cope with the current situation and maintain your sanity.

Lets take reactive behaviour as an example:

Whats the trigger? People

How do they start out on the walk? They are hyped up and alert before we leave the house, and once were out they drag me down the road.

Reaction to the trigger? Lunge, Bark, Redirect

Can you get them to focus? Yes once the person has gone I can focus the dog, but not during.

Does your dog understand a No and Good Boy? Yes but as soon as there is a trigger they will go mad.

Break the Behaviour Down:

  1. The dog has no focus so we build in focus games such as watch me, go find and recall, stay and get it with a toy. Using an arsenal of food, treats and toys! We start this in the home and repeat in short bursts a few times a day. Focusing on the dogs understanding this while stationary.
  2. Focus while on the move. We all forget when were out we generally want the dog to focus on us while we are walking. We only tend to practice training while stationary in the house as were still getting used to being a trainer, and we tend to start risking injury while on the move! So start asking that dog to maintain focus while walking, building in that heeling as you go.
  3. I would also start building in an understanding of the word no here. Or something that means “your doing it wrong”. We are not screaming at them NO to stop, but as soon as they start to mess about or become unfocused then say the no and re engage the behaviour you want. This is not to scare he hell out of them but is instead there to teach them to stop messing about when you want them to focus. I understand dogs are not machines but they still need to understand whats going to get a reward and what isn’t. Once they’ve reengaged reward the hell outta them!

But you need to be asking yourself at this stage what does my dog like? Because if he is checking out all the time, then there is an issue with the reward, or how your interacting with them. Try different food, or skipping meals to build motivation, or changing to a tugger toy. B. F. Skinner one of the first to study how animals learned found that with the right reward rats could learn something in one repetition, but if the reward wasn’t good enough for the rat it would take 20-500 repetitions. 

Level Up to the next stage:

  1. Bring this into the garden or with distractions from other family members becoming the distraction by jumping about or calling the dog, when you are focusing them.
  2. Build duration and distance as well as distraction in separate training sessions.
  3. Break down the usual exit routine in order to create calm and have a plan before you exit. No jumping, barging, pushing, barking or dragging.
  4. Exit the home and change your normal routine. Don’t feed into the choas by going the same places and getting the same reactions where possible. It might be harder during lock down but it can still be done.

Start to Engage the “Enemy”

Once you have a rock solid focus and the dog which understands what you want it to do, then you can start to go hunting for the enemy.

I often advise people to not walk their dogs for a few days to reset the stress in the system. You are probably feeling what they feel daily before the evening news. The feeling of will the numbers rise, will they put a total lockdown in force, when are we going back to normality? All worrying thoughts. No imagine being your dog feeling that. Why not allow them a few days to shut off from the madness to reset the system, and the start a afresh with less stress, less worry and a new outlook on life. It also means you can replace the walks with one to one play and training, building your bond stronger.

Now we are all social distancing we can avoid or keep things that would trigger our dogs at a safer distance. This means when working with them out in the real world we have more time to react  and focus the dog, as well as a dog less likely to react as the thing that is stressing it isn’t as close. Less triggers = more progress in training. Selecting you routes will also take some checking out as there could be some busier places as everyone heads to the same place. You could use a rest day for the dog as a day to leave them settled at home while you check out the local routes you want to use in order to plan ahead, to maximise success.

Even if you have a new puppy in the house hold or a giddy dog these ideas still apply. Break it down. You don’t want the puppy to jump at guests the teach it what you want it to do at the door without distractions, then practice practice. Then use yourself as a distraction opening and shutting the door, or getting other people in the home to come in and out.

Regardless of the outcome of this time, we all have a bit of time to focus on our dogs and should spend the time wisely. Spending time back on the basic level makes a huge difference to our dogs, and our progression in training. Even if its just practising the sit and getting it straight or keeping it while you do a stay, its all progress and all useful.

Kathryn Jones

Clever Fox Canine Training and Behaviour

Settle Down Stan!

For so many dog owners a huge goal is to be able to have their dog join them on walks in the Lake District, or days out with the family. This usually means finding an excellent local pub to eat in, for some this can be a daunting task with a bouncing bubbly dog who’s excitment for life threatens your lovely meal.

Time with your dog out in the real world shouldn’t be a panic or a worry.

Training before the event is important to get a real life calm settle in a busy place. Its not about walking 10 miles, and then hoping they’ll settle in a crazy new place. They’ll be totally over stimulated, over tired and very hungry. Not a good combination when in a pub ordering lunch.

If your dog doesn’t settle while your eating at home or sat down on the sofa, then its isn’t going to settle in a cafe. Teaching your dog to settle next to you in the living room on the lead is the start. A good walk then settling them with a tasty treat such as a filled kong, dried hoof or pizzle stick. Something long lasting, once they’ve finished don’t let them get up and wander off, keep them settled for a bit longer. Do this daily or a couple of times a week and it’ll start to make a difference and condition the behaviour. Build in duration of the settling after the chewy thing is finished to build in a longer settle. You want to get to the point where the dog starts to naturally settle at your feet in the home.

I don’t tend to teach the dog to settle on a mat or blanket when out. As unless you have a really good command and release, its very hard to maintain it. What I do instead is build in a good solid down command under distraction.

Down needs to be built at home, without distractions with you building up the time you expect the dog to lie down for. Then build in distractions of movement, others moving about, people saying hello, and noises. Make sure you don’t just reward them with a big of kibble, give them huge jackpot rewards of a handful of treats that they love every now and then. Make it worth their while to stay down. Don’t force it or just expect it.

Making sure you dog understands that if they pull, lunge, or bite the lead its not getting taken off. They have to learn to cope with the frustration and that being settled is rewarded. If your dig struggles about or isn’t keen, wait it out. As soon as they stop, reward them and release them. Teach them faffing about isn’t going to get them anything, calmness is.

Make sure your dog can actually cope with a busy pub. Have they been socialised in busy places? Are they ok with people coming up to them? Can they cope with people running past them? Have they got manners around food? If they can’t deal with these things, then you need to start here before expecting them to suddenly settle in a pub.

Building up to get a dog to be calm in a busy place takes time. You can build from your home to a bench in a park or on the street. Then to an moor confined space in a cafe or pub.

This is obviously much easier with a puppy than an adult dog. Puppies adapt faster to things, and can be distracted easily. I get mine out from 9 weeks old into busy areas to learn to settle. They learn to settle in cafes in just a few weeks, where as adults cab take a little longer but aren’t impossible.

To get things right pick your location. If you are going to settle in a cafe, then find somewhere that you can tuck yourself away from the main in and out. It might seem easier to sit by the entrance for a quick escape, but your more likely to be in the firing line for people coming over and heavy foot fall. It pays to check out potential locations.

Kathryn Jones

Clever Fox Canine Training and Behaviour

Seven Super Tips for Puppy Owners

After a tough year of losing several of my adult dogs to old age, and cancer, I’m firmly back in the mad house with three puppies.

I never ever condone having puppies together, anyone that had done it knows how much work it is.

Here are some words of wisdom from a puppy hoarder! Its never easy bringing a puppy up, but you can make it a joy rather than a chore.

1. Be patient.

All my dog owners expect their little bundles of chaos to suddenly “get it”. Be that recall, lead walking, or manners around the house. Puppies aren’t pre programmed to settle, or be calm. You have to teach that, and it takes time.

2. Are you being clear?

Many people think puppies are born with dictionaries in their head. That they actually understand the meaning of the words we say. Sorry to say they don’t, they mostly hear “blah blah blah treaty blah blah”. Be clear in what you want them to do, lure the behaviour and once they’ve actually done it a few times, then add a command. Do not say SIT 100% times and expect them to get it.

3. Don’t resist the crate.

Introduced properly, and in a way that makes them that is positive to the puppy, they are your greatest ally. An ally in toilet training, over tired biting, travel sickness, house manners and chewing. Honestly, get it right and you’ll never look back!

4. Don’t skimp on the treats.

So many people say “I want to wean the treats off now, they should just do it for me”….. right. I understand that, but your 14 week old puppy doesn’t. Use the food, and get those behaviours locked in before bridging to work without them. I don’t work without being paid, so why do you expect your puppy to work without payment it want?

5. Kong life savers!

A well stuffed Kong can be your saviour in the home, in the car, in cafe and for your hands. Puppies want to chew, so give them the right things to chew on! A kong in a cafe is my secret to building an excellent settle in new places.

6. Keep up the training.

Once you’ve built in the basics, keep going back. Don’t just ditch them and expect the puppy to remember it clear as the day you taught it, many things have happened in between. Keep coming back to the foundations and building on them. Do you remember algebra that was drummed into you? No? Why not? Your expecting your puppy to remember the equivalent. Why are you expecting your puppy to be a vault of everything.

7. Enjoy them.

Puppies are only puppies for a few months, enjoy it. Play with them, build bonds. Make mistakes and learn from them. It shouldn’t be all stress having a puppy, they should make you laugh and smile. Remember that when they’ve eaten the shoes you’ve left out.

Raising a puppy is much easier with help. Ask when needed, and listen to it. It can save your relationship.

Kathryn Jones

http://www.cleverfoxcanine.com

A Clever Approach to Dog Training and Behaviour

The Dogs Choice

Every morning this little lady chooses to heel next to me while the other dogs play. She heels quietly until I release her. No heel command is ever given, she just comes to me waiting for that release.

The release is the word “OK” and means she can do what ever she wants. It must give her a happy feeling as she skips off every time. That feeling beats toys, food and even physical attention sometimes.

She comes to me to ask for an endorphin hit and to have fun. I’ve never taught her the heel. She came as a rescue with that knowledge but it is her safe place, she’ll return to the heel when worried.

Many people ask me “how do I reward my dog if its not food or toy motivated”. The answer is, with what ever makes your dog feel happy. For Zara its the action of release. It makes her so happy.

She’s suspected to have been on a chain in a yard, so it would fit with being forced to be confined. She likes food, and toys and affection. But she loves to do what she wants, so she asks for it.

She never takes, she never steals, she’s never pushy. How many dog owners can say their dog never takes what they have for granted? How many of you can say your dog asks for things. The usual example is “my dog asks to go to the loo”, that’s great but it’s for your benefit as much as theirs. But when do they ask you to go play, or to go run or to go be free. The answer is usually never.

I know that’s true because so many people see me for dogs not listening. Be that in the home, on walks, on lead, in the garden. Where every it is, your dog is just taking the piss. We need to reassess your relationship and find out where its all going wrong.

I adore my dogs and they can have anything in the world, but they always ask. They always check in, and they always focus. The world is exciting, and I take them on new adventures as I’m confident in the knowledge they’ll check in with me at every turn.

This all boils down to them understanding when they can, and when they can’t. When they can communicate asking, then I can tell them yes. It is teaching you an understanding of what your dog actually likes in life. We can think its food, but often the dogs just working because the foods bribing the behaviour. Toys can send dogs into such a frenzied state their their performing but really enjoying it any more, its just a high energy routine. Not every dog understands a release command, or they just aren’t interested. What it boils down to is what your dog wants to work and ask for. Its an understanding of your dog.

Kathryn Jones

Clever Fox Canine Training and Behaviour

A Clever Approach to Dog Training and Behaviour

The Comfort Zone in Dog Training

I saw a excellent image on another trainers page the other day. Saying all dog owners should get out of their comfort zone, take different dogs to seminars, learn a new skill or push your dogs boundaries if fearful.

Comfort zone 1

I originally thought it was a good graphic, and made sense. But after some thought I realised its total bull crap.

Your comfort zone with your dog is where all dog owners strive to be. You work hours and hours training that recall so your comfortable on walks knowing your dog will come back. You spend days socialising your puppy to the sights and smells outside your home, so you know they won’t freak out when you decide to go to the cafe after a long walk. You might even spend money on a trainer to help you get there, money invested in your future with your dog.

You don’t get a dog to make your life harder, you get it to complete it.

Step out that comfort zone? I don’t bloody think so. I work with hundreds of owners a year striving to get into that comfort zone and stay there. Yes some owners want to push themselves further and learn more join sports, and strive for that perfect dog. I work hard and push myself out of my comfort zone to learn more to be able to teach you, but I also am very happy to return back to my comfort zone and just walk my dogs without worry or thinking.

I’m currently out of my comfort zone, I’m on holiday (dedication to you guys to be working on holiday),I’m in a foreign country and away from my dogs. I’ve enjoyed it, but I can honestly say I’m ready to get back to my comfort zone. Ready to have that feeling of calm and happy.

I realised for my dog owners this feeling is only there in part of your life with your dog. Mainly in the evening when your settled on the sofa, dog next to you sleeping. When your walking your dog you’re out of your comfort zone because your dogs nervous or reactive, or because you know they have high prey drive and next doors cat has started a war. It didn’t matter the reason why, what matters is you need to keep extending that comfort zone as much as you can, while maintaining your own self care.  Leaving that zone causes all stress which we learn from in small doses, but in large doses daily it can effect us mental and even physical.

I’m not on about stopping walking your dog, I’m on about ditching the routine and maybe playing with a flirt pole on a walk first to help your dog relax, and you calm. Focusing on learning a new command or trick. Joining a social club or training group, maybe not to become the best agility start but to push your boundaries in a way that means other are around you. Getting a trainer who understands your dogs needs, and your emotions. Sometimes solutions to problems, instead of management are the best way of expending your comfort zone.

Some days its ok to be be snuggly in your comfort zone, and others miles away from it. But what ever happens do not feel bad for sitting in it some days, and don’t feel down if things don’t go to plan when you do go out of it. Its always easier to do with support but dip a toe out now and then.

I want all of us to be more like this graphic:

Matrix-cards-set-1-ft-round-510x340

I am guilty of not helping with my own self care, and I think all dog owners should be conscious of it. There is no right and wrong in dog training in general, but there is what feels right with us and wrong with us. Be that training methods, our dogs behaviour, other dogs behaviour and our behaviour to others.

Kathryn Jones

Clever Fox Canine Training and Behaviour

The Canine Contract

When you add a dog to your life you enter into an unwritten and unspoken contract.

This contract says you will love you dog unconditionally, feed them, play with them but most of all you’ll train them.

A trained dog is a happy dog. Why? How? Well because a dog that understands what is expected of them isn’t confused, or worried. A dog that know what you mean or how to act in certain situations us a confident dog. A dog that understands you’ll protect it from harm by listening to you is s dog without worry.

Training isn’t about teaching the perfect sit, or having a dog that does back flips. Its about teaching your dog how to survive the world we put them in, dogs don’t get a say in where they go, how their raised and what they do. Hell 90% of dogs are on a toileting schedule, we have that much control of our own bowels.

You as an owner need to say to yourself “I will train my dog”. So my dog understands me, and the world I’m expecting it to be in.

All too often I see dogs not able to cope with the real world, not because you haven’t socialised them but because you haven’t taught them what to do in that siutation, so they get stressed and start to jump up, pull, play about or even go on the defensive. You get frustrated and start to over give the command, or yell. No one wins.

Take the well socialised German Shepherd puppy, its been everywhere, seen everything. Its fantastic with people, I mean its met everyone. So it gets to 6 months old and suddenly people aren’t all that happy when it jumps up, barks for attention and begins to be a big bouncy problem.

The dog starts to hear “Sit, Sit, SIIITTTT” In its ear. People no longer want to greet him or say hello so he barks at them saying “I’M FRIENDLY” … the owner gets flustered and waves ham in front of the puppy. The puppy thinks be must be doing right to get ham. He chomps it down and carries on. The person leaves faster. Next time the dog goes ok pull harder and bark louder because maybe that’ll get their attention.

See where this is going?

The owner starts to avoid people, and when they do see them they have to really yell at the dog to get them to listen. The dog starts to assume that the yelling happens because of the person. They can either shy away and stop, and start to not trust strangers or start to assume the strangers equal a telling off.

What needs to happen is the dog needs to learn what they SHOULD be doing. Not now to be yelled at.

This starts with actually teaching the basics. A solid sit, a calm stay, a good release command. All the basic things that when drilled into the dog because automatic polite behaviour.

In not taking military style drills but short, sharp and sweet training sessions ending in a lit of fun.

This involves rewarding them for the right actions, and interrupting or in some cases punishing them to avoid them injuring themselves. I don’t mean kicking the crap out of them, but things like clapping your hands to disturb them stealing something, or crateing them when left to avoid chewing wires. All things a dog would find punishing. It also means not ignoring your dog when its doing something right such as loose lead heel or recalling to check in on you, forget the phones or the old fashioned “we’ll he’s just trying to steal treats off me”, no he’s trying to gain your attention and actually want to interact with you. He’s upholding his end of the contract, why aren’t you?

Reward the interactions. Be consistent, allow your dog to understand the world they live in. Where the boundaries are as well as we’re the fun and reward is.

The training is important, but by god the balance of play and understanding the boundaries is more important. If your dog doesn’t think your fun, why the hell would it choose you over other dogs, other people and that squirel in the tree that’s sworn at the dog before it legged it. If your dog doesn’t respect you why would it bother listening to you when there are other things going on?

If you haven’t trained it, it won’t happen when the dog is actually distracted.

Can you see what needs to happen? You need to uphold your contract and keep the balance in your dogs life, as well as the consistency.

Kathryn Jones

Clever Fox Canine Training and Behaviour

The Success of Failure in Training Your Dog – We All Make Mistakes.

We’ve all been there, working on something that starts out a joy and something you look forward too.

Little things start to go wrong, these spiral into bigger things.

Suddenly you feel awful working on that thing, your motivation disappears.

You stop wanting to work at all, convince yourself you have other things to do.

You give up, you convince there is no options left. You feel a failure.

Their are always options.

Failure is not a permanent, it is changeable.

The definition of failure is a lack off success, not never being successful.

You should see each perceived failure as a learning process. There is always a solution to the problem.

With dog training I often hear from clients that they have tried everything. That I couldn’t possibly solve their dog training problem. They have read every page on the internet, read every book on the shelf and talked to every dog owner with a well trained dog. But yet here you are on the phone to me. Looking for that answer so your failure isn’t permanent.

Often the reason for failure isn’t because of a lack of knowledge, or lack of training. Is is due to a lack training in the real world, proofing the behaviour in the real world. We often reflect on the things we did wrong instead of the things that went right, sending us into the spiral of blame. Blame yourself, others, the dog and the environment.

We need to reject our old beliefs of “I can’t do this” or “He’ll never be trained”, replacing them with “Their is a solution” and “I need to find the right way to solve this”.

You can lay blame on yourself from over working, from setting unrealistic standards or goals, and comparing yourself to others. This self criticism will attempt to destroy your work towards change or bettering your training. Getting past it can be tough but accepting your weaknesses as well as strengths, make them less scary. Remove that self critical voice, and making a mental list of all the things that are going well  with the training, and focus on that.

Uncertainty within your training can create an internal conflict, but it can also be a change to experiment and learn. Reasonable options might not always work, but there are other options. We turn to trail and error with our dog training, this can work in some cases but often it leaves our dogs confused and without consistency. It also drains us emotionally and mentally, turning each session into a workout for your brain.

Learning from mistakes and trying little things one a time, often lead to the right result. A side effect of failure is innovation. See each little failure as a way to build and improve the training you are doing, as well as help innovate your own self.

Anything that goes awry is progress, it might not be in the direction you wanted but it is progress. We can’t predict each training session as there are many factors out of our control, but regardless of it each walk is a training session. Setting us to learn from, good and bad. A Bad walk can help us pinpoint the areas we need to focus on, a good walk helps boost those focus areas.

Dog training isn’t easy. It can lead to tears, arguments, frustration and a breakdown in relationships not only with your dog, but also your family and friends. I often think people are shocked at how much something that was destined to join their life to make it better often makes it worse, until we find the solution to the problem.

Dog training always has a solution, but it isn’t always what is expected. Thinking outside the box and understanding your dog better is often the best way to find a solution. Understanding is learning, and learning about your dog. Its habits, and real motivations, not the ones we want them to have. Looking at your dog as the same as others, using food when your dog isn’t motivated by it, or using your behaviour as a reward in the wrong way.

The main point to all blog post is this. Don’t let yourself stand in the way of your dog training goals, and journey. There is a solution to every problem, but sometimes there needs to be failure to be learned from.

Kathryn Jones FdSc AAB
NTIPDU, MoGDT, ABDT, CFBA, IACP
http://www.cleverfoxcanine.com – A Clever Approach to Dog Training and Behaviour

Investing in YOUR Canine Education

When you start training your dog, you are investing in your relationship together. Building the bond, and teaching them about the world they are in.

So why are you going in blind? I see so many owners teaching their dogs things, but without the knowledge themselves. Watching things on TV, or reading books is very different to applying it in the real world. It seems a very long winded and difficult way to do dog training, when you have other options there to guide you though the whole process.

There is very limited advice for you as dog owners, aimed at education before getting a dog (I’m working on this!). But that is a crap excuse for not get help as soon as you get that puppy, re-home or rescue. There is so much education going on for when you add a dog to your life, such as classes, webinars, Facebook groups and one to one training.

My biggest gripe and why I’m writing this blog is to urge people to get educated in the issues their breed faces, what a dog could have training issues in and understanding the dog is more than an ornament programmed to do what you want. Understanding your dog as a dog.

So many people contact me saying they are struggling with things like recall or lead manners but they are trying to train their dog in a way that doesn’t suit the breed. Training a Spaniel with food can be done, but so many are prey motivated that they leg it off. There is no treat good enough for a recall from a fresh bunny on the move. BUT if you have a puppy you’ve trained on play with you to pent up prey drive, you tend to have a much better chance of getting that recall around distractions. This is because you are controlling the prey they want, be that a ball, tugger or disc. The toy comes through you so why would they go else where?

Some breeds prefer reward from you in the form of eye contact, verbal and physical praise. These might be your more people based breeds such as Doberman, Shitzus and Collies. These breeds can’t always be bribed with food and thrive on consistent and calm behaviour from their owners, calm and confident can’t really happen if you are not sure what you are actually doing in dog training.

Education can come from speaking to other dog owners before getting a certain breed, or meeting breeders who are passionate about their puppies and breed. These people are the people in the know, they live with and own these dogs. They are often very honest and to the point about the breeds good and bad points. They will point you in the right direction for advice, and knowledge.

Seeking professional help is right, but it can be so very wrong if you go to the wrong person for you. Talk to the trainer/behaviourist first, before you commit to anything. Speak to someone who actually knows how to teach, lots of people in the canine world are fantastic with dogs, and have terrible people skills. Call them up and ask questions, ask what they are achieved with their own dogs and clients. Look for real experience and training, instead of a cheap price. This is your future you are investing in, do not skimp on the education you and your dog will be getting.

Dog trainers are training you to train your dog. It is a weird concept, as you call in a plumber to fix the boiler, not to give you the advice on how to fix it as well as a plan on how it can be done, and then demonstrate it. They fix it. Dogs are so different from any other part of the family and household, they need specialist considerations which means a different way of learning for you, as well as the dogs. Think of dog training as learning a new job, your learning new skills and applying them to the job at hand. The biggest issue is the dog has its own mind about things, so its not just applying knowledge but it is also about adapting and building on that knowledge to match your dogs change.

It is TOUGH! Being a dog owner is one of the toughest things in the world. You are there to look after this being that needs you, but also doesn’t understand your world and often not even their own if they haven’t been socialised. These tail wagging, slobbering and bouncy beings are there because we choose to have them, not the other way around. We owe it to them to educate ourselves about how they learn, how they understand the world and how they want to live, instead of fumbling about missing ways of preventing issue that stress us and the dog out.

Go educate yourself as a dog owner, or future dog owner. No matter how many dogs you have owned, there is always new knowledge out there. Investing in your education, is investing in your dogs happiness, as well as your own. There are books, webinars, online coaching, one to one training, classes, telephone consults, workshops, breed seminars, behaviour seminars, experienced owners, breeders, and the internet. While it can be overwhelming to start, it soon makes more sense and broadens your horizons in order to benefit you.

Invest in that knowledge and then apply it. Lots of dog owners think 8 weeks of training is enough to build a bond forever and have a well trained dog, its more like 8 years of hard work and bond building. Once you know what your doing keep applying it daily, re training the things you know to build on and further your relationship. Keep the basics in every training session you do, and apply it to real life.

Invest in your education, to better your future together.

Kathryn Jones FdSc AAB

A Clever Approach to Dog Training and Behaviour

http://www.cleverfoxcanine.com

Dog Training Classes or One to One Consults? – Which one is best for you, and your dog?

Many dog owners are faced with the choice of one to one training, behaviour modification, or classes in a bid to help with issues such as recall, reactivity, and focus.
Classes are readily available and frequent. Offering owners the structure in training they might often need. An hour a week to focus on you, and your dog. Around other dogs. Often seen as the best way to “socialise” your dog around other dogs, and get focus under distraction.
Classes are ideal for owners wanting to further their skills as owners and, work in an environment that is consistent and progressive, but it can also be a confined mosh pit of pulling to get to another dog. Feeling like a failure as Max the Springer can’t do what Lola the Schnauzer can. Your dogs feeling of being trapped, dictated to and only learning to perform in the class, or at the worst reinforcing fear, anxiety and aggression as coping mechanisms.
Classes have their place, and should be a must for many dog owners, as they provide the supported structure that many dog owners need. Set times per week that you train with your dog, really needed in this day and age where we don’t always get the time we want with our dogs to train them. Classes are more than sit stays, they’re opportunities to learn new skills. Nose work, trick training, agility, fly ball, rally or disk dogs. They provide a way for owners to try new things, and push themselves out of their comfort zone. They also provide a social connection with other dog owners, meeting like minded people. Maybe those with the same breed, same goals or just similar personalities.
Classes create a way for you to push your boundaries and build your bond with your dog in a supervised way. Trainers instructing the class can spot issues as they happen, and see the progress each week. Classes can also provide a lot of conflict. Conflict when your dog can’t focus in such a highly enriching environment. Conflict when you can’t get your dog to do what others can. Conflict when your dog won’t perform the same out on walks. Conflict when you want more help but don’t want to ask, or feel like your’re not being listened to in a group. Conflict when the trainer can’t meet all the needs of the individuals in the group. Conflict when your dog gets worse not better. Classes are 90% not the place for dog-reactive dogs. Its like putting them in a mosh pit, or prison riot. Enclosed space; dogs being “friendly” when entering your dogs personal bubble, owners not understanding that your dog needs space; instructors often just leaving you to your own devises because they can’t accommodate you in the class environment. This often leaves the owner disheartened, the dog can also start to recognise the class environment as stressful, and begin to preempt the worry with stressful behaviour outside of class such as mouthing the lead, barking or urinating.  But some classes can suit the reactive dog, like tracking classes where there is space. Many halls are just too small to provide enough space, and the strong smells and noise affect the dogs greatly.
Training indoors is convenient, warm and predictable. But unfortunately life isn’t like that, and often dogs will perform beautifully in the training hall but struggle outside. Leaving owners baffled why their dogs are “choosing” to ignore them. While many venues might have a lot of smells and sounds, they are predictable. Dogs love predictable and can focus in a predictable environment. The walks in the fields, pavements or beaches aren’t predictable and your dog will get focused on what catches its attention most.
One to one training can have loads of positives that help dog owners succeed. Training alone is hard, but enlisting a trainer or behaviourist to help can mean tackling problems with support, knowledge, and the right tools for success. Training with someone on your own means you get 100% of their attention. A pin point focus on you and your dog, building the bond with the information tailored to you. Every dog and every owner has different learning styles, and in a class environment it is difficult to suit them all.
Experienced and educated one to one trainers will work towards your goals, using the right methods. This does mean finding a trainer who actually has qualifications or experience in teaching, as many don’t in the dog training world. Being good with only dogs, not people in some cases. A good one to one session will involve you starting with limited distractions then adding them in at your pace. Especially for dogs lacking focus. Focus needs to be reinforced and built up over time, classes can throw you in the deep end. Where as in a one to one set up, sessions can add in the distractions as and when you progress through the training. This helps you learn in your own time, keeps your dogs stress below the threshold and increases his/her learning capacity.
There’s no comparison in 121 training, no Suzie next to you with Polly Poodle walking to heel, while your Beagle still thinks it can smell food from yesterday’s WI meeting. It is individual to your breed, dogs personality and your learning style. You can ask questions, try different things and do it at your pace. Comparisons put extra pressure on you to gain certain things. Things that might be out of your grasp at the start but achievable after a little work. This pressure increases your stress, which can lead to you being erratic, moody and possibly lashing out at your dog. None of which are helpful to training. One to one training can spot and cure behaviour issues before they happen.
They are also perfect for dogs with dog to dog issues, or fear issues as they are working on a low stress basis and many good dog trainers have excellent stooge dogs for building dog to dog confidence. This kind of focused training means you can try out different techniques that might distract others in a class environment. Such as play toys, whistle training, squeaky toys or throwing balls. One to one training is obviously slightly more costly, but on the other hand you get one to one attention, and for personalised training it isn’t as much as it seems. Classes cost on average between £5 and £10 a class, where as one to one training is considerably more; however, you are paying for considerably more in terms of time, coaching, expertise and improvement.
Dog training classes are often run by people interested in dogs, such as a dog enthusiast, someone who has done a little agility training or attended up to Gold Level Obedience. They have knowledge, they have skills, but they are not really qualified or experienced to deal with teaching groups, all levels of experience and different breeds. Training classes can be run by qualified trainers and behaviourists, and you’ll generally see the price go up to match the skill level your receiving. Also they tend to be specialist classes such as for reactive dogs, problem solving or more fun classes like advanced clicker training. Invest in what suits your dog, not you.
Money might be a factor but we all find the money to buy luxuries such as a new pair of jeans or boots, that latest gadget. Investing in a little more than a months classes can set you up for a lifetime of enjoyment with your dog, instead of a limited fix to what could be a bigger issue.
In summary you will need to make your own choice about things and see what suits you, and your dog. Sometimes that takes a little trial and error, but it always come right in the end. Never stick with what you don’t enjoy or feel comfortable with.
Kathryn Jones FdSc AAB
NTIPDU MGoDT
A Clever Approach to Dog Training and Behaviour

Rewarding or Releasing Behaviour in Dog Training?

A basic mistake in dog training I think all dog owners have made is to reward a dog too early, and accidentally release it from what your doing.  A common and good example I see is on the recall. The owner is calling their dog back, and as the dog is running towards them they shout, “GOOD DOG”, and the dog then runs off in the opposite direction, leaving a very frustrated owner (By now screaming “COME HERE POPPY!!!”) and a happy dog thinking it has done the right thing.

Here is what is going on, so when we get any dog, be that a puppy or a rescue we always start training in some way. Mainly it is the sit, we get them to sit then reward them with the “Good Dog”, then allow them to get up for a fuss, or walk away from what you’re doing. Releasing them from the exercise. You are telling the dog they are doing it right, so creating a learned behaviour, you are also accidentally teaching them that that combination of words means you’re finished now. This comes in to play a problem as the dog is off lead more or working away from the owners even in the home. When your dog is not directly focusing on you for one to one training and is distracted by the environment it is most certainly going to be seeing the “Good Dog” as a release word in order to do what they want, as well as please you. We see it as encouragement as that is how we interpret it.

We are the teachers of our dogs, and we need to get into their head a little bit and understand how they understand us.

Efficient and reliable dog training for any command requires you to put in the basics, and the mechanics for all the training. A good reward word, a good encouragement word/voice, and an actual release word.

To combat the reward word becoming a release, keep repeating the word along side the command. An example would be “Sit, Gooood Dog, Sit, Gooood Dog”, rewarding with longer words than short sounds are slightly less exciting, and less likely to pull the dog out of the position you want them in. Reward them for staying where they are. This elongation of words allows you to encourage the right behaviour from your dog, rather than them moving off every 10 seconds and you becoming frustrated. I sometimes also use a separate encouragement word such as “GoGo” to help maintain a behaviour at speed, like a recall. I am not releasing them from what were doing, but instead encouraging it.

An actual release word should be taught during training and is easy to teach. I do some basic training, such as the sit or down, and once I want the dog to be released from this training. I use a word such as “Ok” and walk away from the dog or throw a treat/toy for the dog to play with away from what they were doing. Do this for short time periods, then build it up over time. It is important that you allow the dog to do what it wants during these periods of time, and call them to re engage when your ready for them. What you are creating is a taught release, so the dog waits for you to release them instead of them deciding to move away. The release command is a consistent signal that you have finished training/focusing, the dog can do what they want. This can be used for training, or on normal walks where when you are walking throw in the “Ok” to allow the dog to sniff the grass, greet another dog or walk away off lead. If your dog doesn’t want to, then they don’t have to.

What I have found both as a professional, and as a dog owner myself that the power of being consistent to these words training has a massive impact not only on your dog, but also on the way you interact with your dog daily. Giving you the empowerment to head into situations and know how to continue your training, and know your dog is focusing on you for the time you need. It greatly improves recall, and focus around other dogs for some dogs.

This blog post is a little intro into the difference and training, rather than a full on guide. Its easier to show the training, then write it down. It is hopefully going to make your think about what your dog might actually know, rather than what you think it knows, or thinks about the words you are saying. No dog is too old to learn the difference between the release word and reward. Rewarding a dog is easy, but pin pointing the right behaviour is hard as dogs behaviour changes from second to second. Consistency is key, and always being 100% sure in your head what behaviour you are rewarding, as well as aiming for as an outcome.

In summary, use a word to reward and encourage the right behaviour, and teach a release word to end the training or interaction, an off the dog a way to do what they want to do. Think dog, and think human. No one wants to, or can focus all the time. Why should your dog?

Kathryn Jones FdSc AAB

NTIPDU/MGoDT

A Clever Approach to Dog Training and Behaviour

http://www.cleverfoxcanine.com