Every day is a training day
Our dog’s most exciting time of the day is walk time. It can be a little hectic getting three dogs ready to go out when they are just so full of enthusiasm. Wouldn’t it be nice if our dogs could be ready and wait nicely so that we can leave in a calm and focused manner, then be attentive to us when we are out?
Often the excitement and arousal that you get when your dog is outside builds up at home with the anticipation of the walk. After all it’s the best part of their day, all that running and chasing, all those birds – what’s not to like…? In a dog’s world it’s that simple, but in our world we have to ask a lot more of them and set them up for success.
I don’t want to be a party pooper, but it’s not necessarily safe or appropriate to allow dogs’ free access to everything that they want at the moment that they desire it, chasing seagulls, running off to join a playing dog, or terrorising jogger on your beach walk, would soon gain you a bad reputation and be out of favour with the local community! I am certainly not a fan of “incoming” dogs that leave their owners miles away and gatecrash our party!
But with three high drive dogs that really want that chase and play, what is the best thing to do?
My dogs are all bred to work and will make choices that are rewarding for them. I have a German Shepherd – she loves to herd… anything, a working line Labrador that will hunt and retrieve until she drops and a working cocker spaniel who is a 10 month old hunting chasing whirling dervish!
Principals of choice
Who can remember being told “… if you want your pudding you have to eat your greens first…!”
I certainly can, and we learned happily to eat our greens with our eyes firmly on the reward….our dessert!
Dogs have many choices in life, and they don’t always make the right ones unless we intervene. Hiro is so full of excitement before we go for a walk that he jumps all over Juno. We have been working on the principal of choice. He has been learning the value of giving me a less rewarding behaviour, such as look at me, and sit between my feet, to get what he desires at that time.
I asked for a position that he has been continuously rewarded for in the highly exciting situation before a walk. He happily offered this. He was rewarded with food and then we went to get into the car…
He happily offered me a less rewarding behaviour because historically he knew it would be followed by a more rewarding behaviour
Juno was also happy with this arrangement, as I continuously rewarded her for calm behaviour in a situation that had previously been quite upsetting for her.
So on with our walk and for the purpose of this blog we will continue with Hiros tale.
I eluded earlier to this young man’s delight in the chase and recently he has been discovering the delights of seagulls – those big white birds that sit around and then if you run at them… they FLY whoop whoop !! In a spaniels world it couldn’t get much better!
We have worked with Hiro’s chase and play games, he likes to play with everything as I have built up the value of tug toys, kong balls. Each game that we play it involves both of us – we swap toys for food, toys for raggy games and toys for the continuation of the game with another toy… its all just FUN for Hiro. All the time he is learning.
Here is a little demonstration of him offering me a REVERSE before I follow up with the throw of the ball
Hiro Gets His Dessert!
This is all building up to Hiro’s chase game, in order for me to harness his chasing drive every time I call Hiro with a special high pitched sound he knows that this is the cue for a ball to be thrown, or a toy to be swapped because we have repeated this over and over. I have now transferred this to a Frisbee – what a wonderful toy, soft enough to have a game of tug with and it FLIES!
We can now swap chasing the seagulls for chasing the Frisbee because Hiro knows that when I call it is the start of OUR game and NOT the stopping of the chase. He will experience all the thrill of the chase in a safe and controlled way.
This video is a little small but you get the idea, there are huge distances involved here as spaniels range quite far. It is such a joy to see this little dog responding happily.
We continue our games and I’ll keep you updated