Being a responsible dog owner means taking care to invest in your animal’s wellbeing with regular visits to the vet, exercise, training, and solid nutrition.Continue...
The fur-raising words have just left your mouth. “Do you want to go for a walk?” If you’re like most dog owners, you’ll get a reaction from your pup similar to a group of 5th grade children lining up for dismissal! I imagine if dogs could talk they would reply “try and stop me”. What usually happens next is a quick dash to the door. Can we blame them? Dogs learn quickly of the exciting life that awaits them on the other side of the doorway. The value of being outside is most important to them at that moment. What they don’t understand is there are a number of reasons flying out the door can be dangerous. If you have ever had a dog door dash away from your home to chase a rabbit, or to see a neighbor across the street, then you understand the how terrifying that is.
The good news is by adding specific training exercises, you can help guide your dog to make a better choice when the door swings open. These are things that we do most days with our dogs, but with a twist. In my home I want the training that I do to be disguised as a game. Dogs love games! They have fun and are learning at the same time.
Remember that no two dogs are alike and they respond to training differently. There will days that you are training and it will feel like you are only spinning your wheels. This is perfectly normal and happens often! We want to be sure that any mistake is not met with a harsh tone towards your dog. Encouraging words that will add to their confidence is a better route to take when they mess up. I use words like “try again” or “ohhh so close” to help them want to stay in the game. We all make mistakes and dogs are no different. So let’s get to a couple ideas you can work on at home.
Each time you feed your dog there is a training opportunity built right in. My dogs act as if they have never seen food before so I use this impulse control method early in their lives. When you get to the place they usually eat, ask them for a sit and then a stay(or wait). As you begin to put the bowl on the ground you will be looking for them to continue the sit/stay. If their hind end comes off the ground, lift the bowl up and tell them “try again”. Repeat the steps until your dog stays sitting as the bowl is placed on the ground. Then, wait for them to look up at you, then release with the word “OK”. Having your dog look up at you for permission to get their food or go through a door is a fabulous way to work on impulse control and will help in other areas such as door dashing. Some dogs may need a little more practice but the end results will be well worth it!
If you have used crate training as a way to keep your pup safe, you can begin the door dashing training today. For this training, you’ll need some really tasty treats(beef, cheese) and your crate. I like to train first thing in the morning before my dog has had a morning meal.
Step1- Ask your dog to go to his/her crate and when they do be sure to reward them. Reach to back of the crate and pay them when they are standing or sitting. Shut the crate then reopen and reward them, once again towards the back of their crate. If your dog tries to run out of the crate quickly shut the door. That is instant feedback to your dog! When they try to make a run for it and the door closes! We are giving value to the back part of the crate and away from the door. Repeat this 10 times. Stop here for now. Return to this later in the day or the very next morning.
Step 2- Start with a review of step 1-This time we will only open the door and pay them when they are sitting. Here you will need some patience but it will work and you’ll see how brilliant your dog can be! See what your dog does simply when your hand is on the crate latch. There is no need to ask for a sit right now. We want your dog to make the choice to sit on their own and when they do, reward them and let them know how amazing and smart they are! Repeat this step as many times as you can in 3-5 minutes.
Step 3- As you start to see some progress with this exercise you can now make it a little harder for them. This time as your hand touches the crate door and your dog sits, slowly open the door but this time wait a few seconds before paying. Repeat this and be sure you are paying each time! See if you stretch it to 10, 20 or 30 seconds over the course of a week. I use the word “okay” to let them know they can release from the crate. This is the impulse control we are looking for! The key to this is not rushing your dog through this training. If they are having some trouble it is perfectly fine to go back a step or, end the session and come back the next day.
Let’s put his all together and start to ask your dog for some control each time you are taking them outside. Remember that to a dog, being outside is where the value is! They will be rewarded if they can show some self control. Place your dog in a sit/stay and when your hand is on the door latch slowly being to push it open. This is the moment that your dog is either going to look up at you and wait for you to release them or begin to stand up with anticipation, so be ready! If there is any movement and their butt lifts up just close the door. This is instant feedback to your pup. Once you can get the door open with them sitting go ahead and let them know its “ok” to get up. It will take a little practice but combining the above training ideas to your daily dog routine will help with their impulse control.
There is comfort knowing that your dog can be trained to make better choices around your home. Stay positive, be consistent and keep your communication with them straightforward and simple so they will not become confused. Remember dogs learn at their own pace and not ours. Have fun while trying out these new ideas!