Archive for the ‘Basic Training’ Category
Thousands of dogs are lost each year in the UK and many never reunited with their owners due to having no identification. Microchipping is the safest way to ensure they can always get back to you when lost.
Microchipping is cheap, harmless, and takes seconds. A small chip (the size of a grain of rice) will be implanted into the back of your dog’s neck with a unique number on it. This procedure will take place with them fully awake and is very similar to giving an injection, so dogs tolerate it incredibly well. The unique microchip number is then stored on a central database with your name and address details attached.
If your dog then gets lost and is found by a veterinary practice, rescue centre, dog warden or the police, your dog will be scanned and the microchip located. The organisation will then contact the microchip company, get your details, and give you a call to collect your dog.
SPECIAL OFFER: Llys Nini RSPCA has a special offer on to microchip your dragon (or cat, dog or rabbit) for just £12.50 during the Six Nations – no appointment needed, open 11am – 3.45pm every day except Wednesdays. Remember a dragon, like all pets, is for life.
Heads up to dog owners everywhere. Firework season is about to start to mark tomorrow’s Diwali celebrations. Are you prepared? Keep all pets indoors out of harms way and cover any hutches and coop windows to filter the flashes.
Do not comfort a nervous or frightened dog. Instead ignore any signs of fear and carry on as normal. Comforting will reward your pooch for his behaviour and he will become more frightened.
Shut all curtains tight to block out the flash. Leave lights on to disguise the rest.
Turn music or TV up a notch to help mask the sounds. Leave it on a little later if necessary.
Ensure your dog has somewhere to go if he does feel a little nervous, under a table or in their crate would be good. Don’t lock them in and leave them alone.
Take your dog on a longer than usual walk before dusk. This helps relax him and will allow him to sleep. It will also limit necessary toilet breaks.
Before letting him into a garden to toilet, double check your neighbours aren’t about to launch a rocket.
Stay safe and good luck!
By night, it’s easy to keep the dogs off the master bed with perseverance and self-discipline. To a dog, something can only be owned if it is within his vicinity, so when you are in bed, he can be taught to respect that. Once you’re up and away from it, your bed can become the dogs playground!
One option (often the best) is just to shut the door with them out. For many this isn’t going to work, or just isn’t viable, and that’s where this idea comes in.
I currently have three dogs in the house, one is brand new and we’re only sitting her for a week. She is used to being permitted free access to all furniture. Retraining her for just a few days of clean bed sheets just isn’t going to pay off. Instead, we need another solution. I can’t shut the door at the moment as due to space, all dog beds are in the bedroom and I don’t want dogs fighting over the limited space and one remaining bed in my office next door. On occasion, I foster dogs from our local animal rescue or babysit for friends (hoping they will one day do the same) so I always keep a spare sheet under the bed. In the morning I simply wake up, air the bed while we go out for a walk, then cover the whole bed in the spare sheet. When they do decide to jump up and rub their saliva drenched faces across the bed, and try digging under the pillows, all mess gets stuck to the new sheet which can just be peeled off later.
The keen eyed of you will notice the hygiene consequences of this. By adding another sheet you’re restricting airflow in the part you physically sleep in, it is therefore even more important to ensure it has a good airing before and after covering to ensure completely dry and that you do change the sheets a little more often than usual to avoid nasties building up in the dark.
I’m currently babysitting a friend’s Yorkshire Terrier Lola. Her house training has always been all over the place and despite my best efforts, her owner seems to have given up instead resorting to covering her house in puppy training pads… Lola is nearly 18 months… this has got to stop!
Lolas owner went home for a few weeks so I interrupted and took the dog on, and rather than dictate to you how to house train a dog, I will tell you exactly what I’m doing including any failures, mistakes and joys so that you can not only take the information away, but know for a *fact* that it works.
There are a few rules however before starting out:
- There will almost certainly be mistakes, a good carpet shampooer, white vinegar and a mop are essential for ones sanity.
- NEVER punish a dog for making a mistake. It’s YOUR mistake, not hers.
- Don’t give up! Be patient and keep at it. With time, a dog will housetrain themselves, we’re just speeding up the process so unless you’re doing everything wrong, it will happen.
- NEVER rub your dog’s nose in her mess, she will not understand why you’re scolding her, it will just make her fearful and more likely to eliminate through stress. This old fashioned technique may work at times, but it’s not fair on the dog, remember, the mistake is yours not hers.
So here’s my time line as the days roll on:
Day 1: (13th March 2011)
Picked up a dog crate in the morning, it has enough space for Lola to be able to turn round and make herself comfortable. I placed her blankets inside and left it in the lounge with the door open for her and my own dog Jake to investigate and get used to. A few hours later, I lured her inside with treats and experimented with shutting the door for a few seconds to minutes at a time, rewarding her for her patience.
Took both dogs out for a long walk in the woods in the early afternoon. We were out for nearly three hours to ensure she was tired. When we came home, I encouraged her to sleep in the crate with the door open. She slept for a few hours.
She then snuck out silently to have a pee in the hallway.
That evening before bed, I took her for a short walk to encourage outside toileting, she had another pee which was met with lots of praise and a reward. I lured her back into the crate but this time shut the door. She started whining (her owner allows her to sleep in her bed so this is all very new to her). I moved the crate closer to the bed, she still whined. I covered the crate with a blanket and she went to sleep.
Many people disagree with the crate or dog cage idea. I should note that the dog cage is not to be used for punishment or as a prison, it is just a dog bed with a door. This technique is proven to be the most effective for house training as dogs will instinctively prefer not to soil their own beds. If they do make this mistake, they will learn very quickly but so should you! She was left in too long! Keep them locked in overnight and when you leave the house for short periods. (Longer than an hour and it would be better to leave the dog with someone else.) A substitute for the crate is a leash tether, but do not leave your dog unattended for ANY length of time as this risks the dog getting tangled and strangling itself or even injuring himself in panic when it tangles his legs. By crate training your dog, you start every day with a moment where you KNOW she needs to go and complete control over ‘how’ and ‘where’.
Lola woke up for a whine a few times in the night, I patiently ignored it despite the bags forming under my eyes. She normally went somewhere in the house at about 7 in the morning so I got up and dressed at 7:30. This ensured she needed to go, but didn’t make her desperate enough to go in her own bed. I then took her to a designated spot in the garden and walked around for a few minutes. After 2 minutes she did a 2 (lots of praise and a tripe treat reward) and tried to come back inside. Knowing she hadn’t finished, I kept walking in circles and eventually she squatted for a wee, again lots of praise, strokes and treats. We came in and I left her off-lease for 3 hours knowing I was safe. After that time, I will take her outside on leash to see if she goes, and then keep her tethered to me so I can keep an eye on her. I don’t know her schedule so will try hourly from there to see. Puppies will need much less time between trips, new puppies usually take 30-45 minutes between toileting, then add approximately 15 minutes per additional week of age or one hour per month as a general rule. If this is too short ot too long, adjust it for your dog. Don’t wait for dog to tell you, take her outside to do it. If she doesn’t, try again in 5-60 minutes depending on age.
Don’t wait for the dog to tell you when she needs to go. Pre-empt it and you will learn from each other. Never leave a tethered dog unattended. Always keep access to water when crated or leashed.
12:20pm I’ve taken Lola out every hour since breakfast and she’s not going in or out. She’s been going into her crate all morning so we’ve been alternating crate and leash control. I’ve noticed she tends to leave the room to eliminate so I’ve removed the leash and kept the office door closed (with us inside) to prevent tangling and constant crating. She’s getting a little restless so will go out on a walk shortly.
15:10pm Back from the park and she’s gone straight to her crate in the office to sleep. Door shut, wait for her to wake up.
19:10pm Walked both dogs to the local shop for a 15 minute toilet break. Lola still didn’t go… arrived home and decided to let her out into the back garden. She went out as I walked into the lounge… and saw a wet patch! First of the day! After vacuuming it up, I’ve moved her bed next to where she normally pees in the lounge to help show her that it is also bed area (this worked to housetrain Jake, moving his bed around showed that every room is a potential bed and therefore not a toilet). Brought her in from the garden (not much point in her being there as she would probably agree) Will see how it goes. Her next wee should be near midnight or beyond so will keep her loose until dinner at least and crate her over night. If we can limit today to just one pee. It’s a huge improvement on yesterday, believe me!
Got through another dry evening and she’s now tucked up in her crate.
After yesterday’s mistake, she’s not leaving my sight. Woke up, my wife took her outside, she had a pee, but no poo yet. Have her with me in the house on a leash. I have lots of office work to do this week which is handy so I’ll rarely need to leave without her.
12:30pm – She finally did a poo outside. I didn’t have my treats on me so I gave lots of praise and played a little game of chase (her chasing me to avoid making her think I’m trying to punish her)
18:00pm – Back from an hour walk in Singleton. She peed twice and pooed once. I gave her praise and treats every time, So far still dry inside! She’s currently off leash playing with Jake, but once she finishes playing she may need to go so keeping a close eye on her.
20:00pm – Lola was crated, resting since returning from the park but started to look restless. I took her out on leash, walked back and forth over Jake’s spots allowing her to sniff when she wanted. 7 minutes later she peed outside! Result! This was the one we missed last night. One more before bed and if we’re lucky, our first dry day!
11:40pm – took my eye off the ball, wet patch right in front of me in the lounge. Just 20 minutes left of the day… right, tomorrow!
Punishing or correcting your dog for mistakes won’t teach her not to go indoors, it will teach her not to go near you… and she will take that lesson outside and not go when you’re watching making your life harder. If you catch her, intercept it, shout ‘Sausages’ and run away, hopefully she’ll stop and chase you into the garden (use a leash if not secure). Why ‘Sausages’? It’s very hard to sound angry when shouting sausages :)
Morning routine is getting better. Out of the crate, straight to the garden. Still took a few minutes for her to figure out why but one wee. Spent a little longer to see if she would poo but nothing. An hour later, we went out again and there it was. So far so good. She’s currently free in the house but will tether her shortly. Will keep yesterday’s pattern going but will hopefully manage to break the evening accidents.
She’s not currently showing any signs of wanting to go outside… may have to train her into doing something specific.
7pm – Not long back from a nice walk with some locals and their dogs for some socialisation, we’re still dry inside and Lola is currently sleeping in her crate. I’ve shut the door to keep an eye on her as she has a habit of sneaking quietly away to do her business. I’m staying in the same room so will be able to watch for signs of restlessness. I gave her a later walk this evening to see if she can stay settled for longer this evening. When settled, she can be confined but she tends to start playing with Jake while we’re watching TV and that’s when my attention slips. Remember the crate is a bed with a door, not a prison. The key part of crate training is that she likes using it, and will sleep in there voluntarily. If she associates it with negative feelings, she may soil her bed and it will be very uncomfortable for both of us trying to get her in. After day 1, everytime I shut the door, it’s only after she’s gone in herself. I only physically put her in there on day 1 to help associate it with treats and occasionally at night when she tries to sleep in the wardrobe (don’t ask)
00:40 our first dry day! Took Lola out every hour when I suspected she was ready and kept a very close eye on her indoors. Result! Not habit yet but a wonderful start.
Giving Lola a little more freedom as she was happily sunbathing on the back doorstep… Started out in the same way, she still has a long sniff in the morning before peeing, but she is gradually getting quicker. Early afternoon she’s happily sleeping in her open crate in the office. So far so good yet. No poo yet though so will keep an eye out.
Pooed a little late today, but again outside. With her new found freedom we still haven’t had any problems although it may be too early to state this categorically. Took her out before bed, she took about 5 minutes but eventually peed! Crated over night and another dry day!
Kept to same routine but with more freedom. We’re keeping the lounge door shut as this was her favourite toileting place. She’s still locked in the crate overnight, but now with no restrictions during the day. Another dry day.
Keeping to same routine and so far still dry. Left crate unlocked over night but bedroom door closed. Next morning she went out side, had a wee and came in. After breakfast she went out, had a poo and came running up to me like she’d laid a golden egg. Of course every day for the past week, that’s how I’ve treated her ;) today she showed me that she had finally got it.
I’ll end the experiment here. Any problems and I’ll post. Lola has access to the whole house bar the lounge, I’m no longer locking her crate. I will start phasing the crate out and turning it into a normal dog bed, she’s found her way into sleeping in the bottom of the wardrobe anyway so I’ll have to stop that first as she obviously prefers the enclosed space (which is why crate training isn’t cruel when done right). Tomorrow, I will introduce the bed, next to her crate and block off the wardrobe. A few days later I will swap the bed and crate locations and lock her crate BEFORE she goes in forcing her to use the bed and see how she reacts. After a few nights, she should quickly adapt.
For the next couple of weeks, I’m going to keep rewarding her for going outdoors while ignoring any accidents (or intercepting them if I catch her in the act.)
So what’s my secret? I set Lola up to succeed. I didn’t make it difficult for her by leaving her at home on her own for long periods, I didn’t give her house freedom to choose where and when to go, if I needed to leave her alone for a couple of hours or more, I would have walked her first making her tired and giving her the chance to go. Then I would have crated her with a chew toy or bone. I made sure I set the standard in the morning when we KNOW she needs to go. We made a HUGE fuss of her every time she did it outdoors, without exception! If we didn’t have treats to hand, it would be a playful stroke or little game. Finally, we selected one part of the garden for her to do her business, this helped to build the association. We trained her to perform a specific action when we reached that spot at exact times.
So there we have it, seven days to house training. Feel free to comment, ask questions or even post suggestions or ideas of your own. Later I will post a blog about paper training using newspaper or puppy pads, this is a longer and more frustrating method but may be more practical in certain circumstances.
Day 1: 1 poo, several pees
Day 2: 0 poo, 1 wee
Day 3: 0 poo, 1 wee
Day 4: 0 poo, 0 wee
Day 5: 0 poo, 0 wee
Day 6: 0 poo, 0 wee
Day 7: 0 poo, 0 wee
Day 10: Since giving her more freedom, we’ve had one or two accidents, wees only so we’re going back a few steps. However, yesterday she showed the first real signs of ‘getting it’. We had just driven back from the beach, and she stopped in the front garden pulling back on the leash… I wasn’t sure what was up at first so went into the garden with her. Quick sniff, had a wee and then came inside as normal. This was the first time ever she had made a conscious decision not to go inside the house!
After surveying over 11,000 pet owners, the PDSA have compiled a report about pet health and welfare which gave dog owners a score of only 62/100 while our competitors (the cat owners) scored 65. Cat owners scored much higher on companionship despite dogs being ‘mans best friend’.
Some of their key findings are interesting, 37% of people transport their dog in the back seats or boots of their car without a safety harness, dog guard or similar safety device. In the event of an accident (or even an emergency stop) these animals would fly forward potentially injuring themselves or even hitting the driver and killing them both! A seatbelt harness is cheap, easy to install and will help to prevent such injuries. Dog guards are also inexpensive.
Only 75% of us walk our dogs daily, while a small proportion will have medical excuses, this is still far too low! Thankfully 58% of dog owners stated that 3 or more exercise activities (including walks) are available for our dogs each day. Lower than perfect, but meaning 58% of dogs have a wonderful time… is yours?
Dietwise, 29% of dogs are fed almost solely on food scraps and leftovers while only 16% feed quantities based on body weight or shape!
7% of dog owners give their dogs chocolate as a treat! Chocolate is highly toxic to dogs!
29% of dogs have never been given flea treatment. 14% have never been wormed and 10% aren’t even registered with a vet!
Anyway, the PDSA’s findings are interesting and it’s definitely worth a read. I can’t repost all the information or the pdf here for obvious reasons, so go to PDSA’s website and download from there.
With the car out of action, I arrived at my latest charge by bicycle. I was met with barking at the lounge window which was fairly normal, especially as it only started once I set foot into the garden with a strange metal contraption clicking away as I pushed it and stinking of oil, rust and garden shed.
The owner was at the door before I had even parked up and we went inside, a sign that she was very well trained. ;) I was told to brace myself as we entered and I did all the usual things. I stood still, facing away making no sound to avoid appearing as a threat, I avoided reacting in any way as he jumped, bit, scratched the backs of my legs as I knew he meant nothing by it in this instance. Out of the corner of my eye all I could see was the hind quarters of a beautiful Beagle wiggling and shakin as he investigated every smell on my clothing. I continued talking to his owner as we walked through to the kitchen, the jumping finally subsided and I was able to ask him to sit for a greet and a treat. Once calm, he was obedient, well trained and well looked after. He knew several basic commands which he fulfilled instantly.
The severity of this greeting however was so intense that simply ‘ignoring the behaviour’ was no longer an option. His claws were painful to me through jeans (and numb legs from cycling) and with summer coming up and more visitors wearing skirts, leggings or shorts, ignoring him was not going to be easy.
I went in and out a few times and discovered that he was fine with me rattling the gate, coughing on the doorstep and generally walking around outside, but as soon as I hit the doorbell, his legs started shaking, he started barking and going berserk even though he knew it was me. A plan of action was decided.
Step 1: Doorbell desensitisation
I went outside but stayed out of view and hit the doorbell while the dog’s owner settled him down, I waited for the signal that he was again calm and we repeated… and repeated… pretty soon he stopped getting so excitable. The doorbell was starting to mean something other than ‘INTRUDER!’. Once we had him more relaxed to the doorbell, the next step was to create a new action for him (now he was prepared to listen.)
Step 2: Keeping him calm as the guest enters
We picked a spot in the room which was comfortable for the dog (much of the floor was smooth and slippery, we found a rug corner worked well), a good distance from the door, but in a position where he could still see what was going on. We made him sit and stay while I walked through the door using treats and lures. If he moved, I would leave and shut the door immediately, if he stayed, I approached with praise and treats. The whole time owner was keeping him interested and rewarding him for the new ‘good’ behaviour.
Step 3: Keeping him calm as owner leaves
We repeated step 2 but this time owner leaves the dog to open the door for her guest. Again punishment for moving resulted in the door closing and the guest leaving. This method was working as the dog wanted to meet the guest and was excited. In a protection situation where the dog does NOT want the guest on his property, this leaving could actually reward rather than punish the behaviour. Similar to the dog vs the postman situation.
Step 4: Turning the whole thing into one action
As the pattern continues and he learns new habits we will add a command, typically ‘Place’ so that owner can instruct the dog on her way to the door to minimise the chances of her guests giving up and assuming she is not in.
Most of the above, particularly the doorbell desensitisation steps would need to be repeated as often as possible to change the pattern. We need to be wary of rewarding the dog for the behaviour we don’t want. Some keen eyed readers will spot other issues unaddressed in this blog, rest assured these are also being worked on but would mess an otherwise clean article.
Yesterday I have the privilege of meeting my first Hungarian Komondore. An absolutely adorable 1 year old puppy weighing in at roughly 45 kg! Due to his size, I was very relieved to find that he walked on leash politely, but he got spooked at strange times and we spent some time trying to find patterns. He would also growl and snap whenever someone approached him while eating and seemed intent on taking my arm off when I reached into the car to pet him.
Other than this he was a gorgeous bounding ball of fur. Each of the above problems needed to be dealt with in virtually the same way, but I’ll break it down because these are common issues.
When your dog growls, find out why and stop doing whatever you’re doing which caused it! He is not showing dominance or trying to lead the pack, he is simply telling you he’s not happy with what you’re doing. Don’t scold him or punish in any way for growling as he has shown you respect by not breaking the bones in your hand or tearing at flesh. If you scold the growl now, he’ll stop growling but in future will escalate straight to biting. When he growls, snaps or bites non-playfully. Take a step back, take a breath, think about what you did to cause it, and find another way to achieve your goal. A desensitisation program is also advisable to help avoid accidents in future.
It’s common for one dog to growl off a contending dog from his food. Dog two is naturally interested in dog one’s bowl but in most cases will back off to restore order until dog one vacates the space. When a human approaches the bowl however, this can be seen as the same challenge. Logically, to show him who’s boss, you should remove the bowl to leave him with nothing to guard, but here’s the problem: Dog is scared of losing his food so growls you off, his food gets taken away, his fear is proven and he’ll be even more wary or protective next time. Bad move.
Instead, put something INTO his bowl, reserve some of his food rations for this, approach carefully offering the food to him, and if you can placing it in his bowl. Do this every mealtime. (If your dog is snapping or you’re worried about getting bitten, call a professional to help you.)
Once you can place your hand into his bowl while eating (this could take weeks), take his bowl away while offering a high value food item. Once he’s finished eating, put the bowl back. Over time* he’ll WANT you to take his bowl away and the aggression should subside.
Some dogs growl and snap when being moved from place to place whether it’s a sofa, hearth rug or doorway. In our friend above’s case, he liked going to nice places in the car. When his owner arrived home however, he refused to leave. Trying to reach in to grab him was impossible as he would skip the growling and go straight into biting. The owner was in a very vulnerable position reaching into the car and the dog was adamant that he wouldn’t leave.
It seemed that reaching in and pulling him out was the previous solution which, like the food aggression was making things worse. Now doggy’s had enough! He doesn’t want to attack and bite, but by escalating to the bite, he doesn’t get moved. Three steps are now in place, first of all we found a great way to lure him out voluntarily, for the time being it works beautifully. The house is surrounded by fields, so there’s little danger of the dog getting into trouble. However we needed to work on some desensitisation again to avoid problems in future with relatives reaching in to pet him or just unloading their shopping. He didn’t react at all when I reached in with a protected arm, so we applied a muzzle and reached in holding food, we alternated the approach, we acted more aggressively, we reached in towards his collar, we jumped, we shouted, each time making contact but not pulling him out. Once I was happy, we repeated it without the muzzle and over the course of the session, he was becoming completely unphased by our approaches. We very quickly broke the association between the action of reaching in and the result of being uncomfortably dragged out. By the end of the session, I was able to climb into the boot with him and give him a hug. :)
Over time* he’ll look forward to people reaching in because it results in a reward rather than punishment.
General mood swings
Like the above, he had a particular fear of being painfully moved by his collar whenever he was in the way. One minute he was playing happily, the next he felt threatened, sometimes when I thrust a treat towards him, sometimes when I adjusted his collar or leash. Going for the collar is bad because he’s been dragged a few too many times, but it’s also the vulnerable throat area which he instinctively wants to protect. A course of desensitisation is in place as with the car and a complete ban applied to owners from dragging him around. The best way to move a dog is by making him want to move. It’s not always the quickest, but it is the best.
*A Warning (Over time)
We spent around an hour desensitizing him to these stimuli and by the end he was completely compliant and I trusted his reaction at that moment completely. It would be dangerously naive for me to think he will stay like this in another hour, tomorrow or next week. The muzzle has been left with his owner to continue the process every day up to and beyond the stage where he stops reacting completely every time. Once there, other members of the family will need to join in and potentially even strangers. He responded very quickly, but the process will go on for many weeks or even months before we can honestly say he’s completely over it.
If in doubt call someone who knows. Each case when unchecked would have become worse and worse until the dog became generally dangerous. Catching it this soon meant we could isolate the problems and work with him. Aggression in dogs is a serious problem and in nearly every case, it was preventable.
Dogs have an acute sense of hearing as given to them by their hunter forefathers. With most dogs we can watch their ears twitch like little satellite dishes homing in on the smallest of noises. We can watch them react to car doors outside, or the postman’s cough, squirrels chattering in the woods, even things we can’t hear ourselves… and then we start shouting at them to sit, stay, come etc.
First rule of verbal dog training, you really don’t have to shout. The only time your voice should get louder is when your dog is far away or if you need to get his attention as a matter of urgency. Indoors, when you have your dog’s attention, you need only the quietest whisper. The rest of the time you can use a volume lower than your normal talking voice. By using quieter tones you’ll find that you’ll save your voice, look and feel more in control and your dog will actually listen to your voice more intently. If you shout at him all the time, he knows he doesn’t need to pay attention until the windows start shaking.
The second rule of verbal dog training, is to alter the pitch and volume in the actual training process. Dogs do not respond to the word, they actually respond to a collection of sounds. We need to teach them that ‘come here’ in the kitchen means the same as ‘CAAAAARRRMMMM EEEAAR’ in the field.
As you practice various commands and associate words to the action, alternate the pitch and volume. Have other family members do the same in the same session so he gets used to different voices, pitches and emphases. If you listen to each family member, you should hear what I mean. Some people ask the dog to come with a slight pitch raise to the end suggesting ‘Come?’ others order the dog and lower their pitch. Some will sound happy and light while others will sound strict and authoritative.
For dogs going deaf – you will obviously increase the volume, but you don’t need to go over the top. I would also recommend moving on to visual cues if you haven’t already done so. A deaf dog is almost as easy to work with, the only real difficulty is getting her attention to start with, but there are tools available which while a little pricey will help.
Ending in an anecdote:
Beci our Cavalier was a rescue dog. She had spent her whole life with an elderly lady who doted on her. She really was treated like a princess and came to us with the most amazing temperament. Unfortunately her owner came down with dementia and poor Beci began to suffer. The family stepped in and decided it was time to let her go. Horrible for both parties but sometimes necessary.
While assessing her basic training knowledge, I couldn’t get her to respond to any standard commands. I honestly thought I was starting from scratch. Yovina my wife tried and she listened intently and performed everything that was asked of her. Sit, Stay, come and Paw. Back to me… nothing.
It was obvious that Beci wasn’t used to taking commands from men. I don’t have an overly deep voice but she simply didn’t understand my commands. So rather than starting again it was time to get her accustomed to my voice and my speaking tone as well as improving her response to my wife’s.
My first week of walks was great fun, I would call to my Labrador in the usual manly way: ‘SHADOW! COME!’ and would then have to adjust, clear my throat and put on my sweetest old welsh lady voice to call Beci; ‘Bec-kiiiii, cam’.
I turned some heads believe me :)
When walking your dog, there are a number of laws to follow, but equally there are so many grey areas I hope to clear up.
1 ) Always clear up your dog’s mess. (law)
Yes it’s biological, yes it will break down naturally if left for a couple of weeks but… Dog feces contain bacteria which are harmful not only to humans but also to other animals including dogs. There have been mystery illnesses killing dogs in various forests and more recently at the Sandringham estate. Collecting your dog’s waste will help prevent spreading of these diseases. If your dog trod in another’s waste, it could carry parasitic worms back home into your car and carpet, if the dog is medicated, your dog could end up ingesting some of this medication… and that’s ignoring the fact that it’s slippery to stand on and disgusting when you fall in it, or when a child falls in it, or decides to play with it.
Always carry plastic bags (freezer bags will do), always clean it up, and always put it into a bin. A dog waste bin is preferable, but there’ nothing wrong with using a normal bin if not available. If there are no bins, please do carry it home or to one, don’t blame the council or landowner for your laziness.
2 ) Keep your dog under control.
Dogs love to run, they love to chase and play, and this is ok providing you have some control. If your dog is running after a child’s football, you should be able to call him back to you. If he’s running around where children are playing, do the right thing and call him back. You may know he’s ok with children, but their parents don’t, and that can be scary. When parents watch you screaming and shouting for your dog to return and can see you have no control… their walk can be ruined and they will join a long line of non-dog-lovers campaigning to have our pets kept permanently on leash or worse muzzled. The more ammunition we give them, the weaker our case becomes.
3 ) Dogs must always be leashed next to roads. (law)
A reasonably well trained dog is still a danger on the road and should be on a nice, strong, short leash for his protection and the protection of others. I don’t care how good his heel work is, it’s better to be safe than sorry. If something were to suddenly spook him, if a stray dog came out of nowhere to attack or even if it’s just a cat, squirrel or a friend on the other side of the road. Dogs make a big mess when they splat and it’s your responsibility to keep him safe.
4 ) Keep dogs closely under strict control around livestock. (law)
A farmer is legally allowed to kill your dog if it ‘worries’ livestock on private land, even if from a public footpath, and even if you’re there with it! When around sheep, cattle and other animals, these are the farmer’s livelihood. Keep your dog leashed if it’s heelwork isn’t perfect, or you are permitted to use heel without a leash if you can keep him with you. Once you’re back on open land, let him run but try not to destroy crops, this could become a criminal damage case.
5 ) Stay away from leashed dogs.
I see people ignoring this time and time again. A leashed dog is leashed for a reason. It could be that the dog hasn’t yet been taught recall, it could be that he’s being walked by a friend or stranger. It could be that the dog is injured but it could equally be a viciously aggressive dog who would rip your dog’s face off as soon as he’d look at him. A dog this aggressive is kept on leash for your protection and the owner is perfectly within the law and his own rights to walk it. If your off leash dog gets attacked while theirs is legally under control, it’s your own fault. If you dog injures a lame dog further requiring extra vet treatment, it’s your fault. If your dog catches a nasty contagious dog disease from the dog, it’s your fault. If the dog walker feels threatened and decides to kick your dog in the face in self defence… sorry your fault again no matter how friendly yours was.
When you approach leashed dogs, call your dog to heel, it’s polite and saves problems. Ask the walker if they mind, it could be a puppy who needs socialisation, but don’t be insulted if they ask you to keep away.
6 ) The dog must wear a tag when outside with your surname and contact details (law)
I strongly suggest a mobile phone number if like most people you carry one everywhere and the first line of your address. If your dog escapes locally (more common) anyone who finds him will know where to take him avoiding getting fined at the dog pound. A mobile number is useful if you lose him at the park or away from home. Keep the details up to date, it can happen to anyone at any time and apart from being a legal requirement, will help you. A collar is also useful if somebody needs to capture your dog before running into a road.
Microchips are strongly recommended but you’re not legally obliged at the time of writing (this motion is being discussed however). If your dog is stolen or collar removed, he can still be traced to you. They usually cost around £25 at our vet and you generally only need to pay again (usually much less) when you change address.
7 ) Keep out of people’s gardens
This should go without saying, but I regularly see dogs, especially those on extending leads wandering in and out of gardens. This encourages scenting, and if he scents the driveway of another dog, the household dog will need to re-scent… the two dogs will develop a rivalry, and should they ever meet in the park… all hell will break loose.
8 ) Observe area bylaws
In Swansea, certain beaches are out of bounds for dogs at certain times of the year. Some parks require your dog to be leashed throughout. Keep to these rules to keep out of trouble. Ignoring these rules can result in hefty fines.
Keep to these, keep out of trouble and keep on the right side of those people who want to speak out against our beloved fluffballs from frolicking in the summer sun. The more dog owners who ignore these, the more restrictions will be placed on us!