Archive for the ‘Q&A’ Category
Q. I have a 5 month old husky who is doing really well but i am struggling with a few problems and would really appreciate some advice.
When she is off the lead she will come to me when called if there is nothing to distract her. however if she sees another dog or human she gets selective deafness and wont come back but wants to play with them.
Do you know how can i train her to come back to me even if there are distractions.
A. If this is the worst of your problems, you’re doing brilliantly. Do be wary however about this as if the target dog isn’t so friendly, or on the other side of the road, there could be problems.
As with all commands, you will get a much better response if your dog wants to do it rather than doing it just because you said so. Usually outdoors, a bag of treats just won’t cut the mustard, especially at her inquisitive age.
In short, you’re boring her and she’d rather be playing with someone else. You are however the most important thing in the world to her. Treats from you taste nicer than from strangers, playing ball with you is much more fun than chasing other people’s, time with you can be better than time with others. Find something completely irresistible to her to use. This alone won’t drag her away but with the steps below should help develop a rock solid recall.
Go back to a 10m training line to keep her protected and give you more control, as every time she ignores your call, she learns that it’s ok and there are no repercussions. If you’re sure she won’t come back, don’t bother calling, you’ll be wasting your breath, teaching her that it’s ok to ignore the first call and generally look silly just go and get her.
When recalling her on the long line, remove the slack in the lead so she can only go in one direction and try one of the following:
- Tempt her with her favourite toy or ball. (if it squeaks, even better) When she returns, play a short 1 or 2 toss game. (toy driven dogs)
- Tempt her with food if she takes it outside. (food driven dogs)
- Walk or run away to encourage her to chase you and turn it into a game. (owner driven dogs)
If she ignores you on the first call, pull her gently in your direction to get her attention as you call her name a second time, and only give the command to ‘come’ the second time when she starts coming to you voluntarily. She will learn this way that ignoring you is no longer an option. Make sure you make a big fuss about her coming back, play a game of chase, ball or treat reward. When you’ve finished, give her a command to ‘release’, this way you’ll start building the message that ‘come’ means ‘come until I say you can go again’.
Start out recalling her when she sees another dog, but before she has time to bolt, removing the slack from the long line means she can’t start running and can only go in one direction. (use common sense, don’t let her choke herself on it.) if you want her to run and play, give her a command to do so ‘release’ is my all-purpose ‘you can stop working and do what you want’ word.
Master that stage first then move onto recalling her after the sniff but before playing. As she perfects each stage, start recalling on the initial bolt, before the sniff, and finally while she’s playing. Switch the order if one part is proving too hard but break it down into these stages so you know exactly what her weak points are to focus on.
It may be that you can work on these without the long line and if preferred, do, but I do find using one is quicker because we take the chance of failure away.
Eventually, remove the line and see whether or not she still responds. If she doesn’t, put the line back on, but don’t hold on to the other end. Gradually use shorter lines (or cut the end off of this one) until there’s virtually nothing left… when the leash is on, most dogs know they’re under control, but they don’t really understand how.
As a few extra tips:
Never punish or correct your dog for not coming back, even if it took hours! not only is it unnecessary but she will associate the punishment with returning, not with staying away, the next time you call, she’ll remember the punishment and take longer to come back.
Keep a close eye on the line, generally her legs will step out of tangles as easily as she stepped in, but if it wraps around her leg, neck or body and she’s bolting, consider letting go if safe to do so to avoid and injury. If it’s not safe to let go, reel it in quickly before she runs . Also ensure she doesn’t tangle other people and dogs, especially in play.
If you keep to secure parks for the time being, then any dropped lines or mistakes won’t matter so much, never give a dog this much freedom next to roads, steep cliff tops or other dangerous places.
For particularly fast, heavy dogs like greyhounds, use a shorter training line. The speed they can get to in 10 metres is going to hurt both of you when they hit the end. A shorter line will give you more control.
Spring is here, the weather is hotting up and we’re taking our dogs further afield on breaks and adventures. Sometimes it seems necessary to leave our dogs in the car for short periods, but how long is too long?
You know that feeling, there’s still a little chill in the air, and as you get into your car, the warmth brings summer to life! it’s that same effect that can put a dog to death.
We have sweat glands all over our bodies, as we get warmer, they secrete a little water which evaporates and keeps us cool. In very hot temperatures, this is obvious, but even when mild, this sweat helps to regulate our temperatures.
Dogs keep cool in a completely different way, while they do lose some heat through their bodies, they do not produce sweat to keep cool. Instead they pant. By doing this they pull cooler air over their tongue, right through their bodies, and exhale the hot air inside. They also drink water which helps to quickly cool their tongues and insides. So we cool from the outside in, they cool from the inside out.
In terms of evolution, this cooling system means that most dogs can survive in much colder temperatures than us as they can have heavier coats with no skin exposed for cooling which was essential in their colder wolf habitat. Humans come from warmer climates so we can withstand higher temperatures.
So back to the question. Cars are amazing, they are secure, insulated to keep engine and road noise out. They have large windows for clear visibility and nice compact interior… in fact they make fantastic greenhouses. Even today, when the temperature in Swansea is about 12 degrees C, when I got into the car this morning, it was lovely and warm. To a dog, this can already be painful.
Remember what we said about a dog’s cooling system? To cool down he has to breath in cold air, and out hot air. In a car with the windows up, he is forced to breath in warm air, this prevents him cooling down and could cause him to slip into unconsciousness within just a few minutes. This morning I read the first report of a dog dying in a car, so don’t let your guard down just because it’s not yet T-shirt weather!
So what about when you leave a window and the sunroof open? It cools the car by a few degrees but the car is still blocking most of the wind an will still heat up. No greenhouse is airtight, and most have open windows, but the greenhouse is still hot inside. When you get into a hot car, how long do both doors have to be open before it’s comfortable to stick your bum on the hot material? The window idea works when you’re moving, or when there is a gale force, cool wind to circulate in the car, but this is rarely the case.
Won’t he just stick his nose out of the window to breathe the cold air? Some dogs do, but to sniff the air, not to cool down. They aren’t as smart as we sometimes think and will continue to die in the heat.
What about if I leave a bowl of water? This will help a little in the first few minutes but in a parked car, it will also quickly heat up and prove useless before long. Dogs tend not to die of thirst, but overheating.
So question: How long can you leave a dog in the car?
A: You can’t. Depending on the temperature, a dog can take minutes to an hour to die, but the time in the middle is immense pain and suffering, even if he’s still alive when you finish your shopping, it doesn’t mean he was comfortable, relaxed or pain free. You’re also taking a gamble, what if you’re detained? What if you become injured? What if you spend ages in the queue waiting to be served? All the time your beloved pet is suffering, i not dying.
Under the Animal Welfare Act, you have a duty to care for your dog and to not put his life at risk. An unattended dog in a vehicle is classed as risk, and you can be prosecuted.
If you see a dog left in a car on a warm day, the RSPCA advises you dial 999.
If you have to leave your car, and you do have a dog, take him with you, if you need to go somewhere where dogs are not allowed, consider tethering him in the shade with water instead. Don’t tie him to you car in case it gets bumped, stolen or just tries to roll away. It is up to you to make sure he has a wonderful life, don’t ruin it just so you can get a packet of crisps.
A. Most dogs love chasing things and if thrown by their human as ‘work’ all the better. Wooden sticks are plentiful, dogs love to chew them and you’ll find them on almost any good walk. The trouble is that while accidents are rare, they are nasty when they happen. Have a look at this news article in the Daily Mail.
Flick was incredibly lucky to be alive!
Sticks have two ends, both of which are sharp, they may also have sharp branches which can stick into your dogs gums when he bites down on it. Being left out in the open rotting on the ground, no one can say these things are sterile. If the throw lodges the stick in the mud, pointy end sticking out towards the dog… dogs can be clumsy animals, it’s not worth thinking about.
It’s rare for things to go wrong, but it’s not worth trying when there are numerous safe alternatives out there at such low prices. Tennis balls are popular, and you can even buy some elongated versions which are a good stick substitute like the Air Kong – Fetch Stick With Throw Rope
So don’t get caught out, if you have nothing to throw, the safest bet is to not throw anything.
Q. My dog knows all the basic commands, sit, stay etc and his recall is excellent. He’s ok when strangers are present but as soon as they try to pet him, he growls and sometimes snaps.
A. In many respects a growl is a good thing. A growl is a warning which should be taken seriously but it shows he respects you enough not to go into an all out attack. First of all, any growling dog should never be scolded for the reason above. If the dog does learn that he’s not allowed to growl, he wont… instead he’ll just bite.
So you have a dog who doesn’t like strangers, it’s not a bad thing but when friends come round or he’s at the vets, this could become a serious problem. First of all, if this is a sudden occurrence, check your dog for injuries, he may be nursing a fracture or other injury which needs attention or time to heal. Once this is ruled out, it’s time to look at desensitising him from the thing he fears. Buy a suitable sized muzzle which allows drinking, panting and chewing. A fabric one is not suitable here. This will protect your friends and ensure they don’t get bitten if they go too far. Have your friends (preferably strangers to the dog) approach him up to but not beyond the point of growling. If he growls, they’ve gone too far, back off and start again, find the trigger point and stop just before, then reward him with a treat. Repeat this a few times and then get a tiny bit closer and continue the process. Stop after half hour or so and go back to normal life. Let the dog relax without the muzzle and continue later or tomorrow.
Get a new friend, step back a few millimetres from earlier and start again, now your friend can consider touching him if it allows (if not, don’t rush it), take small steps despite the muzzle and reward at every point. Continue again for half hour to an hour, remember the point is to stop BEFORE the dog feels uncomfortable, if he growls, pull back.
The idea here is that we’re associating being touched by a stranger with positive things and rewards. No human stranger is really likely to cause harm but we need to prove to your dog that this is the case. If you get a growl or snap, pull back and start again. Only try this without a muzzle if you’re 100% sure he won’t attack, and accept that any bite is your responsibility.
You want to continue working until a stranger can touch your dog all over his body, poke his ears, lift his legs, touch his unmentionables… because this is what a vet may need to do, and if your dog accepts that, vet visits will be painless. If you need the vet before this process is complete, you have a muzzle to protect them and yourself so make sure you take it.
It will take time and patience, but as your dog becomes used to strangers, and used to being petted by them without any fear of being harmed, life will become much easier for both of you.