My system of dog training is based on companionship, and communication. I strive to learn their language, and become fluent in the way they communicate. I strive to teach them our way of communication and help them become fluent in that. I strive to be motivational and as reward based as possible. I will “Correct” a dog….. But…… it is not to make them wish they never made a mistake. It is literally like playing the “warmer/colder” game when you were a kid. I give them information that lets them know they are getting colder so they can make better choices. In all aspects of training, I am committed to using the least invasive, minimally aversive training possible. If I ever do outright “punish” a dog it will always fit this criteria; Not punishing them poses greater risk than the punishment (chewing exposed wire, or, lunging at a child, etc…). And, The punishment is only applied in the hopes that it will NEVER have to be done again. For me, the point of training your dog is to give freedom, and autonomy! Their obedience gives them their freedom. It’s like the rules we follow when driving, gives us the freedom to take a road trip if we want to. Their ability to understand human rules, and make good choices, gives them a life most dogs will never have. That’s not my dominion over them, that’s my greatest gift to them.
Freedom and autonomy are the greatest reward we can give our dogs.
Building The Team:
We will begin by building up the relationship with the handler. We want to increase the social drive in your dog. We want the state of the relationship with you to be both the most important reward, as well as, the most important punishment.
Once we get the relationship solid, and the dog is “into” the handler, we will shift the focus into being aware! Aware of the handler in the face of increasing distractions. Aware of their own state of mind. Aware of their positioning, and the relativity of their positioning to the handler. Aware not just of your words, but of your body language. We really want to increase your area of influence!
Then, at the next level we will work on real control. The ability to for them to control their state of mind. The long bombproof stays. Solid emotional control. Stress tolerance. Their focus and precision in the face of huge distractions. Actual focused heeling. All the really cool stuff!
In each of these phases we will use different variations of these 6 skills. They are:
1. Conditioned Relaxation: Conditioned Relaxation is the ability to put relaxing on cue! We all know it’s silly to say “Sit, sit, sit” when your dog doesn’t know what that is. Well, how many times have you asked a dog to “relax”, or “calm down”? If you didn’t take time to teach them WHAT that word means…… They don’t know!!! We will put relaxation on cue. The ability to help your dog get relaxed when their stress level is rising, is immensely valuable.
2. Tug: Everyone loves to play with their dog! The game of tug is a rough and tumble wrestling match that can be biologically fulfilling for many dogs. But really, proper tug is all about the clarity. They learn the rules of the relationship. You will BOTH learn the language of training that you will use in all future training. They learn to listen to your body language. They learn you’re strict, but fair. This a great relationship developer. But, there are rules. And, because there are rules….. They will also be working on their impulse control! Another interesting thing that this does is really develop their social drive. Tug can be a powerful relationship developer and training tool. If done right. I’ll show you how.
3. Recall: The Recall command is one of the most important skills to train your dog in. To come when called isn’t just a cool trick. It’s how you keep them out of the street when their leash breaks! It is also a great way to develop relationship! They get to practice coming to you! And they get rewards, and a party when they do!!!! This is where we teach you food based training skills. We want them SUPER excited to come back when called! We use motivating and creative methods, that work on not only recall, but layer in elements of impulse control as they begin coming back to you PAST distractions pretty quickly.
4. Look: Look, is not only a way to develop engagement and focus on the handler in the face of distractions. But, it’s also a management and diagnostic protocol too! If you can get your dog to look at you before they reach their threshold, you can many times break their “loading” process, and stop the event before it starts. It also lets you know when they’re “loaded” past the point of no return when they will blow of a solid Look command! If you can’t use Look to break their focus, you can use it as an early warning system. and get out of their before they blow up!
5. Leash Handling: Yes, we will teach your dog to walk nicely on the leash. The reason most dogs don’t is because leash is incredibly frustrating for most dogs. People use the leash as a restraint device. They use the leash to force a dog to stay with them. People have dogs that have no engagement. No awareness. They just tie them up, and expect them not to be frustrated. I want to change that. I want to teach the dog to be aware of you and stay with you, because they want to…. Not because you’re dragging them. I want to teach them how to listen to the leash as a way to communicate. For not just where to walk, but what positions to be in. What state of mind to be in. The leash will become a “string between two cans”. It will be a way we communicate. Not a pair of handcuffs.
6. Place: The place command, is asking your dog to get in a bed (or whatever) and stay there until you release them. But, it really goes much deeper than that. For them to be ABLE to stay in their spot, they have to have some self control. They have to be able to stay calm, even through temptations. Now, that is good for your ability to manage them. But, honestly, it’s really just good for them to have that kind of emotional control. Dogs are cute wound up, and playing…. But…. For their own sanity, and health, they really should be ABLE to bring it down for a bit. A long “stay” is a great way to develop those skills. Now, I chose “Place” and not a “Down” because I’m way more concerned with geographic location, and emotional state than a particular position. The “Place” command allows them to stand up. Stretch. Circle around. Whatever. Just stay on the bed, and stay cool. Now, they don’t have to stay there forever. But, should be able to stay there for at least 30 min. This training will bring it all together, as it will use the food rewards,and the leash, social, and spatial pressures you developed in the previous skills! It will also give us the chance to practice Conditioned Relaxation! The impulse control they develop will transfer to “outside the place” time too!
Equipment Needed For Training:
– Something you can keep a good grip on. AND, your dog is interested in!
– Makes training with food much more convenient.
– These are NOT for the tightening properties. But, for the LOOSENING! The slack is the reward. A flat collar has to be kind of tight not to slip off. It’s like a necktie in a suit. You’re not “choking” but damned if you don’t know it’s there. It ain’t comfortable. In a slip style collar, when the dog is making the right choices. they get maximum comfort! I prefer a chain backed, wide, soft martingale. I couldn’t find a collar I liked, so I make our own. These custom collars allow the distinct release of a chain collar, with the forgiveness of a wide, soft fabric while the dog learns fluency. Once fluent a simple inexpensive chain or cord slip collar are hardly noticeable as they dangle loose around the dogs neck.
15 ft Leash (actual line- NOT A RETRACTABLE)
– This is the leash we will use to develop true handler awareness! But even after this foundation training this leash can be used to give maximum reward for good choices. It allows a ton of freedom, and really reduces leash frustration. It gives you and your dog the joy of “off-leash” companionship, without the danger. Once you and your dog become skilled in leash communication, this will become your favorite leash.
6 ft Leash
– Standard size training leash.
– The fact that the bed is off of the ground gives a very distinct break in the surface of the area that is where your dog is allowed to be. This level of clarity makes teaching the “place” command MUCH easier. Don’t worry, once they are fluent in this, you will be able to put them on a towel, and they will get it. But for now, the elevated bed really sets them up for success.
– Obviously, if you want to get into any of the pulling sports, you will need the appropriate harness. But, also…. If you want to take your dogs for walks, and either member of the team feels unable to focus enough to follow the collar training rules…. The harness will be your saving grace.
Flirt Pole/Spring Pole
– If you want to take your tug play to the past phase 2, you will need these
– In some cases an object can be very useful in creating more versatile spatial pressure.
-I also strongly suggest treadmill conditioning! It’s not “needed”, but it gives a great option in bad weather, and time crunched days. Also, is a life saver when you’re sick or injured. The treadmill is a really, really good tool to have your dog conditioned to.
-If your dog is severely reactive/aggressive, you may need a Pet Convincer (distraction tool that uses only a puff of air), or possibly a muzzle.