[A] Collars, Leashes & Training
Article copyright by: Karen Clark, Versailles Kennels UK

Training Puppy to Accept a Collar

Young pups are often bewildered or unsure of themselves and their newly acquired leash and collar. It usually takes only a few hours for a pup or even an adult dog to adjust to a collar. Choose a collar that fits comfortably but securely. Choke collars are a training aid and should never be used as a substitute for a regular buckle type collar. The collar should have an identification tag and license attached.

Simply put the collar on the dog and let him jump, squirm, roll and paw at it if he wishes. Don’t encourage the behavior by laughing or trying to soothe him. Do not reprimand him either. It’s best to just ignore him and let him get used to it or provide some distraction to get his mind off the collar. Play, training and eating work well to get the pup’s mind off the collar. Once the dog accepts it, he won’t even know it’s there. It’s similar to a person getting used to wearing a ring or watch for the first time. Training Puppy to Accept a Leash

Once your pup accepts the collar, put his leash on and then just sit and watch. Obviously, do this indoors or in a secure confined area. Let puppy drag the leash around on his own but keep a close eye on him so that he doesn’t tangle or get hurt. Leave it on for just a few minutes at first. Later, repeat the exercise for longer periods of time. Put your pup on leash during mealtimes, so he associates the leash with a pleasant event. If he is very fearful of the leash, you may want to put it next to the food bowl for a while before attaching it to his collar. Eventually he will see that no harm is coming and there indeed is nothing to be afraid of.

When you are sure he is completely comfortable walking around with the leash on, pick up the other end for a few minutes. Do not try walking him yet. Just hold onto the other end and let him lead you around. Try not to get into a position that will make him pull or strain on the leash or he will probably become afraid of it again. If he sits down, that is okay. You just sit down too. Try backing up and enticing him to come towards you. If he hesitates, don’t pull or drag him by the leash. Try luring him over to you with a food treat or toy. When he starts to walk, praise him profusely so he knows how happy you are. Give him lots of time to get used to his leash and always try to make it a pleasant experience.

Give your pup lots of practice getting used to walking on leash in his own home, since it is a familiar environment with minimal distractions. When he is comfortable indoors, try going outdoors. Again, begin in an area with few distraction such as your front or back yard. When the two of you have mastered this, you are ready for places where there are more distractions. This exercise won’t be difficult, since you’ve both had lots of practice beforehand at getting it right.

If your pup is biting and chewing the leash, try applying bitter apple, Tabasco or some other unpleasant tasting (but nontoxic) substance to the leash. Reapply before every outing.

Remember to always walk your dog on-leash. A dog off leash is always in danger; accidents happen very quickly. Your dog’s safety as well as compliance with your local leash law, is your responsibility.

Training Puppy to Climb Stairs

If your dog is afraid of stairs, or simply does not know how to climb them, then begin slowly to build her confidence. Start off at the bottom of a flight of steps. A wide, shallow stairway will probably be least frightening for your dog. Go up one step; encourage and lure your dog up with your voice, a food treat or a toy. When she is successful, give her lots of reward and praise. Then go back down that same step. Repeat only one step over and over until your dog goes up and down with ease and courage. Wait a while, then try two steps. When your dog feels secure going up and down two steps, then try three steps and so on. Never force your dog to go up or down as this will only frighten her and slow the process. Always use praise and lures to get your dog to go up or down a step. Don’t rush her into doing more than she can, take things “one step at a time.”

Asking when you can allow your dog to be off leash is not a whole lot different from the question, “When will you be able to let your son or daughter take your Porsche or Mercedes out for a spin with his buddies or her friends?” The answer can range from now to never. Different circumstances would dictate different answers as well. Most adults would go by this rule of thumb: When the individual is responsible and trustworthy enough for you to have the confidence that he or she will not bring harm to him or herself; others and of course the car. You can apply this same principle to your dog.

Is your dog socialized enough that he or she will not be fearful of or aggressive towards other people and dogs. Can you trust your dog not to jump on people (especially children),chase joggers, fight with other dogs, pick up garbage, invade picnic lunches and so forth?

UN-SOCIALISED and skittish dogs will often bolt if something frightens them. Can you control your dog off the leash? Will your dog reliably come when called and stop on a dime from a full run when told to stay? These commands are essential for your dog’s safety. Some dogs when let off leash will simply run away. Other dogs will chase a tennis ball or cat right into the street.

If you are willing to risk the safety of the public, the safety of your dog and the security of your finances (paying your own or someone else’s medical or veterinary bill, facing a lawsuit, etc) then you’ll let your dog off-leash before someone who is not willing to take the risks.

If you are unwilling to take the risk, only let your dog off-leash in areas where the above mentioned risks do not exist. A fenced-in dog park is ideal. Tennis courts are usually completely enclosed. Your dog may not come when called but at least you can just go and get him or her when it’s time to leave. If your own yard is not large enough, find a friend or neighbor with a yard where their dog and yours can get together to run and play.

Use a long leash on outings to give your dog some freedom but still allow you to maintain control.
Train, practice and be patient. Obedient, trustworthy dogs are a product of a lot of dedication and commitment.

Training a dog to come when called is often referred to as a “recall.”

It is ironic that owners go to great lengths to train their dog NOT to come when called, and then complain about it. They want someone to wave the magic wand and have their dog drop everything it’s doing, including chasing birds at the beach, digging in the yard or romping with other dogs, and instantly come racing over to the owner. That is PhD level obedience. The first thing we have to do is undo the training the owner has already done, then proceed with kindergarten level obedience before achieving the results the owner desires. So how has the owner so systematically trained the dog not to come when called? Sabotaging the Training

The worst practice the owner engages in is letting their dog off leash and unattended. Whether the dog is running in the park, romping on the beach or playing with other dogs, the dog is learning that these good times do not include the owner. In fact, it is always the owner who ruins the fun by ordering the dog to “Come.” When the dog obediently comes to the owner, his leash is promptly attached and he’s on his way home. This is not a good outcome from the dog’s perspective so on each successive outing, the dog delays coming when called because by delaying, he is prolonging his off leash fun. When the owner repeatedly calls the dog and he does not come, then the dog is learning that he doesn’t have to come – or at least he doesn’t need to come until he is called umpteen billion times. The dog has now learned that ignoring the owner is infinitely more rewarding than obeying the owner. This is definitely a lose-lose situation. If the dog comes, he is punished for coming because his off leash fun is curtailed. If the dog doesn’t come, he is learning not to come and he is being self-rewarded for ignoring the owner.

Training What Come When Called Means

To many dogs, the command “come here” means, “quick, run the other way!” There are countless examples of how the owner trains the dog not to come by unintentionally “punishing” the dog when it does come. Every time the dog is called to engage in an activity that the dog doesn’t enjoy he is learning that the command, “Come here,” is bad news. The owner should never call the dog to come and then give him a bath, clip his nails or confine him. Even if the owner’s planned activity is not unpleasant for the dog, just the fact that it isn’t as much fun as the activity the dog is currently engaged in is enough for the dog to choose not to obey. It’s better for the owner to just go and get the dog for these activities rather than ruin an otherwise rapid recall.

Some owners intentionally punish their dog when it comes. Often this is done when the dog has misbehaved (especially chewed, soiled the house. The owner shouts, “Come here. Bad dog!” When the dog arrives, he is punished. After the dog has been clobbered once or twice for complying, not surprisingly, he will be reluctant to do so again.

Dogs are always learning whether we intend to teach them or not.Formal training sessions are usually short and infrequent compared to the day to day and minute to minute training ( or more appropriately – un-training) we do with our dogs. In order to correct this type of problem the owner must first be aware of how he or she is unintentionally training undesirable behaviors in the dog. One or two instances of “punishing” the dog for coming when called can undermine weeks and weeks of formal training. Owners must learn to incorporate positive training into the dog’s life and daily routine. Until the dog is reliably trained to come when called, he should not be let off leash.

The average owner who attends a training class with his or her dog practices the exercises at home on the average of 5 minutes a day. An exceptional owner practices perhaps 15 minutes a day. What happens with the dog the other 23 hours 45 minutes each day? Every time the dog and owner interact, the dog is learning something even though the owner may not be intentionally trying to teach the dog anything. Dogs are always learning.

Prime the Training Pump

The first step is to test if the dog is motivated and ready to learn. At the dog’s regularly scheduled meal time, take a nugget of kibble and wave it in front of the dog’s nose. If the dog does not show enthusiastic interest in the food, then this is not the right time to begin training. Training should be delayed for an hour or so until the dog shows interest. You may have to skip one meal entirely to get the dog motivated. Don’t worry, Puppy will not starve to death if he misses one meal. Overindulged pets that are constantly showered with affection, attention and tidbits will be more difficult to motivate. Most will have the attitude, “Why bother learning something new for a piece of kibble when I can just look cute and get steak?” If you are serious about training, then you must withhold all treats during the day, put the dog on a strict feeding schedule (no ad lib feeding) and adhere to this during the training period. Tidbits will be reintroduced a little later in the training. For dogs that are absolutely finicky and underweight (not fat and spoiled) then either the food can be made more appealing by coating it with something especially yummy like baby food chicken or gravy or use other motivators (keep reading).

Basic Come When Called Training

As soon as Puppy says, “Yes, yes! I’m hungry, I’ll do anything for that food,” then you’re ready to begin. Introduce the simple recall by giving the dog a couple of nuggets of kibble for free, then quickly back up a few feet and say, “Come Here.” Hold the food in an outstretched hand at the dog’s nose level. Praise the dog all the time that she approaches and give the food as soon as she arrives. Once the dog comes readily, add a sit to the end of the recall and take hold of the dog’s collar before giving the food. Many dogs will come and sit, then duck or run away to avoid being touched. They will not allow themselves to be touched because past experience has shown them that this usually means bad news (from the dog’s point of view, not yours).

The exercise may be repeated several times in a row with you quickly running backwards between recalls. At a more advanced level of training, the dog may be instructed to sit-stay until called. Repeat this sequence with every nugget of every meal. Make certain this exercise is performed when the dog is really motivated. If at anytime the dog loses interest, stop the training immediately and don’t allow the dog to eat anything else until the next regularly scheduled mealtime and practice session.

Once the dog is responding regularly, it is time to start to thin out the food rewards. Rewards should be reserved for the dog’s better responses, i.e., only those times when she comes quickly, directly and happily. Reward with one fourth to one third of the dog’s meal instead of only one kibble or handful. During maintenance training, on average, the dog should receive one food reward per five times that she comes obediently.

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