Meet Carl! Carl is a super cool Cattle Dog mix who is doing some day training with my while his person is busy with work. Carl has some main areas that need work and he is an active working breed mix and consequently, can get pretty wild and crazy. He needs to know how to settle down. Carl normally goes to work with his person and is off-leash for most of the day so off-leash reliability is a must. Here are the main areas we are working on…
- Down stay
- Heeling/attention walking
- General focus and responsiveness off-leash
Our first day, like with most first days, is just going to be about me figuring out what Carl likes and what areas he needs work on so that I can get him eating out of my hand (literally and figuratively). Like most active young working dogs, rewards that engage him physically are going to be the most motivating. Carl has a lot of yahoos and treats alone are not going to cut it. I have to give him something to do because if I don’t, I assure you, he will find something to do himself and most of the time it will be something I would rather he not be doing. Activities that engage his body are the key to his heart and his focus.
So, day 1 is playing with toys. Tug is the easiest toy to use in the most settings so we begin with that.
The dog sets the pace for this session. In Carl’s case, he is a pretty sensitive guy and is more concerned about getting too much up into my space or being too rough with me. Some dogs are on the other end, practically (or literally) knocking me down to yank the toy out of my hand. Since he is so polite, it takes some coaxing to get him engaged. When I do I want to make sure I reward his participation by giving him a lovely long game of tug. I edit most of this out but we tug for a long time each session.
I did start to push it here a little by asking for a “drop-it”. I choke down on the toy with my hands and make it go still.
WARNING: I am invading Car’s space quite a bit here so this is an exercise that I use with caution. It is very easy to use food or toys to get too close to an uncomfortable dog which can end in disaster. The dog sees something he wants, goes for it, and then realizes that he is way too close to this strange person that he is completely not comfortable with. It can also be a way to get accidentally nailed in the hand by a very excited dog grabbing at the tug toy.
I already had some training experience with Carl and was pretty sure, based off a thorough analysis of his body language, that he would respect my space and back off instead of freaking out or grabbing for the toy and biting me. Also notice that I don’t put my face in his face or try to pat him on the head here to get him to release the toy. Both of those things are rude in doggy world and stupid for me to do in human world. Carl was a fantastic gentleman and releases the toy when asked every time.
We also working on some just basic focus exercises walking on lead. I will show those on a later post.