Posted on

Confidence Building Exercises for your Dog

If you have a dog who is lacking in confidence, there are various confidence building exercises you can try to increase their resilience towards negative emotional states.  A few can be carried out each day, to ensure your dog feels successful and empowered, but not over-worked as this can be stressful for them.  Rest days are also equally important for dogs, and there is research that shows dogs learn a lot while they are sleeping, so little and often is the key.

Examples of confidence building exercises:

Searching and hunting games:

  • Hiding food around the house and garden and encouraging the dog to “find”. Make this very easy to start with, but in time leave treats inside items and at different levels.
  • Hiding food in cardboard boxes, plastic bottles, boxes full of shredded paper, Snuffle Treat Mats, screwed up towels, etc.
  • Hide a toy (or clam shell toy with food inside) somewhere in the house or garden and encourage to “find”. Again, really easy to start with.  Throw toy as the reward.
  • Scatter feeding: throwing dry proportion of food in the garden and encouraging dog to search for it.
  • Playing with various activity toys (Nina Ottosson, Trixie Activity Toys) with handler.

Clicker Training Exercises:

  • Free shaping on items such as cardboard boxes. Click and reward the dog for interacting with the box in any way (except destroying it).  This could be using paws, mouth, moving around the box, getting in the box, turning it over, etc.  In order to obtain unique behaviours, you must withhold your click once the dog has performed one exercise twice.  If you continue to click the same behaviours, the dog will never offer anything different.  Remember: touching the box with a paw on one side is a different behaviour to touching with the paw on another side.
  • Hand touches: touching your hand with their nose. Hold hand at different heights and start to move your hand so they have to follow it for a period before receiving their click.
  • Other nose targeting exercises: Touching the end of a target stick, pole, or wooden spoon. Encourage the dog to also touch a small post-it note, which can then be stuck to items away from you (e.g. to touch it on a wall at the other side of the room).
  • Targeting with a paw(s): Encourage the dog to touch a marker or upturned bowl with their paw. This item can then be moved further away to add distance.
  • Encourage the dog to place their front paws on a box, small step or wobble cushion. They can then be sent onto this item at a distance.  Once front paws achieved, back paws can be worked on.
  • Teach your dog to go “away” to bed, towel or marker on the floor.

Fun Tricks:

  • Roll over (“roll”)
  • Play dead (“bang”)
  • Spin/twist
  • Give paw (“1” & “2”)
  • Give both paws (“both”)
  • Commando crawl (“crawl”)
  • Play bow (“bend”)
  • Weave legs (“weave”/”legs”)
  • Wave (“wave”)
  • Circle around handler in both directions (“circle”/”wind”)
  • Retrieve post from letter box (“get the post”)
  • Hold dumbbell (“hold”)
  • Put waste paper in bin/tidy toys into box (“tidy up”/”in the box”)
  • Stand in-between the handler’s legs (“middle”)
  • To “go around” an item and then return to the handler.  This can be a pole in the ground, washing line, cone, etc. (“go round”)
  • To catch a treat (“catch”)

Basic Training Exercises:

  • Reinforcing all training commands on a daily basis helps to increase a dog’s confidence. This can be simply performing “sit”, “down”, “come” “heel”, “leave”, etc.  When a dog is successful at an exercise, they feel empowered, which in turn increases their confidence.

Fun Agility:

If appropriate for your dog’s age and breed, you can set up some fun agility equipment in the garden. This can be:

  • Poles on top of flower pots
  • You can purchase children’s tunnels fairly cheaply
  • Put bamboo sticks in the grass to make weave poles
  • Teach your dog to jump through a hoop.  This can be tied to two poles and stuck in the ground if required
  • You can make a “see-saw” by placing a piece of wood on top of a piece of guttering
  • You can purchase back garden agility equipment online

Different Surfaces/Objects to Manoeuvre:

Encouraging your dog to walk across different surfaces, rewarding them as they go. Examples:

  • To sit on a cushion or small mattress
  • To walk across a tarpaulin/black bag/plastic bag

Objects to manoeuvre:

  • Step over poles laid on the ground.  One end of these can then be raised slightly on a plant pot
  • Weave through cones placed in a line
  • Get up onto different objects.  This could be a log, rock, tree stump, park bench, etc.
  • Walk across a large piece of rope laid out in different formations on the ground
  • To walk across pieces of guttering laid on the floor
  • Sit in a beach tent or under a large umbrella
  • Walk/crawl under a pole
  • To walk through a towel/sheet hung from something

Fun, fun, fun:

Play with toys with your dog on a regular basis.  As a dog plays it releases endorphins, which makes them feel fantastic!  Encourage your dog to chase a ball, play tug of war, chase a toy on the end of a flirt pole, etc.

 

Pet Necessities Professional Dog Training – Egham, Surrey.

www.petnecessities.co.uk.  07969 997 272.  training@petnecessities.co.uk.

https://www.facebook.com/petnecessitiestraining/

Please follow and like us:
Posted on

Teaching a “watch” command

Teaching a dog to give you eye contact on command has many benefits.  It can be used to keep a distracted dog focussed, maintain attention or build confidence.  Some people prefer to use the word “look”, rather than the “watch” command.

"look" command in dog training

Many dogs, especially those who are young and exuberant, are easily distracted out on walks.  Owners can find it hard to gain their dog’s attention in certain situations, whether that be around other dogs or people, wildlife, joggers, cyclists, etc.  This often makes it hard to recall dogs in such situations or keep them focussed on walking nicely on a loose lead.  Teaching a “watch” command will enable you to keep your dog focussed on you.  This will improve his responsiveness to training, and encourage calm behaviour around certain stimuli.

 

Having a reliable “watch” command is also very useful for dogs that may be reactive in certain situations, or nervous around certain stimuli such as other dogs or people.  Teaching a “watch” command to such dogs will enable them to keep their attention on you and therefore be less worried about the environment around them.  By providing your dog with this alternative behaviour it will reduce his stress response and build his confidence.  This is the most effective way to reduce unwanted barking on a walk, for example.

"Watch" command in dog training

Teaching the “watch” command:

  • It’s important to start by teaching this behaviour in a location where there are few distractions and your dog feels secure, such as inside your home. Start by showing your dog a tasty treat, then hold this treat up to your eyes.  As your dog looks up at you, cue the behaviour with the command word “watch”, and after a few seconds reward your dog with the treat.  All the while your dog is making eye contact with you, you can praise and gently encourage the behaviour before giving him his treat.  In time, you can start increasing the length of time your dog is maintaining eye contact with you before earning his reward.  It is important to reward your dog for keeping eye contact before he looks away, so he is learning to hold your gaze in anticipation of the treat.  If you find your dog looks away or gets distracted, you will need to shorten the length of time you are expecting him to maintain eye contact, and reward him more frequently.
  • Once your dog has learnt the behaviour inside the home, you can start to practise in other environments, such as out on walks where the level of distraction may be higher.  Sometimes dogs find it harder to remain focused if they are too over excited or uncomfortable in certain situations.  If this is the case, you may need to move to a quieter area until your dog is calm enough to focus on you.  You can also consider increasing the value of your food reward or taking your dog out before a meal.  In difficult situations, you may only be expecting your dog to look at you for a split second to earn his reward.

 

Top tip:

Your dog does not have to be in a certain position to learn the “watch” command; some dogs may find it easier to practise the “watch” from a sit position, others may find it easier to keep focussed while on the move, whilst walking to “heel” for example.  It’s a good idea to practise this exercise from many different positions as you will often need your dog to keep moving whilst watching you to get yourselves out of difficult situations.

 

Teaching eye contact

Using a clicker to teach the “watch” command:

  • Dogs who have been clicker trained often pick up this command very quickly using the clicker to mark the behaviour. Using the method of ‘free-shaping’, you can allow your dog to work out for himself what you would  like him to do.  This often results in a much stronger behaviour, and a dog who chooses to offer eye contact much more readily.
  • Again, this will need to be started in a very quiet location at a time your dog is likely to be responsive. Starting with your dog in front of you, hold treats in one hand and clicker in the other (these may have to be behind your back if that’s all your dog will look at).  Patiently wait for your dog to look up at your face; as soon as he does, immediately click and reward him.  After he has done this a few times, you can start to add the verbal cue, i.e. as he looks up you, say “watch”, praise the behaviour, click and reward.  You can then start to increase the length of time he maintains eye contact, before clicking and rewarding him.  Once he has understood what to do, you can start by cueing him to “watch” before he looks up at you, so he is making eye contact upon the command word.
  • If your dog is struggling to work out what to do for himself, you can give him a helping hand. Using the same principle as above, hold a treat up to your eye and give your dog the verbal cue “watch” as he looks up at you. After a few seconds, click and reward your dog.

I-Click

Top tip:

Remember that the clicker marks the point of correct behaviour.  It tells the dog exactly when he has done the right thing and a reward is about to follow.  Don’t be tempted to use the clicker as a means to get your dog’s attention; doing this will de-value the clicker and your dog will become less responsive to it.

 

Please note:

If your dog is not responding to the “watch” command then he is a situation where his arousal levels are too high to learn.  Please make the situation easier for him and try again.

 

Further help required?

If you feel you require professional assistance with your dog’s behaviour then we can assist you via an individual training session or behaviour consultation, depending on the complexity of the issue.

 

Teaching a "watch" command

Pet Necessities Professional Dog Training – Egham, Surrey.

www.petnecessities.co.uk.  07969 997 272.  training@petnecessities.co.uk.

https://www.facebook.com/petnecessitiestraining/

Please follow and like us:
Posted on

Handling Exercises for Puppies

Handling exercises for puppies

It is important to practise handling exercises with your puppy from day one.  Teaching your puppy to remain calm and confident whilst being handled, will ensure that as an adult dog he can cope with every day scenarios from being groomed to being examined by the vet.

Individual Puppy Training

Grooming:

The type of tools needed for grooming will depend on every individual pet, and the type of fur he has.  When teaching a puppy to accept being groomed, it is sensible to start with a soft brush, that won’t pull or tug his coat, to get him used to the sensation (a Zoom Groom is ideal).  Start by holding a treat in one hand under your puppy’s nose, whilst slowly and gently running the brush over him with the other hand.  It is important to verbally praise your puppy for remaining calm throughout the process.

 

To begin with, your puppy will need fairly frequent rewards to encourage him to remain patient and to learn to enjoy being groomed.  When your puppy is used to the process and is able to remain relaxed throughout, you can start to reduce the amount of food rewards he receives.  In time, you will be able to groom your puppy without food under his nose; although it is important to still reward him intermittently to reinforce appropriate behaviour.  Should your puppy begin to get wound up by the process, and start play biting for example, it may be necessary to go back a step, and increase the food rewards he receives for remaining calm.  This will help to keep him relaxed and without the opportunity to become frustrated and fidget.  Some puppies accept and enjoy being groomed very quickly, whilst others may take slightly longer, and may need higher value treats for this exercise.

 

Never tell your puppy off for becoming fidgety, but instead praise him when he is calm and relaxed. Grooming can be quite stressful for some dogs, so it is important to teach him to enjoy the process.  Always keep each grooming session short and end on a positive note (i.e. with him relaxed).

Puppy House Visits in Surrey, Middlesex and Berkshire

Handling:

Throughout your puppy’s life, there will be many instances when he will need to be physically handled; for example, during trips to the vet, treating a cut paw, removing ticks, etc.  In order to ensure that such occasions are as least stressful and easy as possible for your dog to endure, it is important to teach him to accept being handled from as early as possible.

 

Start by holding a treat under your puppy’s nose to keep him occupied, whilst you run your other hand over his body.  Pick each foot up in turn, rewarding him after holding each paw for a second or two to start with.   Once you are able to pick each foot up without your puppy fidgeting, you can progress to examining your puppy’s paws and toes more thoroughly before each treat.  Whilst doing so, make sure you are verbally praising your puppy for remaining calm.  In the same way, you can practise examining his tail.  To examine his eyes, start by gently holding his head still for a second, before giving him a treat.  Once he has learnt to accept that, progress to gently examining his eyes, rewarding intermittently.  Similarly, you can inspect his ears and teeth in the same way.  Gently lift your puppy’s lips, praising him calmly as you do so, and give him a treat after a second or two.

 

In time you can increase the duration of the examination before rewarding him.  This is something your puppy will need to learn to accept and experience during his trips to the vet.  Therefore, it is important to practise such exercises to build his confidence, before expecting him to accept a stranger to do the same.

 

Teeth Cleaning:

Toothbrushes for dogs come in many different forms.  Some are similar to a human toothbrush, others are designed to sit over your finger like a glove, so using your finger to brush your dog’s teeth.  As always, it is important to teach your puppy to accept having his teeth brushed, rather than forcing him to endure it.

 

If you have practised handling your puppy as above, he should be confident having his teeth looked at before you start the cleaning process.  Start by allowing him to lick the toothpaste off the brush, so he learns that the toothbrush coming towards him is not a scary object.  Next, gently lift his lips, and brush the teeth at the front of his mouth for a second or two before stopping and giving him a treat.  Many puppies aren’t comfortable with the sensation of tooth brushing, so it’s important to keep the sessions short before rewarding.  This will teach him that if he remains calm and accepts his teeth being brushed, a positive reward will follow.

 

In time, you can increase the duration of the brushing before each reward, as well as progressing to brushing the molars at the back of his mouth too.  If your puppy becomes anxious or fidgety, go back a step.  Make the sessions shorter and more rewarding for him, before expecting him to cope with his all his teeth being brushed in one go.

Ear inspection and cleaning:

Whilst some breeds of dog are more predisposed to ear infection and dirty ears than others, it is important for all dogs to learn to accept having their ears examined and potentially cleaned.  Start by holding a treat under your puppy’s nose with one hand, whilst using your other hand to lift, stoke and touch your puppy’s ears.  If he accepts this without fuss, progress to examining his ears with both hands..  You should calmly praise him, and reward him with a treat at the end.

 

Once your puppy is able to remain relaxed throughout this process, you can begin to gently clean inside his ears with some wet cotton wool.  This will get him used to the sensation, before rewarding him.  As always, ensure your puppy is calm and relaxed before expecting too much from him.  If he struggles, go back a step, and make the process more rewarding for him.

Handling exercises for puppies

Progression:

Once your dog is happy to be handled by yourself, consider asking other members of the family and friends to do the same exercises.  This should be closely supervised, but it should be done to ensure your dog is used to be handled by various people of different ages, genders, sizes, etc.

 

Please consider:

Some dogs are more accepting of handling if they are occupied with something.  A stuffed Kong or Snuffle Treat Mat work well to take your dog’s mind off of the process and give them a positive association to it.  Some dogs are more tolerant of grooming if they have a toy in their mouth rather than using a food reward.

 

Pet Necessities Professional Dog Training – Egham, Surrey.

www.petnecessities.co.uk.  07969 997 272.  training@petnecessities.co.uk.

https://www.facebook.com/petnecessitiestraining/

Please follow and like us: