(Written by Georgia Hatton)
For families up and down the country, the start of September can only mean one thing - it’s back to school season!
Just like people, our dogs are capable of learning new skills throughout their lives. Why not take this opportunity to take your canine friend “back to school” and brush up their life skills?
A well trained dog makes for a happy life, no matter how old they are! Stock up on your favourite training treats - slices, pate and moist sausages are all great - and get to work!
With all of these skills, start off somewhere with minimal distractions - such as your home, garden or a quiet walking spot - then build up to busier locations, such as the park, forest, or busy streets.
Most owners walk their dogs on a daily basis - but this can quickly become a chore if it’s not fun for you. Getting your dog to walk on a nice, loose lead is essential for this - and no dog is too old to learn!
Have your dog on a flat collar or a y-shaped harness and a lead - no need for extra tools - and get yourself a pocket full of tasty treats. Start with them by your leg, and give them a reward when the lead is loose. Set off together. As soon as the lead goes tight, stop in your tracks, and wait. Wait for them to come back to your leg, then take a step forward and reward. Every few steps, as long as the lead is loose, drop your dog a small reward.
Build up on this over time, until you are walking further between treats!
Having a dog that waits in place can be a lifesaver - from stopping them from rushing out of the car or house, to waiting at the side of the road, or just being polite and waiting for their food or treats.
Set your dog up in your chosen position - a sit or a down for example - and reward them for it. Take a step away, then immediately back, and reward. Make sure to only feed the reward if they are in the same position.
Always return to your dog to reward them! Overtime increase the duration, by counting, and the distance. Can your dog wait for 1 minute, 10 steps away from you? Can they wait until they are released before chasing a toy?
Taking our dogs to dog friendly pubs and cafes, or on the train or bus, is something many of us will do - make sure your dog isn’t a nuisance by teaching them to chill out on a bed or blanket next to you!
Start off with your dog on a lead, plenty of small treats to hand and feeling patient.
Put the bed on the floor and reward your dog for any calm behaviours - avoid the temptation to give them any cues! - basically any behaviour that doesn't involve pulling on their lead, barking or staring at you.
Drop rewards quietly, keeping interaction with your dog to a minimum - the goal of this training is to keep your dog calm - and this is much easier if you are! Over time, your dog will start to offer more relaxed behaviours, such as lying, sighing and putting their heads down.
Once your dog is reliably lying down, start to increase the duration between rewards.
Chewing is a calming activity and you can reinforce the blanket by providing your dog with a chew whilst they relax - just make sure if you are in public to not take a treat that’s too smelly!
Once your dog has learned the basic objective of being settled, start to practise in different locations - such as at the park, in a cafe or at a friend's house!
Remember, the goal is for your dog to learn to relax without needing to be asked.
Learning and rehearsing life skills, such as these, should be part of your dog's ongoing life and training - and forms the essential cornerstone for a happy life together!
Next time - how to wow your friends and family - 3 fun tricks your dog can learn.