George Barrett of Dalesman Dog Psychology writes about dog training
My 65th birthday has now come and gone and I am now officially a ‘Pensionaire.’ My life is probably the most content it has ever been and I am enjoying every minute of it.
However, along with many readers, the old joints are not as flexible as they were and taking the dogs out some months ago I bent down to pick up after them and my back just seized up. I could not straighten up or bend down and seemed to be walking on one side. So my wife Sue had to become my official ‘pooper scooper,’ a title she was not very keen on .
She was okay for a few weeks but then began to think I was ‘swinging the lead’ and also it meant if I took the dogs out on my own I either was scrambling around on my hands and knees which is not good for my image or risk my back going again. I decided to purchase a ‘pooper grabber’ which enabled me to pick up without bending. It is fantastic!
The problem is, I went out dropped the stick, bent down to pick it up and my back went again. Disaster. This was getting both depressing and embarrassing.
My wife jokingly said what I needed was an ‘Assistant Dog.’ Bingo, I had it.
My rottweilers retrieve well so we started teaching to hold the stick then pick up then retrieve.
Teaching dogs to retrieve toys/balls/soft objects is pretty easy standard stuff but retrieving ‘different’ objects they do not play with is a bit more complicated as you need them to understand that play is linked to any object you ask them to retrieve.
Greta the young dog has now got this off to a tee and is very reliable.
It has given me knew ideas to try at training classes.
The permutations are endless; finding keys, wallet, glasses, fetch my slippers etc, as long as they have a soft mouth and do not do the ‘run off and chase
The whole thing will become part of my talk about dogs and ageing and incorporated into the dog demo.
There is always a positive to come from any negative situation if you look hard enough.
We all have to accept the good and difficult things that come with age and change to suit.
We have a thriving puppy, juvenile and adult class and the people who come are so diverse but seem to get on fantastically well because of the mutual interest in dogs.
A good proportion of the dogs graduate from puppy class onto the juvenile class, so we really get to know the dogs and owners well.
One dog a boxer called Rudy won the ‘Puppy of the Year’ last year; unheard of for his breed. They usually are a bit boisterous and slow to grow up and need constant training.
We were talking on the way up to training when ‘Angie,’ his owner said: “It is his birthday on Saturday”
I jokingly asked: “Is he having a party?”
“Of course, a cake and everything. He has even got a hat,” was the reply.
I do not know how pass the parcel will go. Maybe a few growls here and there?
Charades should be fun. Maybe some bacon flavoured bubbles?
Years ago I probably would have said that is just plain stupid.
Now I would say it is all part of the close bond between dog and owner and just serves to demonstrate how important dogs are to their owners.
From talking to many owners I am of the conclusion they talk about problems to their dogs; at least they listen and are not playing on a phone at the same time.
I know from childhood many secrets were told to my dogs that I would not repeat to a human friend.
Apparently the breeder had sent each dog a first birthday card and an invite to the litter party.
When thought about objectively, the breeder is being responsible by keeping incontact and wanting to know if her pups are doing well and if there are any physical or behavioural problems which might influence her choice of breeding stock in the future And ‘Angie’ and family do care about Rudy. He IS actually getting pretty well trained and is very sociable both with people and dogs.
He does have rules and boundaries in his life he is made to follow and very rarely misses training.
But he is a member of their family and they choose to spoil him on his birthday.
That is their choice.
Dogs and Lambs
Many hill farmers when this goes to press will still have young lambs about and they will hopefully be getting stronger getting into bunches and racing each other and playing like all young animals do.
We as the weather improves will want to get out and enjoy the countryside we live in.
Be extremely vigilant with dogs who have never seen lambs.
They excite a dog in a way sheep do not.
They are just so fast leaping and twisting, turning and gambolling just for the sheer joy of it.
Many people ring up declaring that their dog would never harm a lamb and is just trying to play.
The truth is it is practising the ‘chase and kill’ and eventually if left to its own devices it WILL perfect it and complete what its instincts are telling it to do.
My own young dog, for instance, has been desensitised to sheep and is not interested in them, but when the lambs came which she had never seen before, they just sent her into a frenzy when they
started racing about.
Without a shadow of a doubt she would have chased if I had not been strict about it.
So for a dog who has poor commands it will end in tears for someone and possibly a loss of either the lamb or the dog’s life. Better to be safe ‘Keep on a lead.’