Friday, August 28, 2009

Train the Trainer

So Wednesday night we attended our first dog training session with the Gentle Dog Training company.  I thought the training would be more interactive, but turns out most of the time is spent sitting and listening to the trainers and then we get to go home and practice for a week.  This first week we were taught (at first it looked like that was spelled completely wrong) 3 things to work on.

1.  Never let your dog go out the door first. 
This is for a few good reasons.  The first being that you should go out first to check the environment to make sure it is safe.  Example - you don't want your dog hitting the front steps and immediately chasing after a squirrel or the neighborhood cat that is 5 feet away.  Second, you want to show them that you are the Pack Leader.  Showing your dog who's boss helps make them more apt to listen and follow commands and tames aggression.

Now Porter has been pretty good about this so far.  We make her sit at the door when we put her collar on and she stays sitting until we walk through the door and "release" her to go outside.  She wasn't so good at this rule getting out of the car or going doors that weren't attached to the front of our house. 

So, to train for this it's actually VERY easy.  If a dog starts to go out a door when you haven't told it to do so, you simply shut the door in its face (not hard...come on I'm not that mean).  The trainers demonstrated this technique in class using Porter as the example.  The put her in a kennel and when they opened the door she attempted to bolt out (and actually managed to do so 1 time).  As she was trying to sneak out, they gently shut the door in her face.  They had to repeat this about 8 times before she finally "got it".  After that when they opened the door she would just sit there until the training waved her out.  Note ** we've found this extremely useful when letting the dog out of the backseat of the car when we're parked on the street.

2.  Teach your dog to come. 
Porter only comes when we call her in the house.  Outside she pretends to be deaf.  We know better.  The trainer said we should reinforce this by randomly popping in front of the dog throughout the day and saying "here boy" (or girl) and giving the dog a treat.  This teaches the dog the association of "calling it", getting a treat as a reward, and most importantly seeing the owner in front of it.  Supposedly next week they'll associate the act of the dog coming to the master (instead of the flip side).  Porter has this one down pat, granted all she has to do is sit there and eat a treat.

3.  Walk your dog, don't let it walk you.
This last one has proven the toughest for us.  Dogs should always walk at or slightly behind their master's side.  Porter does not.  She pulls and pulls and pulls and tries to take us on walks.  As per my previous >post, we've tried harnesses, choke chains, and the Halti.  The trainer recommended we use the Halti, so Halti it is.  We've had her using it for less than a week now and she seems to be doing better and better.  By this I mean she doesn't claw at her face nearly as often.  We can practically make it a whole block at a time before she lays down and rubs her face in the grass.  She does NOT however get the part where we're supposed to be leading her.  The trick to this is making random turns through out the walk to get her to understand that she is to follow.  If she doesn't follow, you yank on the leash 3 times each time progressively a little harder.  This is supposed to teach the dog that the first time is a warning, the second time sucks, and the third time...well you don't want to get to the third time, so listen up when I tell you once.  The trainer gave us a long leash (10 feet) to try this technique.  We need to be more dilligent about practicing and I am committing myself to working with her in the yard tonight.  Again, pull 3 times, each time a little harder, and then let the leash go slack.  At that point they should be walking right by your side rather than wandering around somewhere else. 

Round 2 of training class is Thursday at 8pm. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

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