Tag Archives: dog training

A mini training session

24 Jul

Most days i like to spend a few minutes like this with the dogs practicing some of their little “tricks”.


Punishment Vs Praise

24 Jul

I don’t know about you, but before i bought Maya into my life, before i even had chosen to bring Maya into my life, i began some research into how to “train” my little newcomer. I found a few books to read, but mostly i spend hours and hours searching the internet and reading different articles, blogs and papers.

So, here’s the thing. I don’t know about you, but i found it all very confusing. Mixing in what i read with what i learnt on my dog behaviour psychology course, what i believed in and what i had grown up with, really made no sense at all.


I’m going to break down some different concepts.


The grandparents method:

If your grandparents, or someone older that you know used to own a dog, or still do, ask them how they went about training it. The chances are they weren’t averse to punishing “bad behaviour”. In the “old days” if a dog was naughty or behaved inappropriately he would receive some form of punishment, often a smack on the rump, a quick tap on the nose or the old tap with a newspaper. I doubt many people would really hurt their dogs, but give a short, sharp shock, just as people would their own children if they misbehaved.

Back in the days of our grandparents, it was acceptable to punish a dog in order to teach him a lesson, just as it was to punish a child. Did it work? Well, it must have done. We don’t hear stories of all older people owning unruly dogs. Somewhere along the line dogs became more and more popular as pets, they became involved in a whole host of “jobs”. This couldn’t have happened if people weren’t able to control their behaviour. So this method must have worked.

Just as opinions changed on bringing up children, opinions changed on training dogs.


My experiences growing up:

This one is a little confusing. We believed in rewards, AND punishment. if our dogs behaved well or did something we asked, they would get some form of reward, even if it was just a cuddle and a well done, or good boy.
This being said, we also gave them a light smack on the bum if they misbehaved (for example our lab would always steal food, and recieve a smack for him) – he continued that behaviour, but i think thats a bit of a lab trait? Food was worth being shouted at or whatever my mum chose to do.

When it comes to house training, i remember the one and only time our year old, new dog peed on the floor. My mum rubbed his nose in it, sent him outside and he never had an indoors accident again. Nowadays you will probably find that you are warned off of that method, and actually in my experience, housebreaking took a lot longer than i had hoped (particularly with Max).

I was also brought up being told that the way to get a dog to walk to heel on the lead is by giving a short, sharp pull on the lead when he pulls to correct the behaviour. I have to say, that never really seemed to make much difference with my puppies now, though it must work because i know of people who swear by it.


Humane reward-based training:

This is the idea that punishment does nothing to teach the dog anything, except for to potential damage its relationship with humans. In this method, bad behaviours are ignored, and good behaviours rewarded. This can also include using tools such as clickers in order to mark the good behaviour, letting the dog know exactly what it did right.

The idea behind this came from Bradshaw who hypothesised that dogs descended from more sociable wolves. The idea of reward based training comes from the idea that dogs learn to and in fact strive to please humans. They will therefore learn best by being told that they are doing something right, something that makes us happy with them.

Here i will say that i use reward based training regularly, and it seems to have worked in teaching my dogs a number of “tricks” in a fairly short space of time. This is a very popular method today, something that i was taught in my course, something that i often see in the media, and something that seems to work.


Cesar Milan:

Firstly, i would like to point out that this is in no way aimed to promote, not slate his methods. A while ago i was very interested in the methods of Cesar Milan, and to some extent, i still am. This being said i have also done further research, gained more experience in my own training and as such, developed my own ideas.

Cesar Milan works on the hypothesis that dogs are descended from wolves, pack animals who have a strict heir achy and need order and balance in order to survive. He says that dogs need a calm and assertive pack leader in order to ensure that they grow up happy, healthy and balanced. This all makes sense, and i agree so far.

His methods however are often criticized, and yet, they seem to work. He is very strict in his actions and though he always points out that he does not hurt the dog in anyway, there are people out there who will argue differently. All in all, i think he goes back to the good old training ideas that our grandparents used, that dogs do not only need to know what they have done right, but what they have done wrong as well.

An idea that i do like is that he stresses that dogs feed off of our own energy. I very much believe this to be true. My dog always seems to know when i am sad, happy or angry. They feed off of our energy and react accordingly. Dogs are our mirrors. If you are not calm and assertive, your dog probably wont take you seriously. Will it become dominant and feel the need to be your leader as Cesar suggests, i dont know.

Confused yet?

Yeah, i was too.

The problem is, i ended up doing SO much research, that i just ended up getting in a muddle and nothing made sense. When i went back to basics and did what I felt was right, things seemed to fall in place and work.
I guess thats what i am trying to say. I dont think there is a right way and a wrong way, but more something in between. You need to do what works best for you and for your dog. That being said, there are things that you should probably not do, but i will leave that for you to figure out.

My biggest tip:
Keep positive and keep things fun for both you and your dog.


Trying our hand at agility

28 Jun

Agility is something that i always thought seemed like a fun idea, for both myself and my dogs. What i didn’t want to do (at this stage at least) is sign up for agility classes. The first reason being that they cost a lot, and we wouldn’t be doing it competitively anyway, just for fun. The second reason being that classes cost a lot. 

Instead. i went on amazon and for thirty quid bought myself a set of six weave poles which also convert into three jumps (you can vary the height, which is handy). 






So, out in the garden we set up our poles, and had our first attempt at weaving! 



For a first effort, both Max and Maya did great! Max was speedy but not overly accurate, and Maya was slower but accurate. 



So, ive never done any agility before, and although i have read up a tiny bit about it, i kind of just went along with what i felt like. Starting at the end, i guided my dogs through the weaves, starting at the left (i seem to remember that you always start at the left). Instead of putting my dogs on the lead to guide them through, i just tempted them with food. Food always works when you own a labrador!



The jumps were the best part, and actually tired out the dogs before me! (bonus)!














In between agility training we took breaks where i got the dogs doing some of their tricks and obedience training and also spent time playing with them. 



All of that running and jumping about tired us all out. The sun was shining so we all laid down and sunbathed before it was time for our walk. 




Training session rules

26 May

I guess it’s pretty much up to you how you train your dog, but there are some hints and tricks that work pretty well that you might like to follow!


1. Keep it short.

Think you don’t have time to train your dog? What if i told you each session only really needs to last 5 to 10 minutes? Really, that’s as long as it needs to be!

2. Keep it fun. 

Only train if you are in a positive mood. If you are enjoying yourself, so will your dogs (and they will be much more likely to respond). I often take short breaks during the session (particularly with Max) to do something fun, like throw a ball a couple of times. If it’s nice out, i will always take them out into the garden after training for a few minutes play time.

Suffolk Coastal-20130501-00638

Max is great at fetch and this works well both during training and afterwards as a way of keeping things fun.


3. Stay positive. 

Reward them when they do something right, ignore it when they don’t. The opposite of reward, is no reward. NOT punishment.


Ok, so there wasnt really a picture i could use for this one…so, ill show you a smile instead



4. Motivation. 

Why would your dog want to sit and wait patiently for no reason? They need some reward. This means choosing your reward very carefully, you need to use something of high value. If your dog is very food orientated (most are) then use food based treats (or some of the breakfast/dinner). Food treats need to be small, no bigger than a finger nail, something that they can gulp down quickly without getting distracted by it.  If your dog is toy orientated, use a toy (or several). If praise is enough, reward them with high pitched, singsong tones and lots of enthusiasm.


Click, then reward


5. Timing is key. 

You probably all know by now that i highly recommend the use of a clicker. It is important that you can place a marker of exactly when your dog does what is asked. A clicker allows for this. For example, if you ask for a sit, you click as soon as your dogs bum is on the floor. They know exactly what they have done right, and then receive their reward for it just seconds later.


Maya and Max know the clicker well. As soon as they hear it, they know a tasty treat is on its way to them.


6. Short commands.

Dogs generally only absorb the last syllable of every word you say. Therefore a short command works best. Whilst you might use “lay down”, really all your dog is hearing is “down” so why not stick with that.



7. Vary the routine. 

If you carry out the same routine over and over again, the dog will learn this. Whilst that is very good, it doesn’t really mean that your dog is listening and obeying you, more that it knows what you expect. Do you hate your day job where you do the same thing day in day out? Yeah, that’s the way your dog feels about doing the same training session over and over and over. Its boring. Remember number 2? Keep it fun!



8. Take your time. 

To begin with, your dog might only stay sitting in one place for a few seconds. It may only focus on training for a couple of minutes. If you want to increase the time, you need to take your time. Training is a slow and gradual process, and a life long commitment. Work on your basic obedience first before going onto “tricks”. A dog that can sit and wait can avoid potential danger, a dog that can spin in a circle, not so much.


Maya is great at waving, but she is always practicing her basic obedience which needs improving still when on walks.



9. The environment. 

To begin with, you want to train somewhere with no distractions. This means no sounds, no toys, no other animals or people. Gradually switch things up. Eventually you should be able to get to the point where you can stop in the middle of the woods or along the beach and have a quick five minute training session during your walk.


Before you can get a nice sit outside, you need to work on it indoors


10. Eye contact. 

By eye contact, i really mean focus. This isn’t a rule as such, but something i have come to appreciate. I can tell when my dogs want to please me, when they are enjoying their training and really focusing on me and what I say because they make eye contact with me.


All of their focus is on me. It’s the same when i give them their food, they look at me, they wait until i say go, then they eat.



Happy training!





Max is a smart boy

1 Apr

13 weeks old now Springer Spaniel Max is already getting the hang of a fair few tricks. Looks like we were lucky enough to find two smart doggies as his big sister Maya is just as wonderful.


Training Max

27 Mar

This was taken when he was ten weeks old, a couple of weeks ago.

Now he is doing very well with sit, can lay down and sit back up on command, sometimes will roll over and is working very hard on “wait” doing better everyday.

Tomorrow he will be getting his second vaccination which means he is almost ready for his very first walk, out into the big wide world.


Recall training

24 Feb

There are lots of different methods of recall training and to be honest, i hadn’t looked into it at all when it came to teaching Maya recall. You could use a long training lead if that makes your more comfortable, or practice lots inside the house, then in your garden and work your way up.

This video shows Maya’s very first time off the lead. She must have been about 15 weeks old (she was late going outside because she was too poorly to have her first jab so it was put back a while). Anyway, this worked really well and i would definitely recommend this. Find a large area where there probably wont be any other people or dogs, take your family or friends and spread out. By each calling her and then getting her to come, your dog will think you are playing some kind of game, but she is actually learning recall at the same time. As you can see from the video, Maya seemed to enjoy herself anyway!