Monday, April 18, 2011

Training: Dog 'Spring Training'

 Much like the Chicago Cubs, after a long, hard winter, the pooches also have to go through a "spring training regime" to get back in shape for the summer season.
As the weather is warming up, all of a sudden other dogs, people, and drunken guys wearing leis and grabbing at the pooches are everywhere. And this is exciting for our dogs.
They used to remember how to act appropriately, but since we were facing this for much of the winter, they have forgotten:
Enter our spring training refresher course.

1) We Treat Every Walk Like a Training Walk
With the weather warming up, there are so many interesting things going on, and it's hard to have the pooches pay attention to us. So, much like when they were in training, we bring along the treats (we like easy cheese squirt bottles) that we pull out when they do good things. We started with having them sit at corners. And we also practice sit-stays when we need to pick up poo. Since they don't know when the treats are going to be brought out, they begin paying more attention to us, ignoring Juliet barking in the balcony above.

2) We Practice the Tricks we Know Already
 As the good habits become more habitual, and to reinforce how we're in training, I have the pooches randomly perform tricks we already know as we're walking. This is another way to keep the pooches focused on us and it's easier for them to be successfully rewarded because they're performing tricks they already know. Plus, it's very impressive. When we're walking by outdoor patios, you should see the 'ohhs' and 'ahhs' we get when I ask Miss M to walk in a circle around me as we're walking. Or even having Mr. B wave with his T-rex arms when we're sitting at the corner.

3) We Desensitize them to the Action
 The biggest problems we have are Mr. B getting excited around other dogs and Miss M thinking every single person wants to come over and pet her. To desensitize them to these distractions, we practice our training in crowded areas. Lately we've been working on down -stays where the pooches stay focused despite the dogs and people around them. We have made it a habit, and each time we try it for a bit longer.

These are just some things that have worked for us with our dogs. What are some other strategies for keeping your pooches behaved on walks?

29 comments:

Tucker The Crestie said...

The opportunity to train new, and reinforce known, behaviors is one of the most important reasons to walk your dog(s) daily, in my opinion. Funnily enough, our "refresher" course occurs in the fall/winter, as there are more people out and about on our streets during that time of year. Once it gets hot, the less dedicated walkers, with dogs and otherwise, start "hibernating" till it gets cooler (or at least less hot) again.

jen said...

We are in the process of doing the same thing! In the winter not many people are out, so we just walk. In the Spring more people are out and about and approaching us so right now I am trying to work on their sit when people come over to stay hello!

poodleandpitbull said...

My pups can both be somewhat reactive so LAT is a family favorite here. Hand targeting is also incredibly useful. And having each dog do a beautiful heel on either side of me is always fun. Emma needs to learn more tricks and get them solid before we can take it on the road. Great post!

Diane said...

You guys are my heros, I just need you to come teach me how to train my dogs to be the wonderful showmen that M & B are!

Maggie said...

Our spring training is focusing on individual walks for all three. It's time consuming, but because they've had such little practice over the long winter, each one needs to work on something... but none of them need to work on the same thing!

Two Crazy Coaches said...

I would love to pass Miss M and Mr B on a walk! I'm sure they'll come through spring training just fine and have a successfull summer season!

Kate@TwentySixToLife said...

This is a great way to train your dogs. We don't typically do this ourselves, but I think we should give it a go. I just have to remember to bring the treats with us!

RED said...

We do a little spring training with Zeus - but more because he's so distracted by the birds and squirrels (and people) that he forgets to do his 'business' at the park.
I actually have a little regret about treating the walk like a training session for Zeus. When we first got him - I was OBSESSED with socializing him as much as possible. So we met as many dogs and people on our walks as we could. It worked well, he's a great social dog with no agression on the leash or anything like that, but now he thinks walks = social hour. If we walk by a dog (that might be unfriendly so no meeting up!) Zeus will cry for the next two blocks because of the missed opportunity.
Our biggest problem on the walks is that he's great in our neighborhood, but outside our neighborhood he pulls and stops as often as I let him to pee/smell EVERYTHING. He's so excited that it's ALL NEW!

HoundDogMom said...

And how many hounds can I send you for a training session? BOL.. HoundDogMom

brooke said...

Great ideas!
We just ran into our friend yesterday and they had their dog, Friday, and their parents dog, Coco, with them. It was Darwin's first time meeting Coco and she failed miserably. Barky barky, snarly snarly. EMBARRASSING. Any advice on reactive dogs on leash?
And the cheese... you use just cheese whiz and squirt it in their mouths?

loveandaleash said...

great reminder -- our little chick seems so attention-starved in the winter, when people are too busy rushing to get back inside to pay attention to his adorableness. now that the weather is nice and people are loitering about, he gets uber-excited and makes a fool of himself. people love it, but we need to get him back in line :)

Patty said...

Like Poodleandpitbull, my pup is leash reactive so we spend walks playing "Look at That". Works great for us! She does well walking in a heel with the occasional reminder. In addition I throw in some Rally Commands and change the pace once in awhile to keep her engaged and focused.

Corbin said...

We did a lot of classes in the "off" season, BOL, so I didn't need as harsh of a refresher course as mom thought I would. We've begun our walks around the neighborhood and will travel down the road to walk at our local park so she can work with me on distractions.
-Corbin

Jess, Chip, Winnie & Bruno said...

we do a lot of the same things- use the backpacks, use treats (OMG the easy cheese idea might be the best idea ive ever heard and we are going to try it)- we have to get Bruno to stop barking at people and winnie to stop trying to get other families to take her home :).
Btw what are the t-rex arms?? that sounds ADORABLE. I am trying to teach Bruno to "dance" (basically walking backwards- he's not bad).

Trissi_V said...

For our pups they have their focus sound...I use "hep" and my boyfriend uses "hey". If we notice the dogs pulling or trying to take the lead during the walk we make our sound and then take a sharp turn in a different direction for them to follow or head back to where we started. Once they are walking proper by our sides we make a nice easy turn and start back the way we were going. We are sticklers about the dogs walking directly at our side at all times and it seems to keep them focused on potential changes in where we are headed.

A&A Friese said...

Love your updated look! This will be our first spring/summer with a pooch of our very own so we are excited to get outdoors more often and work with her training amidst all the distractions that life brings.

Two Pitbulls said...

You must tell me more about this cheesy squirt can. Do you squirt directly into their mouth?

Kirby, CGC said...

Well, since Kirby and I have started rally we will practice some rally moves on our walks. This is really good because he is staying focused on me too and is helping his reactiviy around other dogs. One thing Kirby has to do is wait to go "check his peemail". He is getting better everyday and know will almost sit automatically before he can go check the pole!

Kirby's mom

In Black and White said...

It's me that has to get back into training once the springtime arrives! Billy's got plenty to work on even on deserted streets but I have terrible circulation so I have to wear HUGE mittens for the majority of the winter and I just get out of the habit of taking treats with me. Bad owner!

Benny and Lily said...

Us kids get so excited to learn new things.
Snuggles
Benny & Lily

Two Grad Students and a Pittie said...

we took a page from you and now treat every walk as a training tool. especially to work on havi's impulse control and socialization!

www.twogradstudentsandapittie.blogspot.com

Roo said...

Excellent exercises :) Mom recently consulted with a behaviorist to help her learn what to do to keep 'The Freight Train' in check on walkies. Outside of adding a gentle leader to contain the super excitables, you are doing everything she recommended.

Bravo!

Roo

rescuedinsanity.com said...

Very smart. As the weather warms up, more and more of our neighbours are joining us on the sidewalk. All of a sudden there are people and dogs everywhere after months of just me and my dog. It definitely takes a little extra mindfulness when walking. Good for you!

Jacquelin Cangro said...

Great suggestions. Reggie gets very distracted by smells. He always has his nose to the ground. Do you find in the city that the spring brings a lot of scraps and wrappers on the ground? How do Mr. B and Miss M respond? Any suggestions for keeping them away from chicken bones and whole slices of pizza? (Reggie found that under a parked car yesterday. The joys of city living with pooches!)

Susan Campisi said...

These are great tips! I never go out on a walk without treats. I keep them in a pouch at my side. Tommy gets treats every time we pass a barking dog. It keeps him from reacting to another dog's overexcited energy.

Kari in WeHo said...

we are still working on the desensitization! There is just way to much going on in LA

Kari
http://dogisgodinreverse.com/

ForPetsSake said...

Great post! We're doing much of the same here. The warmer weather brings all sorts of people out into our walking trails. Treats are great. We are trying to up our training of all things- loose leash walking and running, stay, tricks - keep the mind busy ;)

road-dog-tales said...

You guys are so well behaved and talented! As for us, well, for lots of reasons most of us don't go out in public much. Cooper goes out a lot and he's pretty good around people and not too interested in other dogs. He sticks close to Mom & Dad when he not with his own "pack."

The Road Dogs

Bren said...

Its amazing to me that my pit needs refresher training after winter. Normal walks around the neighborhood and he's fine but took him to the school yesterday and he really didn't want to listen (he was a tad tired too but that's no excuse). Back to the drawing board! :)

P.S. I love your blog!

~Brenda

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