What is the most important thing to teach your puppy / dog?

There is one vital lesson you must teach your puppy / dog and it is never too late to start. Do so now and everything else will fall into place!

Lesson: To respond to their name.

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It sounds so simple but is often overlooked. Responding to their name should be an impulse. To achieve this takes practice.

Take every available opportunity to reward your puppy or dog for responding to their name.

  • Reward recall in the house - calling them between rooms. Keep little pots of kibble all around

  • Always have treats/kibble on walks to reward response to name outdoors - where it is more distracting

  • Always use their name in a positive upbeat way. Never call their name to get them to something they don’t like (in our house that's the bath!)

Being able to get your dog’s attention is the essential first step in all training. You can’t recall them if they don't respond to their name and you can’t get them to walk nicely by your side if they are paying attention to everything but you.

Teach them that good things come from you.

You are the source of praise and reward. They must be able to trust you if you are to make progress in training together.

They check in with you and they get good stuff!

You call their name and they always get praise and reward when they come to you.

The more we bond with our puppies / dogs, the more valuable we become to them. They’ll recall better, learn faster and be more willing to work with us.

We can bond through finding ways to pay them attention - it works both ways.

Be fun - bring toys on the walk, aim to be more interesting than the other dogs and people in the park.

The more effort you put in then the easier training becomes. Together you can face any challenge!

If you’d like any advice on the above don't hesitate to get in contact.

HAPPY PUPPY & ACTION DOG CLASSES!!!

Why Sign up?

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Training is for all dogs - not just for puppies getting to grips with their new world, or adults who have developed issues living in our crazy, busy world - but for all.

Training promotes bonding with your dog.

Whether you learn tricks together or work on basic obedience, it is of benefit to you both. My own dog has taken on a new lease of life in the past two years since I've increased her training experiences. She is 11 but acts like a puppy!

Myself and Cheryl set up Happy Puppy & Action Dog classes so we could educate owners.

(Happy Puppy up to 6 months / Action dogs 6 months +).

  • We help puppy owners understand what’s normal behaviour for their puppy and how to deal with common issues.

    We demonstrate and practice life skills training. Covering, recall, loose lead walking, impulse control etc.

  • We help adult dog owners realise their dogs’ full potential, set them up for success, learn new tricks and take on new challenges.

We want to share our knowledge and encourage owners to better understand their companion.

We start each round of classes with a presentation covering nutrition, equipment, how dogs learn and much more. This mini-seminar on puppies and dogs is stand alone and gives our owners a wealth of knowledge to begin their journey.

You can join this 1 hr seminar for only £5 even if you don't plan to attend classes.

We then follow with practical classes using as many fun activities as we can think up to help puppy & adult dog learn.

We use and promote only kind, reward based methods. Having studied extensively, myself and Cheryl believe firmly that dogs learn best when they are happy and confident.

Dog First Aid

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Attend a Dog First Aid course. It could save your dog’s life.

Today I attended a first aid course with Dog First Aid. I have been on the course before and always leave with my mind brimming full of information.

The course is relevant to dog owners and professionals. It covers topics such as Full Body examination; Dog fights; CPR; Seizures; Poisoning, Bleeding and much more.

My main takeaway is the need for Prevention. Whether it be in the home or out on walks, prevention and avoidance of an injury is always preferable to cure.

  

At Home:

Make sure all household cleaning products are out of reach.

Contents of a food compost bin are toxic to dogs, keep well out of reach and securely closed.

Familiarise yourself with a list of poisonous human foods and keep out of reach.

If you have a dog who will scavenge when left alone, make sure they don’t have access to food areas.

When using appliances such as the iron or hair straighteners, keep dogs away due to risk of a burn.

Keep all medications out of dogs reach - if in your hand bag then make sure you don’t set it down.

Don’t use slug pellets in your garden. They are highly poisonous to dogs.

Never feed raw hide treats. Despite their popularity in shops they are a dangerous choking hazard.

  

On Walks:

Keep your dog on-lead near roads and fully secured on car journeys.

Use a harness rather than collar - if your dog pulls there is a risk of trauma to their throat.

Keep on-lead near farm animals (fear of trampling), high waters (fear of drowning), fly tipping/rubbish (fear of cuts and general injuries).

In time for summer educate yourself on the symptoms of heatstroke.

In winter do not allow dogs to drink out of puddles near roads as they may have anti-freeze in them. Clean paws after walking on grit, it has chemicals in it that a dog may lick off its paws.  

 

General Points:

Know what’s normal for your dog i.e. respiration rate, pulse, gum colour, skin colour.

Get your dog used to being handled. Gently investigate their paw pads, skin, ears, gums etc. Knowing what’s normal helps you notice changes. Being comfortable with your touch makes emergency investigations less stressful.

Save your vets number in your phone. If traveling away with your dog, find out details of the nearest vet

 

This may all seem like common sense, and it is, but unless we take the time to think about the risks the world poses to our dogs’ health and safety, we may not make important changes to keep them safe. Accidents will happen despite our best prevention and so it is important to know what to do -

Attend a Dog First Aid course. It could save your dog’s life.

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Taking it easy

When it's ok just to chill

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It is all too easy to assume that our dogs have to go out everyday for set walks at set times. Often however we have created this need through routine and habit. Your dog asks to go out because it is conditioned to expect it at certain times. It is perfectly ok however to give your dog a day off, in fact it can be really good for them.

If you have an anxious dog for whom the outside world presents challenges, then a day off to relax and recoup can set them up to be more resilient the next time they leave the house. For a period our dog Dita became very noise sensitive, reacting really badly to loud traffic. We gave her intermittent days off from walks and she really grew in confidence.

If your dog would climb the walls at the idea of a day off walks then do consider why they have such a drive. Are you taking them out to throw a ball for an hour non stop, have you created an athletic dog who needs more and more exercise to satisfy their energy? These dogs can benefit from calmer walks, start to decrease the time spent running for a ball and increase time spend sniffing and mooching. Constant running for a ball places extreme pressure on a dogs joints. If in doubt,  video your dog running for the ball, watch in slow mo and see all the twists and turns and sliding they do. Also running to catch a ball is tapping into a dogs prey drive; in the wild they'd do this for short periods, expending lots of energy but it would be followed by long periods of eating and rest. They wouldn't go out the same time the next day and repeat.

Days off don't mean ignoring your dog. They still need interaction. Try some enrichment games, food puzzles, searches around the house, tug play and trick training. 

As I write this it is a miserable rainy day and Dita has no interest in a walk, we will drive up to Pets at Home, she can have a sniff around it then home for some training games.

 

 

On lead or Off lead!?

There is nothing quite like watching your dog run free off lead, enjoying themselves and engaging with their environment. Playing with other dogs and splashing around in streams. However we must only afford them this freedom in safe areas and only if they have a good recall and can return to us when we want them to. Our job as dog owners is to be in control of our dogs in public and this includes when they are off lead. 

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This topic can be a hot one! I am on a dog related Facebook group that won’t even allow discussions on the matter as it is guaranteed to cause arguments.

When should your dog be allowed off lead?

Having worked as a dog walker, managing groups of dogs, many different breeds, temperaments and training levels for years, I can honestly say I am well experienced in the matter. My top tips are:

1.       Only let your dog off lead if it has a reliable recall. Recall is a skill you must teach your dog. See my recall blog for some top tips. 

 

If your dog is in training or has a poor recall, keep it safe and on lead until you have made progress. You can attach a longline to a harness to allow your dog more space to roam while you practice their recall. 

 

2.       Only let your dog off lead well away from the road. Seeing people walk their dogs off lead on pavements, next to roads, baffles me. Dogs are animals and even the best trained dog may get a fright from a loud noise, spot a cat or squirrel and bolt. Wayne witnessed a dog being knocked over and killed along Roath Rec. The dog was off lead on the path next to the road. It was a horrific and tragic situation that no owner should have to experience. 

 

Our responsibility to our dogs is to keep them safe, and keeping them on lead when next to a road is imperative. They are like toddlers in their decision making and need us to look after them.

 

3.     Try not to let your off lead dog run up to another dog unless there is some sort of consent between yourself and the other owner.  Unless you know the other dog, you have no idea as to their temperament and they may not appreciate the approach. Instead recall them back to you and pass at a distance or put them on lead, especially if they are very excitable.  

 

This applies particularly if the other dog is on lead. A dog may be on lead as it is nervous, aggressive, unwell, over excitable, in training, or the owner simply wants it on lead. Your dog’s approach may cause undue stress to both the owner and the other dog.  Often dogs are less tolerant when on lead as they feel slightly trapped and so an off lead dog bouncing around them is rarely welcome.

 

If you are lucky enough to have a friendly sociable dog, you may not have experienced the stress of having an unknown dog approach. Help others by keeping your dog under control.

 

This brings us back to point 1. Only let your dog off lead if it has a reliable recall including away from other dogs!

 

NB: If you hire a dog walker, expect them to be really careful before letting your dog off lead. They should ask for your written permission and if your dog does not have a good recall, they should not be letting them off lead. If your dog had an incident with another dog or person while out with them, you may still be liable. 

At Walkn'Roll myself and Wayne are very experienced and don't let off our client's dogs without due caution. We know each dog is precious to their owner and we take our responsibility to them seriously. We will first carry out a set number of walks onlead to test their response to name and recall. We will utilise long lines to test this further. There will be some dogs we never let off due to circumstances and others who we let off as much as is safe to do so. If we meet other groups of dogs we always aim to avoid them to keep our dogs safe and under control.  

 

We are so lucky to have such wonderful parks on our doorstep here in Cardiff and they are for us all to share. As long as we are kind and considerate to one another and keep a keen eye on what our dogs are up to then there is no reason we can’t all get along! Things will go wrong, we can do our best and still our dog runs up and scoffs someone’s picnic or bounces over their nice clean white trousers, but just do your best, be aware of your surroundings and keep them on lead if in doubt. If your attention needs to be elsewhere i.e. on the phone, keep them onlead and out of bother.  

 

Being your dog’s champion means keeping them out of trouble on their walks!

Using your training in real life!

Using 'wait' command in a real life situation 

Obedience training is an excellent way to bond with your dog. The time you spend with them teaching new commands or tricks is really valuable. If you use reward based methods and keep it fun then you can achieve so much together. 

Don't leave your training to one side though, use it every day to keep the skills alive. Dita uses her 'wait' command in many different ways through the day. 

 

 

Reward based Muzzle Training

The beginning of our muzzle training journey. This is not a 'how to' video, I am simply sharing our experiences so far. 

I decided to train Dita to wear a muzzle. It was motivated by a trip to the vets were Dita was very uncomfortable with a procedure. They offered to put a muzzle on her but as she has never worn one before I didn't want to scare her. Instead I held her head and took the risk. As she is getting older and may need more health checks I decided to train her to accept a muzzle so to reduce her stress if/when she has to wear one. 

 

As with any training I do with Dita I based it around reward based methods. I want her to have positive associations with the muzzle, which is after all just a piece of plastic to her. We tend to have negative associations with them but the reality is they are a fantastic tool and if introduced slowly and positively, dogs can feel quite comfortable in them.

 

This video is a snapshot of 9 different sessions. Each involved lots of repetitions not shown here. Good training takes things slowly and at a speed matched to the dog. 

 

Dogs need muzzles for many reasons. Maybe they scavenge and eat dangerous things, maybe they are dog/people aggressive and the owner is minimising risks. If you see someone out with a muzzle on their dog then know that they are a responsible dog owner.

 

We will continue with our training, doing the same sessions but outside, keeping it on for longer and doing different things whilst it's on. 

 

Should you want to try then note every dog is different, some may take to a muzzle immediately with zero fuss, some may take a long time. The important thing is to always watch your dog's body language, any signs of stress then step back a stage, and as always, consult a professional dog trainer if in any doubt. 

 

Chewing!!

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"Virtually all natural dog behaviours - chewing, barking, rough play, chasing moving objects...….are considered by humans to be behaviour problems. The rules that seem so obvious to us make absolutely no sense to dogs" (Jean Donaldson, The Culture Clash). 

One of tonight's lessons at Dogs Trust Dog School was all about chewing & mouthing. Normal behaviours to dogs, that without direction from us can become problem behaviours. 

Chewing feels good, whether for a puppy who is teething or an adult dog who just wants to chow down. Our dog Dita loves to chew on a Pigs Ear and it keeps her occupied for ages. Chewing can help to calm and relax a dog.

Mouthing in a puppy is normal but those teeth are sharp and we need to help puppies realise that they mustn't bite hard and that there are other rewarding things to mouth/chew on!

If your dog is chewing things you don't want it to, consider the following:

1. Could it be bored/frustrated? If you don't offer an outlet for your dogs energy it will find things to occupy itself. The problem with the dog choosing what to do, is that often it will find things that are not compatible with what we'd like, i.e. chewing your skirting boards!

If you have a puppy it is your job to puppy proof your house. If it's in reach of puppy then it's your fault if it gets it! Crates are a great way to keep your dog safe when you aren't around to keep an eye out. (NB you must train your puppy/dog to enjoy it's crate, consult a professional if in doubt).

Consider are you exercising your dog enough? How much physical exercise depends on many factors, including breed, age, health. Also there are different types of physical exercise. Consult a vet if in doubt as to the amount and consider the breed when working out what to do. Every dog is different, an adult working dog like a Collie will not be convinced with 2 x short walks around the block, whereas an older slower or non working breed might be perfectly happy with this.  

No matter what breed, mental exercise is just as essential to stave off boredom. Little 5/10 mins training sessions, working on tricks or obedience can be a great way to settle your dog. 

2. Does your dog have things to chew on that are appropriate to you? Puppies will chew hands, feet, ankles...anything at their level. This is normal but you need to teach them that instead of you, they should chew their toy or munch on their kong.  

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Adult dogs also need appropriate toys/food to chew on and the shops are full of safe dog friendly options.

As I mentioned in my enrichment blog, there are many different ways to feed your dog that can offer an outlet for energy and an opportunity to chew. The ancestors of our dogs were not fed from nice clean bowls, they would have chewed on carcasses etc

If you are having trouble with your dog's mouthing or chewing consult a professional dog trainer who can help find the reason for the behaviour and help you guide your puppy/dog to make better choices. 

 

 

Dog Trainer: My Journey so far!

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I have run Walkn’Roll with my partner Wayne and our dog/CEO Dita for the past 6 years. I have learned so much about dog behaviour, breeds and dog handling over that time. The progression into Dog Training has seemed an obvious one to me over the past couple of years.

I want to do it the right way and I am taking my time to gain the relevant theoretical knowledge. I am completing two online, accredited Diplomas with Canine Principles. I attend face to face courses with the IMDT (Institute of Modern Dog Trainers), read books, listen to podcasts, follow other trainers online and am currently gaining hands-on experience through volunteering at the Dogs Trust Dog School.

Entry into Dog Training is a bit of a maze when you first start out. I could have set up 6 years ago as a trainer with no qualifications or experience (there is no regulation) or I could study for another ten years and still not know it all. I’m trying to strike a healthy balance. Make sure I know my stuff and can practice it. 

In my previous life I qualified as a teacher and that path was reassuringly laid out for me. Do this, study that, and once you pass you are a teacher. Then you had people guiding you through your first years, shadowing you, making suggestions, ensuring you carried out Continuous Professional Development.

With Dog Training, however, you are on your own. It is up to you to find your opportunities and put yourself out there, to research the many, many qualifications and membership bodies to be part of. It’s not for the faint-hearted but I am enjoying my journey and the path is becoming clearer the further along I go.

I have been lucky enough to meet some fantastic peers and role models who give me something to aspire to, each approaching the training world in a different way but giving me lots of advice and encouragement.  

I have been volunteering with the Dog’s Trust Dog School now for almost a year. Below is a video made by a film studies student. She chose me as a case study and covered some of my thoughts on training.

 

 

It has been great hands-on experience for me; I can practice my training skills and put the theory I am learning into practice, all while supporting a very important charity.

As mentioned I am completing a Canine Coaching Diploma and Canine Behaviour Diploma with Canine Principles. Both Diplomas are accredited and the information is up to date and all based around positive training. Once achieved I will feel qualified to offer advice in a professional capacity. I have currently achieved full marks on my first 3 modules. 

I will keep you all posted on my adventures into the world of Dog Training. Hopefully, we will soon be able to offer training alongside the dog walking and cat sitting we currently offer through Walkn’Roll. 

Reliable Recall

Teaching your dog a reliable recall is incredibly important. We want our dogs to have the freedom to run off-lead, enjoy themselves and carry out their natural behaviours.

However unless the dog has been taught a reliable recall, being off-lead is a risky business and not recommended. It is our legal responsibility to have our dogs under control and recall is the first port of call

Does reliable mean 100% success? No of course not, dogs are animals and act as such. However good recall training will greatly improve the probability of your dog returning to you. 

Recall training is like training in the gym, the more you do the better it gets. Stop paying it any attention and it gets slack and floppy! 

 

Here are my top 10 tips;

1. Work on their name recognition indoors. If you can't get attention indoors, you have no chance outside. Why not use their dinner to train. Call their name then once you get focus feed them. Repeat each evening for a week. If using kibble use ten bits of kibble to repeat tens times in one session.

Initially you may only be rewarding a look in your general direction. By the end of the week, you call their name and they zoom in to greet you! I aim for getting the dog physically in front of me and gaining eye contact as the success marker/end goal for this exercise. 

A good relationship with you is vital for good recall. My dogs recall has improved of late as I have worked on her trick training more. The two may seem disconnected but they are definitely not. The trick training is really good fun for us both and so our bond has improved. The feeding exercise above will make your dog think you are amazing! 

2. Once moving into recall training, choose a recall word and pair it with their name. For my dog I use 'Dita Come!' Their name alone doesn't give any instruction it simply gets their attention. The recall word gives them an actual instruction.

Decide what this instruction means i.e. for Dita she only gets the reward if she runs to me and stays around. Other people like their dog to come to them and sit, others like their dog to run to them and heel by their side. It doesn't really matter but make sure you only reward the behaviour you want repeated. Be clear in your own mind as to your criteria otherwise the dog gets confused

3. Don't use their name to call them to something they don't like (i.e. the bath), always keep positive associations with their name & practice indoors. If your dog won't recall in the house then it's too soon to expect it outdoors

4. Whilst in training/unsure of a dogs recall, use a long-line attached to a harness (never a collar). You can then work up to dropping the long line then eventually removing it

5. Start somewhere quiet and work up to somewhere more distracting. We want the dog to succeed to make it easy for them. Think indoors, then garden then quiet street then local park.

6. Always reward a dog for returning, I use treats, praise, play, a cuddle, whatever works for the dog. When in initial training reward EVERY single time (you'll need to start carrying treats/toys out on your walk. Why do you think all trainers & professional dog walkers have treat pouches).

Don't be a scrooge. Start with a yummy treat guaranteed to get their attention. If they run back to you from some really lovely smell or fun play with another dog and get some boring kibble, they won't bother running back to you next time. Make it worth their while. Once well trained you can lower the value of the food reward, you can also vary how often you reward. Although a 'good boy, 'good girl' never does any harm

7. Never scold a dog who takes too long to return, they'll just take even longer next time. Also if they are slow to recall it is a sure sign you haven't trained it well enough! 

8. If you are going to be busy on your phone etc, just keep them on lead!  If a dog gets to run off and ignore you then it is simply 'practicing' the unwanted behaviour and it will get more and more ingrained. 

9. Consult a trainer if you are not seeing results, every dog is different and one size does not fit all! Dogs with a very strong prey drive will benefit from a professionals input or those with other behaviour issues may need those addressed first

10. Remember it is never too late. Yes starting from a pup is the best fit but you can certainly start afresh with an adult dog (believe me!)

Have fun training, bringing a positive energy will get better results from your dog. 

Food Enrichment

Our dogs (& cats) are scavengers, we owners know this. When was the last time you were able to set down a plate of food and leave the room with a dog present!?

So let's appeal to that natural instinct and feed our dogs in a more interesting way. 

There are some excellent ideas on the Facebook group: Canine Enrichment. Here people share lots of homemade ideas for ways to feed their dogs. 

Ways I feed Dita:

  1. From a kong
  2. From a food puzzle
  3. On a walk, rewarding for behaviours I want her to repeat
  4. Scattering in a cardboard box with tissue paper inside
  5. Clicker training in the house
  6. At a training class
  7. Scattered on grass (great way to calm a dog down)
  8. In her bowl (in the morning) 

 

What you feed is just as important as how you feed. The website www.allaboutdogfood.co.uk is a great source of information. It rates food out of 5* and lets you search for your dogs size, age etc to find out good foods. 

See my Facebook video for examples of Dita's food puzzles.

 

 

Enrichment on walks

Enrichment on walks

As discussed on my vlog, there are three keys ways we can enrich our dogs’ walks.

If you make the effort to enrich their time with you, they will pay you back with better focus and the bond between you will improve.

1. Let them sniff:

"As we see the world, the dog smells it. The dog's universe is a stratum of complex odors. The world of scents is at least as rich as the world of sight" (Alexandra Horowitz, Author of Inside of a Dog).

Choose to let them sniff as much as they want on a particular walk or at a stage during a walk. Sniffing is vital and rewarding for dogs, they glean information that is of importance to them. We don’t need to know why, it’s part of their doggy inner world. If we drag them by everything they lose out. A walk without a sniffing is like us walking blindfolded.

2. Try new locations: Take them around a different street walk, drive somewhere new, watch how engaged and excited they become. We are all creatures of habit and find walks we like but you don’t need to stick to them all the time. Or instead of a walk on a particular day, why not try a training class instead. They are great fun and a mental workout for your dog is just a tiring as a long walk. 

3. Be more fun! Dogs are perpetual toddlers, they love to goof around and love it when we do too. You are their whole world, we have other people in our lives but dogs only have us. Be fun, enjoy their company, reward them for good behaviour. It will improve your bond and often has positive results on behaviour. A dog will recall quicker to you if you worth coming back to.

Alabama Rot

Alabama Rot is a canine disease of unknown cause. It affects all breeds, ages and sizes of dog. Cases of the disease have been confirmed recently in South Wales. 

The first sign of the disease is usually a sore, not caused by an injury. 

The following information was taken from Vets 4 Pets website:

"Most commonly, these sores are found below the elbow or knee and appear as a distinct swelling, a patch of red skin, or

are open and ulcer-like. Within approximately two to seven days, the affected dogs develop outward signs of sudden kidney

failure which can include vomiting, reduced hunger, and an unusual tiredness. Skin sores and sudden kidney failure are not

unique to this disease alone, and are actually more likely to be caused by some other disease. Your vet will run a number of

test"

Visit the site for more information & images.

What we are doing: 

We are taking vet advice which is to wash off dogs paws after walks where they have been very muddy. We have antibacterial wipes and a water pump to help. More often than not there is a clean stream at the end of our walks which gets most of the mud off.

We have chosen to avoid woodland areas as there seems to a perceived link between confirmed cases and this type of area although opinions differ on this. In general there is a lot of 'unknown' around the disease. 

What you must do:

Be vigilant and check your dogs paws, legs, tummy on a regular basis. Don't force them or rush it, especially if they have sensitive paws. Wait until they are relaxed, having a cuddle and gently investigate. Use treats if necessary to make it a nicer experience for them. If you spot anything you are unsure of, particularly a sore or lesion that has no explanation then take your dog to the vet.   

In terms of probability, it is extremely unlikely your dog or even a dog you know will suffer from this but information is power so spread the word!