Aug 30, 2011 Issue #16 Published by Sue Skiff
A NOTE FROM SUE
Hello, again. I hope that you are all doing well. Today, I have included an article on teaching your dog to walk on a loose leash. And, of course, I have written the second half of my crow story. I hope that you enjoy them.
As always, please feel free to
with your comments, questions, stories, and article submissions. I enjoy hearing from you.
Have a great week!
FOUR TIPS FOR LEASH TRAINING YOUR DOG
Leash training your dog is an excellent way for you to strengthen the fact that you are the one in charge without resorting to having to prove it. You want to train your dog to walk on a loose leash. Being able to walk your dog on a loose leash means that you and your dog can both enjoy the walk. Also, if the leash is tight, you will have a much harder time controlling your dog (unless you are the one that is making the leash tight); in which case you’re going to have a much harder time both enjoying the walk, and teaching your dog what you want.
TIP 1: HAVE THE ATTITUDE OF A LEADER
Dogs are experts at reading body language. So, you need to use your body to communicate with your dog that you are the one in charge while you are walking with your dog. Hold the thought in your mind that you are the leader, and hold your body the way a natural leader would hold her/his body. This is not about proving to your dog that you are in charge. This is about you knowing that you are in charge, and communicating that attitude to your dog. As part of your attitude, you also want to think of your dog as just an extension of your arm; wherever you go. any part of your arm also must go.
TIP 2: RELAX
With your dog on your left side, take hold of the loop end of the leash with your right hand. Have some slack in the leash so that there is some hanging down below the dog’s neck. Grab the leash loosely with your left hand, so that the slack is maintained. A loose grip is essential here as it allows you to stay relaxed, and gives you more freedom to make adjustments as you walk. You should be able to swing your arms naturally while walking your dog. This will reduce both your mental and physical stress levels, allowing you to enjoy the walk. And, the more you are relaxed about the walk, the more relaxed your dog can be, allowing it to enjoy the walk, while still being under your control.
TIP 3: CHANGE DIRECTIONS OFTEN
It is important to keep your dog’s attention on you. By changing the direction of travel when your dog is not expecting it, you will teach your dog to pay better and better attention to you. Changing direction is also the best way to stop a dog from pulling. If your dog is unaccustomed to walking on a leash, it will probably immediately start out faster than you, and start to pull. This is where your timing becomes critical. As soon as your dog starts to get out ahead of you, and before it gets to the end of the leash, quickly back up or turn around. Timed correctly, your dog will get no chance to pull, your arms will stay relaxed, and your dog, as an extension of your arm, will be pulled into a different direction with little effort on your part. Continue to change directions every time your dog is about to pull, and it will soon learn that pulling is not an effective way to get where it wants to go.
TIP 4: USE POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT
You need to reinforce your dog for walking on a loose leash, and you need to do it a lot. This is how I reinforce loose leash walking: If the dog is walking on a loose leash, and not trying to get ahead, but not really paying attention to me, I praise it heavily. I might even reach out and pat it on the shoulder. I do everything that I can to let it know that it is doing well. I do the same if the dog checks in with me by looking at me, even if it is out ahead a little farther than I would like, or off a little too far to the side. However, what I really want is to have the dog to mainly be next to me, and to be checking in with me frequently. So, as soon as the dog is next to me, and it looks up at me at the same time, I tell it “Yes,” and pop it a treat, I also often give the dog a pat on the shoulder while giving it the treat. I want to make it feel that walking next to me, and paying attention to me, is the best thing ever.
Practice the above with your dog in your house, backyard, or garage, repeatedly before taking it out on a real walk. This will give your dog a chance to learn how to walk correctly on a leash without the distractions that it will encounter on a walk. Remember that learning will happen best if both you and your dog are focused on the lesson. Have a conversation with your dog, while you walk, to keep it focused on you. And, walk without the distractions of cell phones and mp3 players. You need to keep your attention on your dog, not on something that is separated from you.
Teaching your dog to walk on a loose leash will go a long way in teaching your dog that you are in charge. Soon, you will be able to really enjoy your walks knowing that your dog is going to walk nicely. You will then be able to notice all of the wonderful things going on in the world around you. Have fun!
The Lady and the Crows, Revised, Part 2
As I said last week, I have been fascinated by crows ever since my days in Davis. This fascination actually started before my personal crow encounters. I used to enjoy watching them crack walnuts. They had a simple strategy; sit in a tree, next to a road, holding a walnut, until a car approached, then fly out and drop the walnut in front of the car. The car would run over the walnut, and act as an effective nutcracker. The crows would then just fly down and pick up the edible parts.
Today, I will tell you “the rest of the story,” as Paul Harvey used to say, of my crow encounters while finishing up working on my bachelor degree at UC Davis. It happened during the same time period as the story that I told last week.
During my last year as an undergraduate, I had a job working for a professor studying scrub jays (contrary to what many people believe, we do not have blue jays in California, only scrub jays and stellar jays) on campus. As part of my job, I located nests belonging to these relatives of the crow. I knew where a number of nests were, and I monitored each one regularly to determine the timing of egg laying, egg hatching, and fledging (when the babies leave the nest). This, of course, required a lot of tree climbing, which did attract some stares on the part of my fellow students, but that is off the subject.
Well, those smart crows took notice of what I was doing. Soon, they realized that I knew where there were nests containing yummy bird eggs and babies. So, they started following me. They didn’t follow me when I was going to and from class, or when I was just crossing the campus. They only followed me when I was visiting scrub jay nests. How they knew the difference, I’m sure that I’ll never know.
Of course, it is perfectly natural for crows to eat the eggs and babies of other birds. However, I am a firm believer that it’s best for wild animals to find their own food. And, I was doing my best to not have a negative impact on my research subjects. So, I really didn’t want the crows to get free meals by following me around. Therefore, I began trying to figure out how to keep the crows from learning from me where the jay nests were.
My first strategy for getting the crows to leave me alone was to lie down on a lawn, and pretend to take a nap. This worked briefly. The crows would decide that I wasn’t going to nests, after all, and would leave. However, they soon realized that they were being tricked, and would simply sit in trees near to the site of my “nap,” and wait for me to get up and continue on my way.
Next, I tried going through buildings. I would enter a building, and make my way to a separate door from the one at which I had entered, hoping to throw the crows off of my trail. This pretty much didn’t work at all. The crows would simply station themselves at different locations on the edge of the building’s roof, so that one of them was sure to see me when I came out. I was beginning to think that the crows were smarter than I was.
I could not come up with another idea for throwing the crows “off the scent.” So, in the end, I would simply stop my work when crows were in the area, and return to work later. It was frustrating to do this, but it seemed to be the only answer.
I truly hope that these crow stories have given you a new respect for these wonderful birds. They are truly amazing creatures.
It’s part of life in the 21st century. You get the kids off to school, work all day, pick the kids up at daycare, make dinner, and collapse. But, what about the dog? How do you find the time to train it to be a good citizen? Maybe, you managed to get your dog into a puppy kindergarten class, and then a basic obedience class. But, you really didn’t have time to practice the way the instructor wanted you to, and now, well now, it’s all kind of fallen by the wayside.
You know that your dog can do better. Perhaps, your dog has some behavior issues. Whether or not they’re serious issues, they make your life harder, don’t they?
So, what do you do when you’re already stretched, and you know your dog needs more? The answer is “day training.” Day training starts with a meeting with me where you describe your dog training needs, and your dog’s behavior issues. I then come to your house for an hour or so, on agreed upon days, to train your dog. You get to get on with your life, while your dog gets training and attention from a professional. And, that training and attention is customized to your and your dog’s exact needs.
Maintaining what your dog learned is also built into the day training program. At the end of each week of training, I meet with you to go over what your dog has learned, as well as what you need to do to maintain the learning. After the agreed upon number of weeks has elapsed, I return for a follow-up or two, to make sure that you and your dog are on the same page, and everyone’s happy. For more information on day training, visit
my dog training website
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