Tag: dog training

Dealing with Separation Anxiety

Separation AnxietyA little while ago, after watching a channel 4 documentary on dogs and their secret lives, we recorded Poppy while we went out and found that she very unsettled when left on her own. She got extremely stressed and worked up and showed behaviour such as toileting indoors (once even on our bed!), pacing, panting and howling. While we are very lucky to have extremely understanding and dog loving neighbours, we knew we couldn’t go on letting Poppy be so unhappy while she was on her own. And it’s not like she’s on her own a lot or for long periods of time, but we want a happy, stress free dog. We got in touch with local dog trainers, K9 Playtime Academy Dog Training School and we haven’t looked back.

Our aim is to have a dog who isn’t really bothered if we’re there or not, so that if she needs to be left on her own for a couple of hours, she can. While we’re not quite there, we’re really close. Poppy is an excellent dog for training. She is hugely motivated by food, she’s a very quick learner and she enjoys training – she wags her tail throughout every training session! We’ve trained her to lie down on her mat, with her face on her paws and are working on getting her to lie on her side. We started by just getting her to sit on her mat and have progressed from there. We’re also working on getting her to stay on her mat while we move away. So far, we can get to the front door and have the front door open and she’ll stay on her mat. The next step is for us to go out the front door, close it and get her to stay on her mat. To make sure she doesn’t move, we’ve bought a camera that we can watch her on through our iPhone to see how she’s behaving.

The first time Poppy lay on her mat with her head on her paws, both the trainer and I very nearly cried! During training, you can see Poppy thinking really hard to work out what we want so when she does work it, it’s pretty awesome! We use a clicker throughout training and it works really well. Training sessions always leave us exhausted, but we’ve learnt so, so much and I can’t wait for the day we have a real breakthrough with Poppy and can leave her on her own without her getting stressed. We now know that if we want Poppy to behave in a certain way, we have to shape it, start small and be patient. Quite often, I’ll rush things or think we’ve pushed her too far, when we haven’t at all and I’m just being impatient. One thing is certain, and that’s Poppy will get there. It just takes a little time.

One thing our trainer recommended to us was a relaxation protocol, Champion of My Heart and it works by changing your dogs reactions to things that make them stressed, be it noise, separation anxiety or fear. It works really well and I can’t recommend it enough. Have you tried anything that’s worked particularly well for shaping your dogs behaviour? I think reward based training is always a winner – and why not? It works for me, so why wouldn’t it work for Poppy?!

 

Walking Poppy the Dog

I’ve written before about how Poppy seems to think her walks are a chance to eat everything on the pavement. It got even worse when the clocks changed last autumn and it became clear that it’s almost impossible to walk her in the dark. Because her sight isn’t as good in the dark, she pretty much throws herself at wrappers, stones, cigarette butts, anything she can remotely see in the hope that it’s food. We’ve checked with the vet that we are feeding her enough and they are happy with her food intake and her weight. They’ve suggested that she was underfed before we adopted her and scavenged from a young age. It’s highly unlikely that she’ll never grow out of this. So to try and stop her throwing herself across the pavement, tripping us up in the process and making each walk feel like we’ve been wrestling a pig, we’ve been training her.

Dog Walking

Dog owners. Do you talk to your dog while walking them? I do. All the time. Poppy walks a lot better when she’s given attention, regular praise and treats. I must look and sound like a complete loony, calling her along, telling her she’s cute and a good girl… But walks are always more successful when I do. Here are some of her commands:

  • ‘This Way’ – when I want to go in one direction and Poppy wants to go in another. Or I’ve spotted some food just out of her reach and want her to come to me instead of having her pull me with her towards it.
  • ‘Leave’ – I use this when she’s got to food or something she shouldn’t be eating. She’s supposed to leave what she’s found and come and get a treat. This works really well, 75% of the time! I’ve managed to get her to spit things out and come to me for a treat. However, there are times when it doesn’t work and it’s so frustrating!
  • ‘Poppy Here’ – This is her command to come to me straight away, though if there’s a squirrel nearby, I haven’t got a hope of getting her attention, which is why she isn’t allowed off the lead.
  • ‘Walk’ – If there’s a lot of rubbish ahead or it’s bin day and we need to get Poppy’s attention, I hold a treat up by shoulder and tell Poppy to walk. She watches me and walks in a pretty straight line. This is a great way of getting her past lots of distractions.
  • ‘Wait’ – Obviously, this one’s for crossing the street or for when I need to catch up with her. She’s pretty good at this, especially if you give the lead a little tug. She’ll wait for as long as you want, until you say ‘Go’. She gets lots of looks from drivers as we wait at traffic lights on our morning walk.

PoppyDogIt can be quite frustrating, because you’ll have a really great walk, where she does everything she’s told, gets lots of rewards and attention, then as we’re nearly home, she’ll do something she’s not supposed to or ignore your command. She’s much better at meeting other dogs, mainly because we’re a lot calmer and we’re learning to read other dog owners, to see if they’re happy with Poppy meeting their dog. If they are, we let the lead go long, they sniff each other, the other dog gets hit in the face by Poppy’s giant tail and we move on.

Dog WalksHalf the battle with Poppy is being prepared and making sure we’ve got lots of treats to hand. That way, when she does something good, we can reward her straight away. The difficulty is getting her not to eat food from the street. It’s quite worrying because we don’t always know what she’s eaten. While putting a muzzle on her would stop this straight away, we want to try and train her to ignore the food. She’s definitely getting better, so we are making progress. The improved weather makes a massive difference, because training your dog to walk better in the rain is no fun whatsoever!

Walking the DogSo if you see a crazy lady, talking to her dog, while walking round the park, that’ll be me, trying to train Poppy! Have you had to train your dog to walk better? Let me know if you have any tips!

Poppy’s first mini-break

It’s been a while since I wrote about Poppy, although if you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, you’re probably sick of the sight of her! Anyway, she’s settling in really well and has now been with us for over 3 months! I can’t believe it’s gone so fast. In some ways, the training that we’ve done has paid dividends, but in other ways, as she’s gaining in confidence, she’s getting more & more naughty. Training was really good for her and us. We know what we need to work on and we’ll keep on with it. However, it was quite difficult sometimes, as she was the smallest dog in the class and she got quite frustrated by it. She let us know by barking – a lot! She also lets us know when someone walks by the house, shuts a car door, knocks on someone else’s house etc etc by barking a lot. It’s difficult to manage this behaviour as if you try to calm her down, any attention you give her is rewarding the barking. So you have to try & ignore it. Which is very difficult & very annoying! So we’re working on that!

Poppy had her first mini-break this weekend too. While my OH & I were at a wedding on Saturday, Poppy spent the day with my OH’s mum & stepdad. She loves spending time with them, and fortunately they feel the same! She was really good at staying with them and slept well during the night, which was good for all of us! We’re going to stay with my Mum for the weekend soon, so it was really good to do a test run. Here are some pictures they took of her while she was there.

Poppy chewingPoppy sniffing

Poppy posingPoppy sleeping

I love how Poppy can look different in photographs. I posted a video on Vine last week & someone asked if she was a black basset hound. We’ve seen her with a few Daschunds lately & she looks more like them than anything else. Whatever! She’s supercute & that’s all that matters. We’ve managed to feed her up a bit too. When we got her, you could see her ribs all the time. We got her up to 11 kilos by the time she became unwell a month or so ago, but she lost almost a kilo in 12 hours so we’ve been feeding her plenty, on the vet’s instructions. She looks a lot healthier, but that doesn’t stop her scavenging for gum & all sorts when she’s out on a walk!

She’s going to have her first ever bath on the weekend so I’ll be sure to take lots of pictures. I’m pretty sure her obsession with the bathroom will be reduced after that!

Poppy Goes to Training School

Poppydog

We’ve started training classes with Poppy. It’s a six week course, starting with the basics and hopefully ending with Poppy being able to do exactly as she’s told & performing a few tricks! So off Poppy & I went, with, what I thought was, plenty of treats and high hopes. It was exhausting!

Poppydog

There were quite a few big, boisterous dogs there, which set Poppy off barking almost immediately. When she’s like that it’s really hard to calm her down. I hadn’t taken anything for her to chew on, but fortunately Sheila, the teacher, had some cow hooves, which Poppy loves! That kept her quiet for a little bit but she really just wanted to go around & say hello to all the other dogs!

We started with the ‘watch’ command, where you waft the treat in front of your dogs nose & then hold it up by your eyes. The idea is that it trains your dog to make eye contact with you, which is really useful for getting their attention on walks etc. By this point, Poppy was barking a lot so Sheila brought out the clicker. Every time Poppy does something right in training, I click the clicker & give her a treat. That way, she knows she’s getting the treat because she’s done something right, rather than for barking.

Then we moved on to sit (which Poppy can already do at the drop of a hat), down (argh!) and stand (done!). So I got Poppy to sit, then to get her to lie down, I had to hold the treat in front of her nose, move it down to the ground slowly, then pull it out along the floor. Well. Poppy doesn’t like doing this. She only goes about halfway before giving up and licking the treat so much it turns to mush! It’s really difficult for her, not quite sure why, but we’re working on it.

Before long, everyone was using their clickers & calling their dogs. Poppy was really hyped up so wouldn’t pay attention to anyone! And I ran out of treats as I’d been using them to try and calm her down when she ignored the hoof. We might have to train her to bark on command so that we can train her to be quiet. Simple eh?!

By the end of the class, Poppy & I were exhausted! We’re going to try & wear her out a bit more before next weeks class, as well as taking twice as many treats. And cheese. Poppy will do almost anything for treats, except lie down!