Lively Loki the Doberman mix puppy has had his world turned upside down over the past week, as he has moved into a highly regulated training regimen. Two days ago, we began working on “stay”, and today we employed it in some practical ways: On a hike on a Michigan trail. We did this with the help of Til, my 7 year old border collie.
First of all, we picked a trail that I am familiar with, and we chose to go early in the day so we wouldn’t run into a lot of other hikers with dogs. Puppies in training are best not exposed to a lot of other dogs on leash, at least not outside of class. It seems everyone wants their dog to meet mine.
At the risk of coming across as rude, I do not encourage dogs to meet on a trail. A dog should mind his own business and pay attention to his handler. Other dogs invite a loss of focus, and they run the risk of injury or even spreading disease. The owner may not be able to control his dog. There are just too many things that can go wrong when you interact with a strange dog, even if the owner tells you how friendly he is.
We managed to walk for an hour and didn’t encounter any other dogs. Yay!
Our mission was for Loki to remain walking politely on a loose leash. This was a good opportunity to let him see how it works in normal life: a nice long walk, maybe a little limited sniffing, lots to see, other hikers to encounter, and of course, squirrels!
Learn to walk on loose leash without pulling.
Stop jumping up.
Come when called.
Stop chewing/destroying household items.
Stop chasing cats.
When we started out, he was crowding and bumping me a little. I just began to walk crookedly, crashing into him, apologizing every time, but pretty soon he learned that I am clumsy and he should keep just a little space instead of hugging my leg.
Every new experience that you can give a puppy goes into his “Log Book of Learning.” If it is a bad experience, it may be one more thing you have to overcome. If it is a good one, it is one more stride toward confidence and good behavior.
On our walk, I carried the currently-essential pocketful of goodies — just a mix of kibble and broken biscuits. They were actually pretty low value treats (as opposed to cheese or cooked chicken) but since Loki hadn’t eaten since the night prior, I figured he would be plenty motivated. Plus, this was a relaxing walk, not a rigorous training exercise.
Along the way, we made various stops to work on short “stays,” wherein I posed both dogs on flat surfaces and took their picture. They only have to sit for a minute while I fumble with the camera.
This is one of the advantages of having an older dog to set an example. Loki has had only a few lessons in “stay” but because Til is willing to stay still, it encourages Loki to do so, as well.
Til also does not hesitate to climb up on rocks or benches when asked, therefore Loki follows happily.
These brief “photo stays” are a handy learning tool, which delivers the true meaning of the word (and hand signal) to the dog. The stays are in different locations, on different surfaces, with food reward, and over with quickly. All good fun for a puppy on a new adventure.
And, there were the stairs. You have to climb three flights to get to the top of the ledges. But Loki handled them with aplomb.
Today’s log book has Loki one step closer to a reliable “stay.” A dog that can “stay” is more inclined to be grounded, and one step closer to breaking the constant jumping up habit. We are so busy concentrating on other tasks, that he doesn’t think so much about jumping anymore.
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