Here’s a little dog training tips challenge for you over the Christmas break. There is one activity per day, and at the end of it, you and your dog will have some new skills! The first six are this week, and the next six follow on next week. You can have a break on Sundays.
On the twelfth day of Christmas…
One sit and stay!
Ask your dog to sit for 5 seconds, then 10 seconds, then 5 seconds, then 15 seconds, then 1 second. Move your dog off the spot in between each sit. Have a break. Then, start again for 15 seconds, 30 seconds, back to 15 seconds. When you start again, begin with 30 seconds as the first amount of time. Always drop back to a shorter time now and again. As your dog settles more, begin to walk away and come back to him whilst you are counting. Work up to leaving your dog for longer until you can go out of the room and come back!
Two steps of heelwork
Heelwork is walking at your side, with the dog’s head and shoulders level with your leg. For competition dog training the dog needs to be on the left, but I like to teach my dog to stay close to whichever side I place him. This can be safe when you are near traffic as the dog can be positioned away from the roadside. Start with your dog slightly behind you, pat your leg and waggle a treat at your side. As your dog comes forward, say ‘heel’ and walk two steps only. Stop, feed your dog the treat. Start again – two steps at a time, no more. Reward as you go, rather than each time you stop. Before you know it, you will be walking along with your dog happily and neatly at heel.
Three downs a-staying!
Ask your dog to lie down. Let him settle in this position before you try to stand up straight. If you need to use a treat to lure him into the down position, do so. Dog training should be an enjoyable and relaxing activity. If your dog enjoys it, stroke his sides gently and give him a tummy rub too. When he has relaxed, slowly stand up straight, reminding him ‘down’ as you do so. Repeat this three times.
Four dog toys to search for!
Pick out four of your dog’s favourite toys. If your dog prefers treats, use four of these. Ask your dog to stay in place (using the previous days’ training) or shut the dog out of the room. Hide the toys or treats around the room and let your dog come in to find them all!
Fetch five things!
Get your dog to fetch, and bring back, five different toys. If your dog grabs things and runs away, play this game into a corner so that your dog can only come back to you as he picks up the toy. If your dog isn’t keen on toys, work on getting your dog to play with a toy, containing food if you can. Try and get five quick games with it, then put the toy away. Dog training is all about keeping it fun!
Six people playing (with your dog)!
Work on socialising your dog by asking six different people to play with your dog, offer your dog a treat, or if your dog is shy, just offer a treat every time you meet a new person. Dogs of any age need to enjoy social contact, so make sure your dog does not get out of practice.
Seven dogs a-leaping!
Sit on the floor (if you can. If you can’t, put a roll of wrapping paper on the floor). Hold a treat or a toy in one hand and lure your dog over your leg/roll of paper. As your dog jumps over, say ‘jump’ and give the dog the reward. Repeat, using your hand as a signal when you point at the jump so that your dog can see easily to follow your hand. Gradually increase the speed until your dog can jump over quickly rather than just stepping. Repeat seven times then take a break!
Eight little ‘leave it’ exercises
Choose eight things that your dog likes. This can be a toy, a favourite slipper, a glove, a tissue; any dog safe items your dog would normally pick up. Put your dog on a lead, and hold a tasty treat or toy in your hand. Place the chosen items spread out on the floor with plenty of space in between. As your dog goes to sniff at an item, call him back, saying ‘leave’ as you offer him the treat. Praise well and give the dog the treat as he turns away. Repeat for each of the eight items, using the lead to gently steer him away if he ignores you.
Nine lively lamp posts
On your walk, every time you reach a lamp post, ask your dog to do an activity before allowing him to sniff it. Choose a different task each time. Ask your dog to sit, lie down, give paw, come back to you; anything that means he has to do something for you before he can explore the lamp post for the neighbourhood dog news.
Ten twists and turn dog tricks
Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Have a piece of tasty food in each hand. Lure your dog to the side of your leg. Waggle the food and lure your dog into the gap between your feet so that your dog goes from front to back. Swap the luring hand so that he follows your other hand round your other leg. Your dog should be doing a figure eight around your legs before long. Repeat ten times, then rest before you all get dizzy!
Eleven tummy tickles!
Teach your dog to roll over by asking him to lie down, then holding a treat in one hand near his nose. As he sniffs at the food, hold it close to his neck and move it towards the back of his head, as if you are trying to get him to look over his own shoulder. If he feels relaxed he will start to roll over. As he does so, say ‘roll over’ and praise him well. Allow him to get up, then repeat eleven times.
Twelve terrific dog tricks.
Do one of each of the twelve day’s dog activities and celebrate the new, happy understanding you have between you and your lovely dog.
– Karen Wild