Dog training Lalor

I was contacted by J for some dog training Lalor, shortly after her family acquired a 2.5 year old female Shepherd X named Marley. J had two young children aged 5 and 3, and they were scared of Marley. We began, as I always do, by teaching Marley to pay attention to her owner , a leadership exercise – using the ‘look’ (verbal cue and finger moving to lips) and also strengthening her response to her name. It is important in dog training that we teach a strong response to the dog’s name, as a means of getting her/his attention – very important for communication, especially when distractions are present. Marley was rewarded with high value treats for her responses, and if she was very quick to give attention, she got a jackpot – 5 or 6 treats at a time! The jackpot is part of shaping a dog’s behaviour by giving a big reward to the best and quickest responses. And dogs remember this and are the more likely to repeat the behaviour we want. Positive reinforcement dog training is the best approach for both dog and owner! 😃

I like to use clicker training if the owner is willing to embrace this method, as the dog training usually happens a lot faster. J was really keen to learn and after some conditioning of the clicker for Marley we were away! In this first lesson it was really important to help the young children adjust to Marley’s presence instead of squealing and running away. I thought one way we could lessen their fear was to teach Marley some tricks. I had done this with both WolfCub and Phoenix when they were young, because I am aware there are both adults and children who are frightened of large black dogs. Many is the time I have had WolfCub perform a ‘bow’ or ‘shake hands’ for children and they have overcome their fear and been able to pat him. After a couple of demonstrations for J on how to lure a ‘bow’, J took over and began to click Marley for approximations of the ‘bow’ until both J and owner were performing it reliably. I also suggested to J that she reward the children in the same way as we were doing for Marley – that they got a ‘treat’ for a positive interaction with the dog. This worked even better than I had expected because by the second lesson the following week, the children were no longer frightened and were actively engaging in the training process with Marley, especially the 5 yo! I had a smile a mile wide as J was telling me this. She had used strawberries to strengthen their positive response to Marley. And J was luring the most fantastic ‘bows’ from Marley after just one lesson! 😀

One of the other big issues J and Marley needed help with was loose lead walking, and to transfer the ‘pay attention to me’ cue to a distracting environment such as the street. Lessons 3 and 4 of dog obedience training, Lalor were concentrated on doing this. Firstly Marley had to ‘look’ to J before the walk even started – and then when Marley pulled on lead, to immediately stop, wait for her to look and sit , then continue on – most importantly J was to say ‘walk on’ when Marley had sat and looked, so that the dog would start to associate the walk continuing when she brought her attention back to her owner. And that there was no walking if Marley pulled on lead. J was also clicking and rewarding for when Marley walked nicely at her side, in order to teach her this is where she needed to be. This is one of the hardest physical skills I have to teach clients – but after a relatively short time J was able to coordinate everything (she was a quick learner!) and have Marley walking at her side. As it is the same with dogs and owners – both learning through practice and repetition, we had another lesson on the street to consolidate the loose lead walking and with Marley slowly learning to cope with distractions and returning her attention to J.

So in a very short space of time, with the dedication shown by J and her family, Marley was quickly integrated into the family structure and their life. Marley’s character was really solid and it was so lovely to see the progress made by all, and that this rescue dog had found a forever home. If you have need of some dog training in Lalor, please get in touch! 😀