Saturday, April 15, 2006


Sydney goes to school

Or to be more correct: I go to school to be better a master. Sydney is a big dog, looks and walks like a wolf so people easily get scared.

He is pretty smart and does what I tell him to unless he is distracted. Convincing him to leave the local dog playground usually takes a while so I contacted the local office of X-Plorer to learn more about how I can make sure I am always in control. Their philosophy is to reward good behavior instead of punishing bad behavior which I agree 110% with (even though it is difficult when you come home from work to find something destroyed...)

The first lesson was completely theoretical so yesterday evening was the first real session. It started with the most basic thing; making the dog look you in the eyes when you call him. We quickly covered the basics until we got to the issue that I was most interested in: how to make the dog come to you even when it is distracted.

I learned several lessons during the one hour session yesterday:

  • Use short training sessions (5-10 minutes) and then stop for a while so the dog can rest and do something else. 5 minutes a day is better then long marathon sessions during the weekend.

  • Always reward good behavior with a sweet during the initial training (we are using small pieces of chicken sausages)

  • Never hold the sweet/reward in your hand. Always give compliments first, then take the sweet out of the pocket

  • Call the dogs name but do not give the command until it looks at you. Whistle, clap your hands or do something else to grab its attention if it doesn't turn when you call it.

  • If the dog doesn't look you in the eyes: hold the sweet in front of the dog, bring it up to your eyes and keep it there, establishing eye contact with the dog.

  • Sydney loves bringing stuff back but he wants to "fight" to release the toy. The trick is simple: bring two balls. Throw one ball and wait for the dog to come back. Then repeatedly repeat the "release" command showing him the other ball (move it to show that it is more interesting and a better ball). When the dog finally drops the ball; give compliments and throw the other ball. Pick up the ball the dog left and repeat.

  • Then the best trick of the day; how to make the dog come to you even when it is distracted. Call the dog, wait for it to look in your direction, then turn away and run away. The dog will come running to catch up. Never do what I used to do; walk towards the dog. It thinks you're coming to it so it will continue to stay where it is. The same lesson applies to giving a reward; never step towards the dog. Make it come to you.

We have 8 more sessions to go. They have an agility camp where we train which I am sure Sydney would love if we get through the basics in time.

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