Friday, August 24, 2007

Keep ex-working dogs happy - by keeping them working!

We had a chance to check out The Superdogs ( at the CNE and one thing we noticed was that the working dog breeds (Border Collies especially) seemed to really, really get excited about performing.

This got us thinking about Duke. Our boy is 4 years old now and spent 3 years of his life as working dog. He lived in an outdoor kennel and was never obedience trained and he was only used for hunting.

I've noticed that when we go for walks, the more and more I practice obedience lessons with him on the street, the more focused and responsive and well behaved he is. I think he loves being told to sit, heel, stay, come, and rewarded.

Duke is most happy when he's working, and even though he's retired from hunting, he's got a new job now!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Lessons from "Step Ahead" Level 2 Obedience Class

Tonight, we took Duke to the second class in "Step Ahead" class put on by Who's Walking Who ( in Toronto. This class is designed for dogs who have been through basic obedience and is an advanced obedience course for precision work.

Duke did OK in certain areas but was very distracted early on in class and on the way in. He eventually settled and did some great work!

Three lessons I learned:

1) Put away the lures - We are very dependent on using food in our hands to coax Duke to get into heel position, sit, etc. and we will never progress unless we start phasing out food as a Lure and only as a reward. The quote the instructor, "Anyone can do this (dangle food around) and get their dog to do anything!".

2) Grab his collar and push his bum down - If Duke refuses to sit, or sits and then stands up without permission, its ok to hold his collar and put him down and make him sit.

3) Dog Hand Signals (as per Whos Walking Who)

Sit - sweep right hand in a scooping motion up

Down - palm facing outward, hand up (the "I come in peace" sign)

Come - Start with right arm fully extended out right, fold arm/bring hand to chest

Stay - Put dog in Heel position, use Left hand, palm facing dog's face.

The agenda for tonight's class covered:

1) Recap of Heel/sit position
2) Heel/sit/stay, and walk around your dog
3) Heel/sit/stand/stay, and walk around your dog
4) More heelwork
5) Heel/sit/come/finish, repeat
6) Dog pushups (sit/down, sit/down, sit/down)
7) All above using only hand motions (the idea would be you are on the phone and can only use your hand to command your dog)

Dogs can read your mind so be positive!

Our veterinarian and animal communicator believe that dogs are able to read your mind. So, if you are trying to train your beagle or correct your beagle's behavior (ours has a habit of howling at other dogs on the street while on leash), it is very important to have a positive state of mind. If you get into a situation where you think your dog will misbehave, there's a good chance he will!

In our case, when we are walking Duke and see a dog approaching, if we freeze up and get nervous, Duke tends to react. Recently I created a phrase that I say to myself whenever I find myself in that situation - it reads,

"Duke, here's a chance for you to really impress us!"

I find that saying that to myself puts me in a positive state of mind and I am confident that Duke can read our minds!