Was it a certain breed you always wanted? You grew up with a similar dog? Did you see them on a rescue page and fell in love? Did you meet one in the park, and you knew that was the right dog for you? There are so many reasons why people pick a certain breed or type of dog.
When I was 12 years old I met an Irish Red & White Setter when I went to dog training classes with my parents when they were raising their Border Collie Mac. I knew from that day, one day I would get a Red & White Setter. I thought what a beautiful dog, gracefully yet silly, intelligent and loved to work. When I was 30 I knew I was able to consider getting a puppy. I had enough time, money and knowledge to devote to raising a pup. Most people don’t even know what a Irish Red & White Setter is; I used to get asked if he was a big spaniel or some sort of cross. They are not a common breed, so I had to wait for the right breeder with a suitable pup for us. We welcomed Morgan into our family and he was just as I hoped. The long legged, handsome, regal I always used to think, silly puppy. At 8 months of age, I still remember this so clearly, we were on a walk, and he did his first ‘set’. He froze, stalked and then flushed a pheasant out from the grass. I didn’t see the bird and up to that point he hadn’t shown any of these behaviours before. His recall was great; however now everything has changed. His natural genetics had kicked in and his desire to flush birds was now the most important thing in his world.
The fact as an adolescent he discovered his natural breed traits shouldn’t have been a surprise. This is the age where your dogs will be developing and learning, and this time is when your relationship can be tested as the pup you were raising has now changed. This is why you need to know what your dog was originally bred to do. That way you can focus your training on what is likely to show up. Are they more likely to bark? chase? hunt? destroy? bite?
Anyway, back to Morgan. We spent the next year with him on a long line (we hadn’t needed to use one up till then) and spent lots and lots of time working on his engagement with us and not allowing him to freely chase birds. The internal rewards he would have felt when he flushed that bird; there is no food or toy reward I could use to show him staying with me was better! So management is required. Don’t let your dog rehearse a behaviour that you don’t want them to repeat. We spent lots of time working on focus and engagement type games, building our relationship and yes we did also allow him to flush birds sometimes – but only when he was given a cue to do so. I love giving dogs access to their natural outlets, but there needs to be boundaries to keep everyone safe. There are some behaviours that you can give an alternative outlet rather than access to the thing they actually want.
During these challenging training times, this is when having dog can make people turn towards punishment-based training methods. I know lots of people that have come to me, that have been told by others that their chasing dog needs to have an e-collar on to teach them not to chase. These e-collars give an electric shock to your dogs neck when they do the ‘wrong’ behaviour. Please Please Please never feel like you need to use any training that causes pain, fear or intimidation. As the more intelligent species, we have so many more options as to how you can train your dog to listen and respond to you. I feel so sad when I hear people have used these types of equipment because they felt they shouldn’t be using them, but a trainer told them to, so surely it must be ok? NO! Dog training and behaviour is an unregulated industry. Anyone can set up a business and call themselves a Behaviourist or Trainer. Please check the people that you use are accredited with a membership organisation that actually ensures they are using only up to date, science based, rewarding methods.
Anyway, back to Morgan and his pheasant chasing. Yes it took time, and yes we made some mistakes along the way (he got some free chasing that wasn’t planned) but yes we did get to have him off lead in all locations with a great recall around birds.
If you have a working breed, you must expect that some of their natural behaviours will show up. Are you aware what your breed or crossbreed were originally bred to do? If you are considering getting a dog, can I please encourage you to research the breed. Don’t be tempted on looks alone. Another trainer described a working line dog as the Ferrari of the dog world. I love cars even though I drive a van! I would love a really fast sports car, but I certainly wouldn’t want that to learn to drive in one. Actually, if I just want to pop to the shops with kids in the car, that wouldn’t be suitable either. Maybe a Ford Focus would be must more suitable as the all-round car? I love this analogy of dog breeds. What do you want from a dog? Is it an all-round family pet? Or is it a high drive sporting breed? Do you just want to enjoy walks on the beach, or need to take it competing and giving it a special lifestyle? If you get a dog from working line parents – what do you think you are going to get?
Something to consider when researching your next dog or perhaps looking at the dog you have now. If you are struggling with your training, have you consider breed type? Genetics? Can you give them more appropriate outlets?
As always, if you want to have a chat about your dog, don’t hesitate to give me a call.
This is the usual request I have when people contact me for help with their dog. Their focus is on stopping the dog doing a behaviour that they deem wrong. There is always an urgency to get the problem fixed as soon as possible and a hopeful desire that it won’t take too much effort.
If we are honest, we are all the same. We want to solve any problem with as little effort as possible, and preferably achieve the result by tomorrow, well actually yesterday would be better! Who wouldn’t want to lose 2 stone overnight without any effort or be able to run a marathon without any training, or learn everything you needed to pass your maths A level in just one lesson. I get it; however, this mindset doesn’t help when working with your dog. Some issues are going to take time and patience to achieve the goal.
There has been a rise in social media videos showing all these ‘quick fixes’; how if you only buy this piece of equipment or use this easy method, all your problems will be solved overnight. I have previously written about ‘balanced trainers’ and those that think it’s ok to use punishment in training, so I am not going to focus on that today. What I want to talk about is the human end of the lead.
I understand that having a dog can sometimes be really hard work, but I think we sometimes miss all the fun you can have too, especially when working through any behaviour or training challenges you have.
I have lots of puppy owners on my Pawsome Puppy Programme, that reach out and ask for help with toileting training or biting issues; I of course help with advise, but I also tell them to remember to enjoy having their pup as the time goes so quickly, you must remember to enjoy this stage.
If you have a ‘teenager’ and every day seems to produce a new unwanted behaviour, such as chewing or ignoring their recall, then understand that some behaviours are age related and it is part of their journey into adulthood and therefore management might be the only thing you can do for now.
If you have a reactive dog that struggles on their walks, then why don’t you hire a rented dog field and just go and have some fun together or don’t walk them and engage with some fun games at home instead.
It’s ok to give yourself and break and stop focusing on everything on your ‘to-do’ list.
Sometimes I think we need to ‘be more dog’ and treat each day with the outlook of ‘what is the most fun thing I can do right now?’ I love that attitude and wish I had it more often. Building your relationship of trust and understanding with your dog will actually be the best way to spend your time together. Yes, you need to spend time showing them and helping them to be a good ‘canine citizen’ as they do need to live in our human world, but today I want you to remember:
Sometimes you just need to go with it and play with your dog!