Dog training

Posted On 12.05.2011

Filed under I lovez, Maailmanparannus

Comments Dropped one response

I started to write a comment to Positively article about being a good trainer. The comment became a story so instead of commenting I’ll publish the story here.

I have 1.5 years old Swedish elkdog called Tuike. Tuike means sparkle (noun, as in stars’ sparkle) and believe me, sometimes she’s very sparkly.

I’ve always wanted to have a dog and when we, my Man and I, talked about moving, we decided that we will stay in the capital area. I had two prerequisites for this; we move in to a house with a yard and I get a dog. Otherwise I would have moved back north where I originally come from. This was agreed, but The Man had also prerequisites: I had to be in charge of the dog’s training and I had to tell him what to do and when – because I’m more used to dog training than he is. This didn’t mean that I would be the only one training the dog, I just had to define the ways.

This was the first step on positive training. Both people in this household are committed on training the dog and the training would be done the same way regardless on who is doing the training. If I’m walking the dog and teach her to walk on one side instead of letting her go from side to side across the walkway, he would do the same. If I would teach the dog to sit and wait while I was preparing her food and then release her to eat by saying ”free”, he would do the same. This has been going on really, really well.

The dog has never been punished by hitting or something like that. There has been punishments, but they are isolations for a while or saying ”NO” snappy. Every time she does good, she’s praised and sometimes given treats. Last time I was really, really happy to praise her last week. She tends to bark on the yard when someone is walking by the fence. This time she didn’t bark, I was in the kitchen and happened to look outside. She was looking like there’s something there, alert and ears up, but she was not barking. I opened the back door really quickly but quietly and praised her a lot for not barking at the by passer. She just wagged her tail happy.

We’ve only had few problems with Tuike. One is the barking, which is going to be ok (neither one of us is expecting a quick fix, we know these things take time). Another one is pulling on the leash. I’ve tried several different methods to end it, and I’ve tried them a longer period of time, not just once. The best one, that I’m using now, is to stop when she’s pulling, ask her to come by my side and the praise her when she comes next to me. This is also not a quick fix. I don’t know if my method is working is she pulling less because she’s older and a bit less ”sparkly”, but the pulling is going down bit by bit every day.

The pulling is different when she sees another dog. Nowadays the passing of another dog goes ok most of the times (and I praise her) but sometimes she just jumps. I immediately take her to short leash, stop walking and say no. Once she’s calm and concentrates on me I praise her. This is a difficult one, since once she’s in that state of mind, she’s not paying attention to me, there’s no point of saying ”look at me”. I’ve tried to distract her with treats but at this state of mind she won’t eat. I’m being patient, I’m sure this kind of behavior lessens even more over time.

One problem is chewing stuff we don’t want her to chew. This is harder, because she attacks stuff when she’s alone, never when there are people around. The basic prevention is to walk her enough. When she’s tired enough she won’t have the energy to attack sofa pillows (thank goodness she has left the sofa alone, I don’t mind a couple of 5€ pillows but the sofa….) or cheese cutter on the kitchen counter. Second prevention method is to remove the object we absolutely don’t want to have bite marks on. One time The Man left a remote control on the living room table and when he came back from work the tv was open and the remote was in a thousand pieces. Well he learned his lesson too, no items on places the dog can reach. The third thing we do is not really a prevention method but a behavioral one. We never ever haul the dog over something she’s done wrong when we come back. The scolding is always done right at the moment when she does something wrong. So when The Man came home and found the remote control in pieces, he just took a deeeeeep breath, turned the tv off and gathered the scrap from the floor. Because at the time when he came home the dog was sleeping, not chewing.

There is a problem with Tuike bustling around people when they come in. We have taught her to go lie down on her mattress when there’s a knock on the door or when the door is opened. Once the people who come in have taken their jackets off we release her by saying ”free” and then she can go and greet people. This action is not a hundred percent perfect yet, but we’re getting there. Also the friends who visit us join in in training and do what we tell them to do with Tuike. This is great and helps us a lot. At least she doesn’t jump on people anymore so there IS progress.

Once I got Tuike I immediately started getting her used to different things. We took bus and tram rides to get her used to traveling. If there was something scary when we were walking, like a lawnmower making a terrible sound, we stood still, I asked Tuike to sit down next to me and we watched the lawnmower go by. When she wasn’t looking scared anymore, I praised her. We still do this if necessary. When it was time to start shooting exercises (we hunt moose together), I went to exercise and my Dad took Tuike a bit further away and when she didn’t jump on the gun shot sound he praised her. The end result is that when there is a new and even a bit scary loud sound she might jump but she doesn’t run away. She looks at me and then we go see the sound source together and state that the sound is not dangerous and we don’t have to care about it.

Tuike is terribly afraid of thunder and snow falling off the roof, which actually sounds a lot like thunder. It’s summer time now, but during spring we had a few situations when the snow was falling. Tuike got really anxious, tried to hide, came next to me looking worried, was gasping and her heart rate was really high. I’m kind of clueless on this, but I pretty much stay calm, talk to her with a steady voice if there’s something to say and don’t pay attention her. I don’t want to reinforce her reaction by stroking her or using a praising emphasis on my voice. I hope she gets that if I’m calm, there’s nothing to worry about and calms down herself. I don’t know if I’m doing the right thing, but I’m trying.

There’s one very big problem with Tuike. When we go hunting in the fall, we hunt in an area where there are not only moose but also reindeer. The reindeer are owned by people and must not be chased. I have heard terrible stories where the reindeer owner has shot a dog even though the dog was only barking at the reindeer, not chasing or biting. Even the court agreed on this one case, that the shooting of the dog was ok because the dog was doing harm on someone’s property (by barking…). I’m afraid that Tuike will chase the reindeer also. I’m totally in the black with this one. If I catch her chasing reindeer, I have to punish her immediately. The punishment has to be hard, since I don’t want her ever to chase the wrong kind of hornheads. I don’t want to hit her, so what should I do? With other training stuff I have the time and patience, but this is a thing that has effect on Tuike’s life. Because of this big threat I want the training no reach Tuike’s backbone immediately. One part of this training, a part that allows more time is to get the dog familiar with moose smell and we have already done that last fall. Luckily last autumn I didn’t catch Tuike chasing any reindeer. If you have any ideas how to stop the reindeer chasing at once should it occur, please do share.

All in all our training methods  are working together in the same ways, exercising enough, praising Tuike and give her treats when she does good, be patient, punish with ”gentle punishment” like isolating, ignoring, distracting and and saying no, and familiarize her with new things like sounds with a gentle and safe ways. We don’t do much ”formal training” or have ”training sessions”, the training is continuous part of our everyday life.  As a result we have a dog who  is alert, loyal and trusts us, is a great traveller (she sleeps in trains and busses) and is friendly to everyone who she meets. I’m pretty happy with Tuike and she seems happy too.

In this picture Tuike is about 5 months old.


One Response to “Dog training”

  1. Arktinen Haapa

    I got a comment from anet saying
    ”Pat McConnell writes of trying (not succeeding) to break a dog of chasing horses…VERY difficult if a dog is so inclined– that prey drive is so powerful. I’d say keep leashed in reindeer area. good luck”

    Otherwise very good idea but it keeping Tuike leashed in the reindeer area kind of prevents the moose hunting. Other, older dogs do hunt moose but don’t chase reindeer. Let’s see what their owners say, how they’ve trained their dogs reindeer free.


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