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Training Tips

Reward Based Training

One of the best tips I can give for a new puppy owner is to keep some puppy kibble in your pocket at all times. Pup will very quickly learn that "good dog" is always followed by a reward of a piece of kibble. Then the pup quickly works out that certain actions they are doing pre-empt the good dog comment and the reward. At this point, the vital link is made and training begins, pup will start to offer actions to gain the good dog comment and the kibble reward. The actions that are rewarded will stick and actions that are ignored should fade as they are not being reinforced. This can be used for house training and recall from the garden from the start and anything else you want the dog to do. Any formal training should be kept short and sweet at this early stage.

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Training for going to the vet

Make the vets a pleasure.

Tyrion has had his booster today and was a little treasure when handled by the vet. He happily stood to have his eyes, ears, heart, etc checked without a foot moving. I was so pleased all the training paid off. It always concerns me when dogs are not trained to be handled, this is such an essential skill for a dog. Not only does it make life easy for the vet, but it is far better if the dog is not stressed by the experience.

If your dog is not happy at the vets, take them to the vets, for a quick walk in and out and reward them at the vets. If they are too worried to eat, in the vets see if you can get them to eat in the car park. Regular trips to the vets, without any unpleasant incidents help the dog think of the vets as a safe place.

In addition to this, you should get your dog used to being handled, by running your hands gently but firmly all over the body checking for lumps and bumps. Once you can do this, you start to handle the eyes and ears. Then get them used to having their muzzle touched and finally work towards opening the mouth. This should all be done positively with lots of rewards. Once you can fully check your dog, ask your family and friends to do the same with the dog so it learns other people can do this too. I have added a nice little video from the PDSA that shows a very basic check.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X7w7I3WgI4Y

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Starting Grooming

Starting grooming off on the right foot.

Introducing your pup or young dog to grooming is an essential part of learning life skills. If done well, grooming is a lovely experience for both of you, where you can relax and have some quality time together. However, I all too often see dogs who have developed poor behaviour during grooming, either through excitement or aggression, therefore the dog cannot be groomed and this ends up being a welfare issue.

It is much better to start off well. Firstly learn to groom when the dog is in a calm state. Using firm long strokes down the body, or a firm rub on the chest can calm a dog. Leaving the head alone while calming is also important as touching the head can excite most dogs. Once calm, introduce a soft brush (do not try to use an adult brush yet) and put the brush gently and slowly through the coat. After three strokes, stop and reward the pup with a small piece of food. Then calm the pup again and carry on for another three strokes. Do this for 30 seconds overall and then give the dog a break.

In the next session, you should try to do 4 brush strokes per treat. Still keeping the grooming session to 30 seconds. Once the dog is settled with 4 strokes, then build up to five in the next session, until you can do 10 strokes per treat. At this stage, swap the reward to the end of the 30-second grooming session, so the dog learns it will be rewarded at the end of grooming. If all goes well, the sessions for grooming can be slowly increased over time. The idea is not to groom the whole dog but to get the dog to enjoy grooming, once the dog enjoys the process you can groom it for longer and longer periods until the whole dog can be done in one sitting. Then you can transfer to an adult brush, which you should introduce slowly over a few weeks.

The most common issue is the dog starts to attack the brush. This usually happens because the dog is in an excited state when it meets the brush and decides that it is a toy and the game of catching the brush begins, or the handler accidentally hurts the dog grooming and the dog bites the brush in pain. This stops the grooming and the dog learns biting stops the painful grooming, so this behaviour sticks. Brush biting becomes a learned behaviour very quickly, so if the dog starts with this brush biting behaviour, try to calm the dog before you continue or if the dog cannot be calmed at that time, wait till a later point in the day and start again.

If you are having significant problems grooming your dog, please feel free to consult us for an individual session to solve the problem. We are happy to help.

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Preparing to Leave alone

Getting a pup is a huge commitment and not one to be taken lightly. Besides the usual, getting the house ready, and pulling all the puppy stuff out of various cupboards and containers, there are also the vets to inform and it is also important to think about who will look after the dog if you hospitalised or the worst should happen.

Planning for all eventualities is part of having a pup. Many people make the mistake of not leaving the pup alone for the first few weeks, thinking that they are bonding. This is an error, leaving the pup for short times when they are very young, teaches them that being on their own is Okay and that you will always come back. If this never happens when they are at the 8 to 12 week stage, it can be a much more dramatic event when the pup is that little bit older and can encourage separation anxiety, so our little pup will be spending a little time alone from day one, as we have to plan for eventualities such as medical emergencies, when he may have to be left alone for a while.

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night light safety

Although the dark nights are getting shorter, we are still months away from light nights. With these dark nights, as a driver, it is my worst nightmare to hit someone in the dark, the same can be said for their pet.

Dog owners can really help drivers out by kitting their dogs out in a reflective coat, lead, or collar and collar lights. These make such a difference in the dark and really will save lives.

However, the needs of the driver must be balanced with the needs of the dog. Flashing lights can be great to catch the driver's eyes but if placed above or at eye level can have a detrimental effect on the dog. The eyes have to constantly adjust to bright and dark which makes the walk less comfortable for the dog as the dog's pupil works hard to react to strong light and dark.

So please do use dog lights on your dog but consider their position and the number you are using, so that your dog enjoys its evening walk safely too.

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Early Socialisation

Getting it right from the very start.

Pups need to meet people and the sights and sounds of the world from the moment they come home with you. From 8 weeks to the time they are fully vaccinated is not a time to keep them locked away from the world. You need to take them out in your arms or in a puppy stroller or carrier, to see the world and become accustomed to cars, buses, the sounds of people, and everything else the pup is going to meet in life. This needs to be balanced against the risk of disease contraction. By not making any physical contact with unknown or unvaccinated dogs or any potentially unclean surface, such as paths and fields, the pup will have minimum risk with maximum exposure to the sights and sounds of the world. ensuring the best start possible before they hit the floor when fully vaccinated.

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