Blog

Stand

It’s been so nice reaching Autumn! The days have been getting much cooler and the doona is back out again for night-time. After a nice morning , I’m finally getting to sit down and make my next entry. I realise more and more each day how much a 21 month old toddler is a person in his own right. We went to the library this morning for story time, some colouring and to pick out a book to take home. Machines are a particular favourite of his at the moment, especially ‘Thomas the Tank Engine’. It’s amazing what a distraction 10 minutes of Thomas will do when trying to hang out a quick load of washing! Each time it’s put on, his soft toy, ‘Thomas’ is found, and taken over for cuddles while watching the show. We found a Thomas book this morning and an excited toddler, said ‘TAIN!’, held it close and carried it out of the library. Trying to take the book for a couple of seconds to actually borrow the book was quite a hassle! Especially from a toddler with an iron grip who seemed convinced he wasn’t going to get it back. Once we got back to the car, we both enjoyed a toddler’s version of the story as he ‘read’ it to me in the car. They certainly know how to melt your heart!

Onto the next training command. Stand is good to teach. Again, all you really need is yourself, your dog, some yummy treats, some free time and patience. Ensure there are as little distractions as possible (e.g. in your house or backyard), and once they are doing the command repeatedly, you can progress to areas or higher distraction.

Why is stand a good command to teach? It is very helpful when you’re doing any sort of grooming, giving a bath, at the vets, or just transitioning between commands/tricks.

 

Stand:

  • Start with your dog in front of you with his attention on you.
  • Ask him to sit while still in front of you.
  • With a treat between your thumb and forefinger, hold the treat in front of your dog’s nose.
  • Using the treat as a lure, gradually draw your hand straight out away from his nose. Your dog’s nose should remain attached to your hand.
  • As soon as he’s standing on all 4 feet, say ‘YES’ and reward.
  • Repeat, repeat, repeat until he is standing consistently and confidently.
  • At this stage, you can add in a command (‘stand’) WHILE he is in the process of standing from a sit.
  • Repeat and reward.
  • The luring hand becomes the hand-signal for stand – for example, for Toby, I use a flat hand with palm facing towards Toby and move my hand away from his head.
  • Again, with time and practice, you can add in more duration (e.g. wait a couple of seconds before giving the treat), distractions and distance.

Extra notes:

  • If your dog’s getting confused, take it back a step to where they are getting it.
  • Keep training sessions short! 5-10 minutes at a time to keep their attention before focus is lost.
  • If your dog’s not getting it (or any trick) straight away, don’t get frustrated. Always finish on a good note, give your dog a pat, take a break and try again later.
  • Practice, practice, practice! The more you practice and catch your dog doing the right thing, the more he will do that.

 

Drop

It continues to be warm weather everywhere this week from the sound of it! Summer is certainly still here and it just makes me realise how much I appreciate aircon. I can’t complain too much about Toowoomba nights, as they have been getting down to around 20oC which has been pretty good sleeping weather. A big comparison to when we lived in Townsville where we had the aircon on every night for most of the year.

I didn’t mention in my first blog, but we’re actually pregnant with our 2nd bub and are now just over halfway through already! This time seems to be flying by even faster than our first pregnancy did (chasing after our wonderful, but busy 20 month old toddler probably has something to do with this 😊). It’s hard to know how much they understand at this age. We’ll point to my belly and tell him ‘There’s a baby in there!’. He’ll point at my belly, saying ‘baby!’, but then continue pointing to different parts of my body (my legs, my arms etc) saying baby each time, so I don’t think we’ve quite made the connection that there’s just one baby growing in my belly rather than one in each part of my anatomy (thankfully!). We had our morphology scan the other day and baby was very accommodating in showing what sex she/he is which was very exciting (we will just keep that one to ourselves though until bub arrives :P).

Anyway… training related! I’m going to step through teaching ‘drop’ today! Equipment you need to get ready is the same as what was used for teaching ‘sit’. All you really need is yourself, your dog (who already knows how to sit), some yummy treats or another motivator (I spoke a bit about motivators in my entry on ‘sit’), a free 10 minutes and some patience!

With teaching anything new, it’s always a good idea to be in an area as distraction-free as possible, such as your backyard away from people and other animals. Once they have mastered the command in this area, it is good to progress to an area with more distractions, like a park, so you are confident they can listen in various locations.

Drop:

  • Start with your dog standing in front of you with his attention on you.
  • Ask your dog to sit (ensure they are doing this confidently before moving onto drop).
  • With a treat held between your thumb and forefinger, hold the treat in front of your dog’s nose.
  • Using the treat as a lure, gradually draw your hand straight DOWN between your dog’s front legs. Your dog’s head should follow your hand down to the ground. Slowly draw your hand out away from your dog with his nose still attached to your hand. His front feet should follow out forwards and his belly come down to meet the ground.
  • As soon as his belly hits the ground, say ‘YES’ and reward.
  • Repeat until he is doing this consistently and confidently.
  • At this stage, you can add in your command (‘drop’, ‘down’ etc) WHILE he is dropping to the ground.
  • Repeat and reward.
  • The luring hand is what becomes the hand-signal for drop. For Toby, I use a flat hand with palm down and move my whole hand down.

 

Extra notes:

  • You might find that if your luring hand is moving too fast, your dog will stand up to follow the treat instead of dropping. If this happens, re-position your dog and try again moving your hand slower.
  • Keep training sessions short! 5-10 minutes is a good time to keep their attention before they start to lose focus.
  • If your dog’s not getting it (or any trick) straight away, don’t get frustrated. Always finish on a good note, give your dog a pat, take a break and try again later.
  • Practice, practice, practice! The more you practice and catch your dog doing the right thing, the more he will do that.

Introduction and Sit

Hi everyone! My name is Naomi and I am a stay-at-home-mum and a part-time veterinarian. I am especially interested in animal behaviour, and one of my most enjoyable things to do is spending time with our  2 dogs and 2 cats. We have Cav, short for Cavalier, (our 10 year old border collie cross), Toby (our 1 year border collie), Mickey (our 6 year old black domestic short hair), and Winnie (our grey tabby kitten). Toby is the main one who does the tricks, but Cav still loves having his pats!

When feeling frustrated about something (like I’m feeling a bit over finances and budgeting at the moment…), I reckon one of the best things to do is spending time with family, reading a favourite book, spending time with your pets (I love going and training Toby new tricks), or if not able to go out straight away, writing about pets! Today I have been able to do most of these already. I have had the morning with my wonderful husband and gorgeous, although being quite contrary today, 20-month-old son (he has been practicing his wanting something while not wanting that something at the same time). I was also able to finish re-reading one of my favourite books while alternating reading Hairy Maclary books to our little man, and now thought I would sit down and start writing about animals and how I have taught Toby some of his tricks!

Prior to doing any training, it is necessary to be aware of what motivates your dog. In Toby’s case, he is largely food driven! For him, anything usually goes, such as biscuits, liver treats, bread, cheese, chicken. Use SMALL treats, breaking them apart (especially if using something like cheese). Big pieces will only fill your dog up faster causing him/her to lose interest sooner. Now… my vet side is going to come out for a moment, just make sure common sense prevails here! If your dog does have a sensitive stomach only use what you know to be safe, and don’t use too much of something like bread or cheese as this can lead to a belly upset. For example, if your dog is so sensitive he can only eat an intestinal diet food (e.g. Hills I/D), then stick with that!

Every dog is different and while food may work for some, not all dogs are motivated by food, and that’s ok! Find what does work. Other things that may be good motivators for your dog are favourite toys (if this is the case, keep that favourite toy out of reach and save it for training purposes) or for some, even just praising (such as saying “YES” in an excited voice, or giving pats). Toby will do a few tricks for a toy or just pats, but it’s definitely not the same as using food for him.

I thought I would start with one of the most fundamental commands that is usually the first taught at puppy obedience – how to sit. Just for ease, I’m going to refer to what I have done using treats for him.

Sit:

  • Start with your dog standing in front of you with his attention on you.
  • Place the treat between your thumb and forefinger and hold this in front of your dog’s nose. He’ll start to show interest in the treat by sniffing and/or licking.
  • Use the treat as a lure and gradually draw it back over his head making sure his nose stays ‘attached’ to the treat until his bottom touches the ground. Say ‘YES’ and reward.
  • Repeat until he is sitting quickly and confidently.
  • At this stage, you can add in the command, ‘sit’. This needs to be said as he is going through the action of sitting, not before or after as the connection between the word and the action. Repeat and reward.
  • The use of the luring hand eventually becomes the hand-signal for sit. In Toby’s case, I use a flat hand with palm facing up and move the whole hand up.

 

Extra notes:

  • Keep training sessions short! 5-10 minutes is a good time to keep their attention before they start to lose focus.
  • When luring, keep your hand close to your dog’s head. He will follow the treat and if the treat is too high, his front paws may come off the ground instead of sitting.
  • If your dog’s not getting it (or any trick) straight away, don’t get frustrated. Always finish on a good note, give your dog a pat, take a break and try again later.
  • Practice, practice, practice! The more you practice and catch your dog doing the right thing, the more he will do that.