In all my years of working with and training dogs, I have never owned or trained a Bull Breed, so I don’t profess to be an expert with them in any way shape or form, Springers were and are my thing. However, the dog in this blog was amazingly responsive to this technique and the best I gained from the whole shitty situation was that she was impeccably trained after I did some intensive basic obedience with her.
Control and manners was key.
The purpose of this disclaimer is to say this is OUR STORY and our story only but what I will say is that basic obedience has never failed me. It is the one thing that most family dogs lack. The basic obedience I write about in this blog has not cured this dog, what it has done is made sure that when I ask her to come, wait or sit, then she does without delay (mostly), she has respect for me and knows her place in the pack.
Please read bearing the above in mind and hope that the blog helps you in some way.
FTGHFB dog! Free to a good home Facebook dog, rescued by a kind group concerned for her welfare and handed over to a rescue, she was about 7 months old at this point and suspected either American Bulldog cross or Staffy cross. No real history but we did know that she had a pinned leg – suspected RTA at around 5 months of age. I fostered for said rescue and kept her. She doesn’t have any problems with her back legs, sometimes a little lame but overall a very happy little dog. Beautiful nature and initially amazing with all of my dogs and great with people and still is.
Over the months she lived with my pack however pre-walk excitement started to become a problem. Ears were getting nipped and what looked like minor playful borderline aggression started to show. We had her neutered after consulting with the vet 9 weeks after the start of her first season. It didn’t change anything. I’m not saying I regret that she would have been neutered anyway as should all bitches (my opinion).
As the weeks went on, she started attacking my dogs, mainly the lower pack members or smaller dogs. There came a point where this could not continue and she had to be separated. She was still friends with Top, one of the other rescues (a large dog) and Marley, one of mine and again a large dog. She was still friends with little Breeze the Spaniel… until…
The final straw
The final straw was when she attacked a customers dog. She was on a short lead but not muzzled, I thought on lead was enough control but in this case, it wasn’t to my detriment. It wasn’t pretty but not too bad. 2 puncture wounds about 1.5cm across on the back of the neck that didn’t heal too well as the dog kept shaking its head due to ear problems. We took him to the vets and all was well. Except I’ve not heard from that customer since despite him being one of my best customers, but you can’t blame him.
We nearly said goodbye that weekend, but as the hours went on, I knew I simply could not do it.
I had been doing obedience with her before this incident, but it was apparent that basic obedience was never going to be a cure, it would just add control. The end result is she is not allowed to mix with any other dog apart from Top, he is her only friend.
An interesting but sad thing happened after this incident. Breeze – her best friend, saw her attack my customers dog. I still used to walk her with Top and Breeze albeit muzzled but one morning, Breeze attacked her quite savagely, for a Springer at least anyway. She made a mess of her ear and tore a hole in her leg. It wasn’t that bad by the next day, just a bit of soreness on her ear and a clean puncture wound on her leg. She was unphased by it all. And if that wasn’t enough, our new girl – Maisie fed off Breeze’s behaviour and she also does not like her now. So I have 3 bitches who cannot mix (Breeze and Maisie are now best friends).
So where are we now? She lives on her own but mixes with Top on walks. She’s a naturally solitary animal as she shows no signs of worry and is by all accounts a very happy go, lucky little girl.
- THE RECALL (a formal competitive obedience style recall – from a sit stay to present in front and then round to the side in a sit at heel which means you have an informal recall whenever you need it)
- SIT STAY
- WALK TO HEEL (again, competitive obedience style heelwork)
It’s all here in my other Blog. Teaching your dog to come when called.
Do I need to teach you how to teach a dog to sit? OK, the difference is this is a reliable sit, asked for once, responded to immediately and the dog stays there until you give the release command. I won’t go through the actual teaching the sit as that’s easy but what I will do is just give you some tips.
- Ask once, speak clearly
- Assuming you are using the lure method (treat or toy in hand raised up – bottom down), phase out your lure, the hand gesture you have just used (raising hand) becomes an empty hand and the treat/toy reward becomes a verbal and/or physical reward.
- Use a gesture for every command, hand signal, call it what you want (it will come in handy when your dog loses its hearing – all my dogs respond to hand signals for directional commands, for example, go that way, come this way, over here, get out the way etc)
- Stand up straight, don’t lean over, this becomes part of the visual cue for the behaviour
- Be firm but kind, don’t lose your rag, if you do, quit and apologise to your dog! Start again with a better attitude!
- Be assertive – mean what you say. Don’t fanny about.
SIT AND WAIT / DISTANCE CONTROL
- Continue with sit training, add a flat palm signalling STAY THERE!
- Release & praise
- Repeat flat palm (your new hand gesture/hand signal)
- Sit command, flat palm “stay!” take one step back then step back in. Reward.
- … jumps ahead … At the stage where you are teaching a sit stay DO NOT EVER RECALL YOUR DOG. This is saved for the fully trained sit stay, you never call your dog from a sit stay while they are in training as they will predict your call and break the stay.
- It is a slow process but obviously depends on your skill and the dogs’ trainability.
- Stepping away is done tentatively and you ALWAYS RETURN TO THE DOG
- Difficulty levels include walking around your dog, moving further away, moving your arms (i.e. increasing distractions) etc
- NEVER EVER increase the difficulty beyond what your dog can succeed at. Training is all about managing success and helping your dog to get it right. This omits the requirement for punishment, not that I think there is any place for punishment in dog training as dogs will never ‘actually learn’ a behaviour from being bollocked for the wrong thing. RANT – so telling your dog off for not coming back – you really think they will learn to come to you next time? Really OK, next time, try a stuffed toy!!! RANT OVER
Final Phase PUTTING THE RECALL AND SIT STAY TOGETHER
- You feel you are at the stage now where your dogs sit-stay is reliable? It may be some time down the line. Still, keep reinforcing the sit stay WITHOUT a recall to keep this behaviour nicely reinforced.
Granted, this method works better with dogs who can be easily lured with food. Dogs who are more easily distracted or difficult to motivate are beyond the scope of this blog – sorry.
- Do this exercise when you aren’t going anywhere, this is purely a training exercise although you can practice it anywhere as long as you are both focussed and not disturbed by distractions.
- Dog starting point, is front present (dog sits facing you) take your food lure and guide dog to the left behind your legs, the aim is for dogs bum to work independently swinging out and round, the dog comes to your side in a straight line, bum does not swing out to the left. Food treat is your cue/gesture, which is now placed on your left hip. Not easy without a video which I will post in due course.
- The heel work is a progression of this exercise. Once the dog is at your side, you will take one step forward.
- Skills your dog will acquire – front moves independently of the rear, they learn to bend in the middle!
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