When I’m out walking, my dogs and the dogs I walk are constantly being trained. Whether it’s reinforcing a recall, a wait or focussing on me, my dogs are always learning. Dog training doesn’t stop once your dog learns a trick or a command. Training is a life long commitment and doing a little every day means you keep your dog working the way you want. Bad habits and behaviours can easily creep back in if you’re not the one in charge of giving your dog a job to do! I have border collies and they always let me know if I start to slip in my training as they go self employed!!
Like you or I, dogs do not like working for free. A pat on the head isn’t always a good enough reward, especially if you have asked for something that requires a lot of thinking or exertion. For example, when I do agility with my dogs and I’m teaching them a new piece of equipment or something that requires a bit of thinking, I can’t expect them to be willing to do it if they get nothing in return. Would you head off to work, slog your guts out and then be satisfied with just a kind word from your boss without the pay?? I know I wouldn’t and dogs are the same.
Different dogs will work for different rewards. Brae will do whatever you ask of her if she gets a tuggy toy or ball for her trouble, while Brenna only lives for treats (Taryn is somewhere in between!) The kind of food rewards you use depends on what you’re teaching and how food orientated your dog is. When starting with a new command, you should start off with something high value, like liver, chicken, cubes of cheese etc. Then there’s a sliding scale of treats from there all the way down to regular kibble. As you train your dogs you will get to know what works for what type of training.
One of the most annoying things I hear while out walking is ‘Oh you’re bribing the dogs to sit and wait, no wonder they do as they’re told!’ Grrrrrr *Angry face!!!* A statement like that tells me that the person with the dog spinning wildly on the end of a lead, barking and lunging (while mine all sit and focus on me!) knows very little about dog training and that they don’t understand how it works. And that’s OK, I don’t judge (well….. much!) because I too was once ignorant to how training actually worked. However because I wanted to do better for my dogs, I educated myself and found a whole new world of training.
When I’m out and I see another dog and walker coming towards me or someone out with children or a cyclist, I call to my dogs to me and I touch my pocket. My dogs know that means I want their attention. As they come and sit in front of me and focus on me, I first verbally reward them then if needed I reinforce the reward with a little, middle value treat. The food reward isn’t always needed, but sometimes I need to really make sure they stay focused on me. The food reward is random, they never really know when I’ll dish out a treat. Sometimes it’s a verbal reward, sometimes it’s a toy. What they do know is that they WILL get some variety of reward for doing as I asked. That is not bribery. That is training. A bribe is when I use a treat, show it to the dog and then lure it to do what I want. Now a lot of training does start out like that, however as the dog learns what I am asking for, you remove the lure and replace it with a verbal command with the reward at the end.
Training this way means that by using a verbal or even a nonverbal cue, you can get a ‘Pavlovian’ response. For example, when I take Taryn’s lead off my neck while we’re out, she will automatically walk towards me, wagging her tail ready for me to put her lead on. I don’t need to say a word. How did I train that response? Simply by rewarding her each time she came to me to have her lead put on. Lead in one hand, treat in the other hand and as I touched her harness or collar to put her lead on, I’d feed her the treat. Simples. Does she get a ‘bribe’ each time I put her lead on? No. Does she still do it almost 100% of the time? Yes.
So don’t be afraid of the treats, just learn to use them properly and you will have a dog that works it’s little socks off for you!
Thanks for reading folks!
This time of year I often hear the same thing from lots of different people. They all comment on how amazing my job must be, out walking in the glorious sunshine, enjoying summer days out in the woods and meadows, frolicking with the dogs. And it is great, I absolutely love my job and I don’t want to do anything else.
However when you get days like we had on Tuesday (torrential rain alllllll day!) those same people then say that they’re glad to have an office job where they’re dry and warm. In the winter months, not one person says they’d like to do my job!
Dog walking isn’t the easy, straight forward job everyone thinks it is. There’s so much that goes into the job that people don’t realise, and honestly it can be stressful (I plan on doing a separate blog about what actually goes in to being a dog walker!) Plus, we walk in all weathers. ALL weathers. Sun, rain, hail, sleet, snow, wind……. Some days it can be one long day of waterproofs, soggy towels and a car stinking of that delightful wet, muddy dog smell! It isn’t glamourous and some days you get dog poo under your nails and mud on your knickers (yes, really!) but dogs need walking regardless of the weather, although we always have your dogs safety in mind so some days a walk might not be safe.
If I’m honest, I like the rain as it keeps my favourite walks empty and the fair weather walkers indoors! So rest assured that Born 2 Run will always walk your dogs in any weather, as long as it’s safe to do so!
Thanks for reading!
Almost all dog walkers will endlessly advertise and write about what they do for you and your pets. Which is great, as when you’re looking for a trusted person to walk your precious pooch or to look after your pampered puss when you go on holiday, you need to know what exactly you’re getting.
However, it’s sometimes good to know what you’re not getting too. So here’s some of the things I don’t do.
- Drive a van covered in logos advertising my every movement.
I’m not knocking anyone who does have their van covered in their logo and details. I used to have one myself and it’s a very powerful advertising tool. However nowadays I have a small apprentice (my daughter!) to chauffeur around so I swapped my beloved van for a car. I decided against putting a logo on the car as there have been so many reports recently of thieves targeting dogs in dog walking vans and houses that have dog walking vans parked outside. I’m now anonymous, so on lookers won’t immediately know a house I’m visiting for cat visits is empty or that I’ll have dogs with me.
- Pack loads of dogs into my vehicle to walk a large group.
I’ve never been one to transport large numbers of dogs to walk them. I’m insured to walk up to 6 dogs at once, but it isn’t often that I take that many out all at once. If I do, you can guarantee 2 or 3 of those dogs are my own. With client dogs I tend to only walk 2-4 together, and generally that is 2 dogs from the same household. I don’t believe dogs do that well in huge groups and I like to be able to comfortably manage dogs. I don’t like my attention split in so many different directions. That’s when mistakes happen and dog poo gets missed!
- Walk any large dogs or dogs with ‘issues’.
Nowadays I specialise in small and medium dogs and dogs that are fine to socialise with other dogs. I’ve been in business over 7 years now and there was a time where I would walk any dog that came along. I made a lot of mistakes, I didn’t trust my instincts and I am now paying the price. Years of walking dogs that pull like trains has totally done my back in. So much so that I now have to pay endless pennies for a chiropractor to torture me in the name of healing. Walking reactive dogs and not trusting my gut instinct resulted in me getting a mauling from a dog that has left me with permanent scars. I feel I’ve served my time and can now be mre selective in the dogs I take on. Lets face it, I’m not getting any younger and I need my joints and back in working order!!
- I don’t believe dogs are pack animals.
Now this one won’t come as a surprise to anyone who is up to date with the current findings on how dogs evolved and their behaviour, however I can imagine a lot of people will think I’m a poo bag short of a pocket full for saying it. They’ll say ‘but dogs are closely related to wolves, how can they NOT be pack animals??’ Well that’s a long answer, but basically dogs are not wolves. They are as far removed in their habits as we are from chimps. When you see your dog and bitch raise puppies, then take them out to bring down a moose by working as a team, then I’ll sit and listen to your argument. Until then I’ll believe that dogs are just social creatures that like to have human and maybe some canine company.
So there you go. Now you know what I do do and some things I don’t do! Comments arewelcome, I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Cheers for reading folks!
There is 2 weeks left in May and that is a shame as it it my absolute favourite month. The green landscape, the bluebells, the warm days and light nights all lift my mood and make every day a great day!
To celebrate all things canine in the spring, I’m running a photo competition on my Facebook page. I want to see your favourite doggy pics with a spring theme!! Post them on the page and on June 1st, myself, my apprentice and my marketing manager will pick our favourite one. The winner will receive a Kong Wobbler, some tick removers (essential piece of kit!) and the picture will be our cover photo for June.
Good Luck everyone, I can’t wait to see your photos!!
I’ve been in business long enough to have had plenty of gossip spread about myself and the business. Mostly it’s best to ignore it, as it’s generally so fanciful it boarders on ridiculous. Everywhere I’ve lived has been a hotbed of busy bodies and gossips, and while this can sometimes be a good thing (folk noticing ‘strangers’ in the village, helping lost dogs get home or stopping potential thieves by the constant curtain twitching!) It can also cause a lot of problems.
Also I’ve found the dog world to be very unpleasant on occasion. There can be lots of bitching, putting down other professionals and spreading rumors in an attempt to discredit and sometimes destroy a rivals business. Luckily it isn’t always like that but it does unfortunately happen and with the explosion of new dog walkers, it happens too regularly.
One of the best ones I’ve heard is about me apparently punching a dog in the face and screaming at the owner of the dog after it had attacked my dogs. Hilarious!! If that was all the details to the story then yes, it’s pretty bad. I must be a raving lunatic and must never left alone with a dog ever again! However when you flesh the incident out with more facts, it becomes a very different story. Yes, a staffy went for my dogs as it had several times before. Yes at one point I did scream at the owner and yes, I put my hands on the dog. Now for the fleshy facts!!
Christmas Eve, 2015. I was still on maternity leave and my daughter was 4 months old. I rarely went out with her in the pram, I always carried her in the wrap, on my front.
This day I was walking in Burnopfield with my 4 month old daughter and my dogs. My lot were up ahead and as they rounded a corner, a staffy and a black dog were there. The staffy chased my dogs, growling and pouncing on them for the 3rd or 4th time that year. Owner was up ahead, mostly just ignoring his dogs, smoking. I lost my cool and shouted to him to control his dogs (as is the law!) and he ignored me. I then shouted at him that I was sick of his dogs going for mine and he said something about them ‘being friendly so he didn’t need to control them’. By this point both his dogs were jumping up at me repeatedly. Asked him again to control his dogs, he just laughed at me. His staffy then caught Thea’s leg and made her cry. That’s when I really lost my sh*t!!
I said if you don’t control them, I will. I put my hand on the dogs face and pushed it off me. He then threatened to punch me for touching his dog, accused me of punching it. I said I will if you don’t get it down off me. That’s when the big man came up to me, threatening me (a 5ft tall woman out alone with a baby!) saying he was going to punch me to the ground! Luckily my brother in law showed up as he was out walking his dog. Big, brave man backed off and denied threatening me. I rang the police, they went out and warned him to control his dogs and quit the threatening behaviour (I have an incident number and everything!)
Different story when you throw some facts at it, isn’t it? After that, he told people that it was him who had called the police and that they had cautioned me! He then spread those rumors to another dog walker, who has then repeated them to others. Hmmmm! Pretty sure that’s slander??
If you don’t control your dog in public and if they are a threat to my daughter, expect some backlash. I love dogs, (more than I like most people!) they have been my personal life since I was a child and my professional life for 11 years, but if a dog is not being controlled and I feel threatened, I will do whatever necessary to protect myself and my daughter. It doesn’t matter if your dog is ‘friendly’ and ‘just wants to say hello’, you cannot let them race up to people and jump all over a person. At the very least it’s absolutely shocking manners! You are responsible for your dog. Don’t let it down by not training it properly. Remember that a person is well within their rights to protect themselves from an out of control dog, the law is on their side – click here for information on the law.
I defy anyone to say they wouldn’t do the same. I would punch the Pope if he was a threat to Thea’s safety!
So remember boys and girls, if you hear a rumor and you assume it’s true, then you’re making an ass out of u and me!
Thanks for reading, look after your dogs and yourselves!
Pets are incredibly well loved: according to a 2015 Harris poll, 95% of owners think of their animal as a member of the family. About half buy them birthday presents. And it’s a two-way street. People who have pets tend to have lower blood pressure, heart rate and heart-disease risk than those who don’t. Those health boons may come from the extra exercise that playing and walking require, and the stress relief of having a steady best friend on hand.
Many dogs suffer with anxiety or anxious behaviour. Sometimes this can be frustrating for owners and stressful for their pet.
Below is a helpful infographic from the folks over at ReedAnimalHospital.com
Born2Run are proud to be sponsoring the Spotlight Community Theatre Productions Fun Dog Show on May 21st 2017
We will also be in attendance judging the Best Rescue Dog Class.
So come along with your dog for a chance to win great prizes and enjoy an all round fun day.