Here at Suffolk Dog Day, we are thrilled to introduce a new event partner – Best Behaviour Dog Training, with Zoe Willingham at the helm.  We have been so impressed with her ethics when it comes to training one’s furry friend – she has met hundreds of dogs of all shapes sizes ages and backgrounds, so really knows her ‘stuff’ when it comes to creating a happy relationship with your trusted companion!  We asked her to share her top five tips…

Walks

Every dog loves to get out and about for a while each day. Walks provide mental stimulation for your dog as well as physical exercise and maybe a chance to catch up with his or her own kind. Just think how bored you would be staying in the house and garden all day long if you didn’t have the telly, books or newspapers to entertain you. For your dog, a walk is as important as your favourite activity is to you.

Having said that, walking the dog can be quite an ordeal. If your dog is reactive to cars, bicycles, other dogs, people or unexpected noises neither of you will enjoy the walk as much as you could. Likewise, a dog who pulls on the lead can make exercise a misery for its owner.

No dog is born knowing how to walk nicely on the lead, come back when called or understand scary things in the human world. It’s up to us to teach them the basics and make sure that they know how to react to the things they encounter.

The good news is – a dog can start learning these things at any age. So even if your senior dog has spent the last 9 years dragging you along the path as he (or she) gasps for breath, there is hope. With the right training and guidance, walks can quickly become much easier.

If dog walking is difficult for you, it’s worth booking some sessions with qualified dog trainer to address any problems. Look out for a trainer who uses reward based training techniques – no situation is ever desperate enough to warrant using force or pain to change your dog’s behaviour and in my experience, force only creates more problems.

Brain Games

Doggy brain games are great. They give you a chance to find out how intelligent your pooch really is. At the same time, they really do tire your dog out.

How do you feel after a day doing the accounts, studying or driving long distances with lots of concentration? If you’re anything like me, you just want to take a nice long nap afterwards. It’s definitely not the physical exercise that has worn you out, it’s the thinking. The same principal works with dogs. Mental stimulation helps them to rest.

I like spending a little bit of time everyday playing brain games with my dogs. And when the weather is too wet, too hot or too cold for long walks, thinking games are a good alternative. I also recommend brain games for dogs (and owners!) who are recovering from illness or injury.

Favourite games for my dogs include “find the treat”, trick training, scent games, picking scattered treats off the lawn and exploring the special sensory garden I have created for them.

You’ll find some suggestions for doggy brain games in this article

Treats

Everybody loves a treat and dogs are no different. Just as I love chocolate and my husband prefers crisps, each dog has his or her own preferences.

Treats are used a lot in reward based training because they teach the dog to associate their behaviours with something positive

Here are some suggestions for training treats that make a good alternative to “off the shelf” goodies.

  • Pieces of cooked chicken
  • Sausage
  • Bite size pieces of vegetable like carrots
  • Squeezy cheese
  • Home-made dog treats – there are lots of recipes online
  • Squeaky toys (not all dogs are food orientated)
  • A ball
  • Tuggy toy

For a special treat – or when I want 5 minutes peace and quiet, nothing beats a Kong toy stuffed with dog-friendly peanut butter or squeezy cheese. I’ll sometimes ask my butcher for a nice marrow bone too. If your dog is inclined to get growly when he or she has a chewy toy (dog trainers call that resource guarding), for everone’s safety please get in touch with a dog behaviourist as fast as you possibly can.

Scentwork

Your dog is basically a nose with a brain, stomach and legs attached to it. Biologically speaking, almost every part of your dog has been designed to move that nose around the countryside and act on what it discovers. So it stands to reason that one thing your dog really loves doing is scentwork.

Dogs use their nose to interpret the world around them, to find out who’s been visiting the area, what they’ve done there and why. They also use their noses for hunting. Our pets don’t need to hunt for their main meals but the instinct is still there and it’s incredibly strong.

You will have seen or heard about dogs being trained to track missing people or find various substances. If you’ve ever seen them on TV you’ll have spotted the pure joy that the dog experiences when he or she succeeds. Your own pet will probably not need to rootle out explosives but can still have that same feeling of happiness and accomplishment.

Scentwork classes are a combination of brain games and treats for your dog and my goodness, they really do help your dog to be happy and relaxed in other areas of his or her life.  Look how much these pooches are enjoying their scentwork class

Feeling Safe

Every dog, no matter what breed, what age, what size or what character wants and needs to feel safe.

At home, your dog needs a nice comfy bed or a cage in a quiet spot where he or she knows that nothing and nobody will disturb the peace.

Out and about the human world can be a scary place for some dogs. When a dog feels frightened they have a limited number of ways of coping with that feeling. Most of which don’t endear them to their human companions. Depending on the circumstances, a distressed dog may growl and bark to make the scary thing go away, they may run, they could chew (chewing is a form of self-soothing – a bit like a baby with a dummy).

There are warning signs that a dog is uncomfortable and your job as a dog owner is to recognise those signs and help your dog to stay calm.  That usually means removing him or her from the situation in the short term and then working with a dog trainer to tackle the root cause of the problem.

If your dog is fearful or reactive it’s well worth asking for advice on ways to help them feel better. Start with a veterinary check to rule out injury or illness. After that, talk to a dog behaviourist who can help you to find ways to make your dog feel safe and happy.

Find a dog trainer

I’d love to meet you at the Suffolk Dog Day, but if you can’t make it, or if we don’t manage to meet up, you can get in touch with us!  Best Behaviour offer a wide range of dog training services from puppy classes, to doggy lifeskills, doggy sports, scentwork and help with behavioural problems. All of our training is force free and designed to be great fun.

Visit the Best Behaviour Website to find out all about us.

 

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