I’ll preface this by stating I am not anti “sit”. Training behaviours is a valuable way to build close relationships with our dogs, and teach them behaviours that allow them to live alongside us with greater ease and with a lack of conflict.
Two of my 3 dogs are older now, so sitting is not on their agenda, it’s uncomfortable for them.
So you won’t ever see my dogs sitting by the roadside until it is clear for us to cross…but…you never would have when they were young either
I have never found much value in teaching my dogs to sit by the roadside. It tends to add a lot of unnecessary faff. I teach my dogs to walk politely, next to me and attentively. This means when I stop, they tend to stop too. I don’t have any need for a sit.
When I’m working with a distracted dog, or a dog who pulls, I will often be told how the dog will sit next to a road…But this often fuels the pulling even further.
When you ask your inattentive dog to sit by the road, they learn a few lessons. One such lesson is your main interactions on a walk is to ask your dog to control themselves. This ends up making you into the fun police without you even trying!
It can be stressful for an anxious dog, or one who finds their environment overwhelming. Being in a sit can be a vulnerable position for them, particularly if not one thoroughly proofed and understood well. They may well find it confusing.
Along with that, more often than not, the dog will then be released to cross the road. This often involves quite a spectacular display, with the dog leaping up and running ahead, or even owners letting out their flexi lead so they can forge ahead.
It creates a dog like a coiled spring, ready to fly across the road. The dog is rarely looking towards their owner, but instead across the road. They get rewarded for their focus being faaar away from you. Decreasing your dogs value in you.
Teaching a dog to find value in their owner, so they aren’t forging ahead is often going to get a dog who walks nicer and stops with you by the side of the road anyway without prompting them. This feels safer than a dog who values the other side more than you.
If you want to encourage your dog to pay more attention on your walks, try getting some super tasty treats and practicing lead walking and training games at home or in the garden.
The higher the distractions, the higher the pay. Try using treats such as tiny pieces of cooked chicken, cheese, cocktail sausage.
Remember that training should be fun, so keep training sessions short and sweet.
Recall is one of the biggest problems that owners can encounter. As a sighthound owner, of 3 Whippets, I understand that trying to teach a recall to a dog can be a big challenge.
And so true of anyone with a dog bred to hunt or work with or for us.
So many people are on the right lines with their recall, but they are still having problems.
They are calling their dogs and rewarding them with super tasty treats.
They are calling their dogs and playing games with them.
They are calling their dogs but not nagging them.
Yet they are still having problems?
So often something has happened, very unintentionally. And that is recall has become PUNISHING.
I’m not saying the owners are shouting at the dogs, they aren’t hurting them either. But without realising it, their recall has taught their dogs its the end of fun.
How has this happened?
This usually happens when owners start to call their dogs away from something they LOVE and then walk them away from the situation.
If your dog loves other dogs, and your dog clocks one, you call them back and treat them, then put them on the lead.
The treats are tasty BUT; what if the other dog was MORE rewarding to your dog than food?
What if your dog finds chasing birds or bunnies MORE fun?
What if your dog enjoys running and tracking that scent MORE than your treats?
The reward is then not rewarding in comparison AND they got put on the lead.
Next time..well..your dog probably won’t recall around their distraction.
How do we get around this?
Teach your dog that recall AROUND their distraction is NOT the end of fun.
Take your dog out on a long line, and with their distraction at a distance recall them to you, then send them back to their fun (not holding them close)
The long line ensures they can’t rehearse running away.
But they start to learn you calling them back doesn’t mean they get taken from the situation.
Try practising recall at home around distractions, teaching your dog if they come back- they can go back to fun. Pop your dog on a long line/ lead, with a dish of dry food far away, with your dog on the line recall them to you TREAT them then say “ok” and walk them over to the dish of food!
We can teach our dogs recall is POSITIVE, not punishing.
Hyperactive dogs can be ..well..tiring! They can be running around room to room, they may be nipping you, biting you or enjoying a bit of erm “Light decorating” around your house!
In the past the advice for a dog driving their owners to despair would be exercise! Walk your dog for hours and hours, go cycling, running ANYTHING. A tired dog is a happy dog..
While yes a dog physically exhausted cannot get up to no good, as they are running on empty, you don’t resolve the reason for the behaviour. And in fact, you end up creating a canine super athlete usually! The dog becomes more and more resilient to exercise, building greater stamina, requiring you to give them even more exercise.
This isn’t practical, and isn’t helping you and your dog in the long run.
Exercise absolutely needs to be met (where exercise doesn’t cause more stress than it relieves) however it is NOT the answer alone.
Often a dog who appears to be hyperactive is actually a dog who struggles with key concepts such as relaxing, along with having a need that needs to be met.
Dogs need a mix of physical exercise, and mental exercise. Along with meeting breed needs.
Physical exercise can come in many forms, depending on the age of the dog and physical capability. You can go for an onlead walk, a nice offlead walk, go for a run, let them have a swim. Do some balance exercises, some flirt pole games. They can chase a ball, retrieve a dummy. There are lots of ways to exercise a dog, and varying it will really enrich their life more. Imagine doing the same things day in day out? In fact, some of us are getting an insight to this right now! It would get boring pretty fast. Try and vary your dogs exercise and see how much more fun they can have.
Note Young dogs who have not finished growing should not participate in jogging, cycling and similar activities as they are hard on their joints.
A dog needs outlets to use their brain too. Puzzles are great and an ideal way to teach your dog to be alone, but don’t forget about training. Training simple games and exercises can tire a dog out a lot because of the brainpower require! Along with that, it builds a strong bond with you which will help them make better choices in day to day life.
Its no coincidence that gundogs are mouthy pups, or young collies try and herd the heels of kids in the home. These breed traits need an outlet as much as anything. Try and think what games you can play to replicate that! A sighthound will love to chase, try a flirt pole. A gundog will want to carry and retrieve, try and channel that when they are stealing things! Try and give your dog outlets for natural instincts, as it will help reduce the chances of them going self employed with that desire in future!
Calm is a key concept which many dogs have not been taught. It is important dogs have some time where they can chill, so ensure your dog has the opportunity to sleep when they need it. Some dogs are not built with the ability to naturally switch off (My jrt Womble proved that one!) and need a hand. With dogs like that, calm passive activities such as chewing on chews, kongs can really help, as they learn to find these calm more still activities more relaxing.
Along with this rewarding calm with a sneaky peace of dry food between their paws when chilling can be really helpful too. No praise or touch required, just dropping a treat between their paws and carrying on your day.
It can take a while for dogs who are naturally more alert, to learn to relax. Meeting their physical, mental and breed needs are a big part of helping your dog be a little less hyperactive!
Building independence can be a tricky challenge with a puppy or newly adopted rescue dog at the best of times. It can be hard to teach a dog that they can be safe without you with them, however right now there is a bigger challenge. As a lot of people will be home with their dogs, their dogs will become used to their owners being home with them.
For some dogs this won’t make a difference. When normality returns, they will be keen to have a peaceful day at home, and a trip out with the dog walker! However for some dogs there is the risk they may find this confusing, or even hyper attach to their owners and feel insecure about their owners absences.
One of my own dogs has separation anxiety, so we will be working on maintaining independence alot, and have been doing so. Here are some tips and advice for helping maintain confidence about being alone/separated.
-If your dog is crate trained, try ensuring they have some crate time each day. Whether they are well behaved or not, it keeps them in the habit of staying in their crate, as well as having some time independent from you. Try “flitting” while they are in their crate.
-If your dog is not crate trained, try having them behind a gate, or you simply work from upstairs while your dog is downstairs (or Vice Versa) You may need to build up positive associations with being separated first.
-Flitting is worth doing alot of. This is simply you being around your dog in their chillout area, (a crate or gate for example) and leaving the room for short periods your dog can cope with before returning. Doing this a few times helps ensure that your dog can cope with you leaving.
-Several times a day try opening and closing the front door without leaving. This can help your dog get used to you using the door, and it not always involving them.
-Try leaving them with puzzles such as kongs while you flit and do house work, this will help keep your dog busy if they are particularly worried.
-Try setting up a treat scavenging hunt in the garden for your dog. Hide lots of treats, and then they have to search them out without your help. This helps them realise you don’t need to be involved in the game and they can problem solve alone.
-If your dog already has separation anxiety, now is the perfect time to work on it if you re home. As you don’t HAVE to leave them often, you can build up desensitisation to leaving rituals and more. This will pay off hugely.
-For a lot of people you might not be able to leave the house often. If you have a back garden,try spending some time there without your dog, as this will help some separation with you being out of the house.
-Ensure you are meeting your dogs needs. Each dog will have individual needs, but ensure that you are meeting them. For Arthur he needs sufficient physical exercise, scent based treat finding games, chasing games, training games and chews along with time with me as well as away from me. This will vary dog to dog, and how you go about it too. But a huge part of preventing separation issues is for your dog to know their needs will be met, and they can feel secure.
-DO spend time with your dog though, don’t suddenly start ignoring them, as this will create anxiety and further problems. Instead build up independence thoughtfully.
-For some dogs, their owner being around might be alot to take! They might be anticipating fun alot and struggling to settle. With dogs like this I suggest lots of rewarding calm, and ensuring their needs are met, lots of fun but tiring enrichment games and training games. Combined with somewhere quiet they can chill without being bothered. Often dogs like this struggle with comings and goings in a busy household. Try and get these dogs working for some of their daily amount of food, as well as trying to slyly reward them with a treat dropped next to them when they are calm and relaxed.
Always ensure your dog is not distressed when you are flitting or creating absences. If they are, get in touch to learn how to help your dog in a more comprehensive way.
I had seen quite a few dogs go on their moving days. Usually as puppies. They all left and I was still here. I felt like I was going to be here forever, hearing the same sounds, and the same sights.
I was 9 months old when moving day happened. One of the men who feeds us came and put me in the van. I’d never been in a van before…it was bumpy and I’m sure I must have been in there a lifetime! I didn’t think I was getting out so got upset and I threw up quite a lot. I was a bit worried by what was going on and suddenly found myself in the mans arms somewhere new outside a front door.
I heard him tell them my name is “Marlon” and that i had another home beforehand but they didn’t “lead train” me. He said they always lead train their dogs. I’m not sure why he said that, I’d always lived in my kennel. At least I knew my kennel.
I was in this new house and there were a couple of people. They all left me to wander around. The garden was amazing! So big and exciting, I could faintly smell other dogs in the garden, but couldn’t find any. That was a relief, I like my own space! I paused and took in all these different and completely new smells.
In the house were alot of things I had never seen before. There was a comfy bed on the floor and a few toys, but foolishly I didn’t know their value at the time! In fact I wasn’t quite sure what anything was, I hadn’t even discovered the comforts of the sofa yet (Spoiler..I don’t sleep on dog beds anymore!)
I took myself to sleep on the comfy dog bed, it had been a long day after all. And I slept. The humans kept coming and going, but they let me get on with things. They stroked me now and then but I didn’t really understand. I kept my tail low to tell them I was a little unsure, they then carried on with their day.
It was nice to explore on my own. There were lots of weird noises, but I did like the humans. They kept offering me dried dog treats, they were ok… but I trained them better later on!
They kept saying “Marlon” but I still never did work out who Marlon was… They then decided Marley suited me better, I liked that! I’m definitely a Marley! They kept saying my name and giving me free food… Things were going well, I was training them with great skill!
The first day wasn’t very exciting, very confusing though. Then night time came, I was a bit puzzled, I was inside and I didn’t know what was going on. They put me behind a gate with my comfy bed and a few blankets and said “night”…
I started to panic. They disappeared. I liked the humans alot, and this scary room wasn’t my kennel. I cried. I howled and I got very upset. I didn’t know where they went. I didn’t want to be alone as I was confused!
It was this moment I discovered I’m pretty agile, as I jumped the gate and began clawing at the living room door. I kept shouting that they’d left me, I could vaguely hear them say “But Monty wasn’t like this. He just needs to cry it out”
I cried and I cried, as no one was listening. No one would help. I just wanted to know I was safe, why weren’t they with me?
I learned another key skill on that first night… How to open doors… 😂
I ran up the weird stairs and found they were all upstairs. I slept on the landing in the end.
Within two nights I had snuck into a bedroom with my door clawing skills and was soon curled up on a bed- much more like it! They didn’t try that leaving Marley to cry it out alone nonsense for some time again. I felt a lot happier and more settled knowing I could get comfort when I needed it.
Sadly since my last blog about posting more on Womble and Ollie, we had to say goodbye to Womble on 8th August. Womble had a great 6 years with us, and 8 more before us.
Here is Womble’s guide to living your best life.
-Eat the food. Enjoy the food! All the food. It’s ace!
-Don’t EVER share the food. If anyone comes close, stand over the food and stiffen up. If that doesn’t work a quick growl should help them learn you mean it!
-Be enthusiastic! Walkies, Dinner, Kongs, Chews, anytime anyone gets up assume amazing things are happening!
-Be sure to get attention. As much as you can. All of it if possible.
-If you are in doubt you are not receiving it, a good dance and sing will swing it.
-Don’t let people play on their phones or computers too much. If they are nudge their hand. Be determined- you are worth the attention!!
-If it makes a sound- Bark at it. Not sure if it was a dream or real life? Bark anyway.
-Birds are excellent for chasing. Do it.
-Water is good for wading in.
-Afterwards it helps create mud.
-Always roll in mud.
-Also always roll in bird poop.
-If you find a dead thing, and you can’t be sure if anyone knew it was dead already…”Double Dead” it. Simply bite it hard and fast and carry on as normal. Everyone will be impressed.
-If it is especially dead…roll in it.
-If it is moving…dead it.
-If you see something in the distance…run at it. Even if you realise its something pointless like a traffic cone. Commit to it.
-Whatever the weather a walk is perfect.
-Even if you feel ill, a walk is AMAZING.
-Whippets are easy to bounce on and grab. It is excellent fun.
-Doodles have lots of fur. Be sure to grab some as they fly by you.
-Puppies are the best, let them get away with murder.
-If they push it too far just slightly run towards them- they soon get it!
-Toys are good for shredding.
-If shredding gets boring, then de stuff.
-Don’t show regular interest in toys. They will keep buying more if you don’t.
-If someone looks sad lick their nose. They love it.
-If someone is crying nudge their face, remind them life is good as you are there!
-If someone is sleeping…stare at them until they wake.
-As soon as they wake crawl on your belly towards their face and nip the air.
-Swimming across the floor is good fun. People think it is hilarious.
-As is standing on objects, printers, computers.
-You might end up on all sorts of furniture. But its a great game.
-Dig. It is the best fun!
-Sunbathe- sometimes you need to relax!
-Bark at the postie. Even if you like them. It keeps them on their toes.
-Make sure the vet gets a few threats. Even if you don’t intend to follow through. As above.
-If you can’t get something accomplished, rope someone else in and let them take the blame.
-If it looks like someone else is struggling with a chew…be sure to help and take it off them. They won’t know it’s for their benefit…but it is!
-Backup friends. If they are barking, make sure they know you’ve got their back.
-Never come in from the garden when called. It is your job to patrol it!
-If people start to regularly offer sausage, begin to consider it.
-If you fall trying to sit on the sofa. Play it cool. No one will notice.
Enjoy every minute.
Don’t live with regrets.
Live life like a terrier.
Having a routine with your dog can be a strangely controversial subject.
On the one hand routine can provide a structure and stability to an anxious dog, knowing what will come through the day gives them an ability to relax.
Whereas some argue a routine can create a dog who is obsessive and cant cope with any changes that may pop up. Creating a dog manic for the next activity.
I recently switched things around here. When I was providing dog walking I had a good vague daily routine. I say vague as time scales may have varied a bit up to an hour depending on dogs I had to walk, but the general daily pattern was the same. I thought Arthur was struggling to cope and getting stressed over this so when I stopped dog walking, I stopped our routine.
The past few weeks though I have picked up a routine again, and Arthur’s ability to relax seems to have improved. I thought a routine was making him more anxious, but I got that very wrong, he much prefers having an idea on how his day is going to go!
Its never straight forward though, when Marley was younger a routine simply made him obsessive and manic. He never settled and couldn’t wait for the next activity. I had to be unpredictable or life would be a challenge! If anything ventured from that routine he’d get stressed and begin showing all manner of manic behaviours.
Working through Marley’s issues over the years though, he’s settled much more more. Rewarding relaxation meant when we crept into a routine, it didn’t concern him.
Like with everything, it all comes down to the individual dog at the end of the day. Some might struggle and some might thrive with a routine. Is your dog a fan of knowing what they’re doing each day? Or would they prefer to never know what order things might be done in? 🙂
Womble is around 14 years old now.
He still has terrier tenacity in spades- as far as he is concerned the postie would have killed us all years ago without his barking!
He still enjoys leaping on Marley, nipping him as he zooms.
He is a big fan of playing with my youngest Whippet Arthur and having a good wrestle!
His age is gradually starting to show though.
As he moves away confused when the Whippets tear past him during one of his potters round the garden.
Now and then we catch him just sat in the garden staring at the house, not realising he can walk straight back in as the back door is wide open.
He leaps to the sofa to shove the others out the way for fuss, but catapults backwards as his legs don’t quite make it up there.
He’s starting to wind down, don’t get me wrong, there is SO much life in the old dog yet! He still rules the Whippets with an iron fist 😉
But I’m becoming more focussed on how we can enjoy time without too much physical exercise.
Womble, in true terrier style, would still love a few hours walking a day, but his body would protest severely if I let him.
So we stick to mooches with Arthur for now, simply avoiding dogs he reacts to make for an easy life.
There are still so many things he can enjoy though, and he is very much still getting a lot out of his days.
I feel its important he gets plenty to do still, and so does Ollie. As while Ollie might only be 11 years old, he most certainly feels it more physically than Womble.
Ollie has pretty much always been an old man, so behaviour change wise, there aren’t too many to note! He is just a bit stiffer and wobbly on his legs. It’s more a case of ensuring Ollie does something, anything aside from sleeping!
I’m trying to vary our day to day activities, to keep their minds sharp and their bodies active.
We usually start the day with breakfast, something tasty added each day for variety. Natural yoghurt, sardines, a chicken wing. All are big hits. If I can pop it is a slow feeder I will, to engage those brains a bit more.
Neither can do a good long walk, but I’m very lucky we have a good sized garden!
The two can join some matwork and basic training out there. Some recall games to keep the body moving, trot poles are fun too!
They’re a big fan of hunting out a nice natural rabbit ear or similar chew I’ve hidden, really working that nose, brain and body! They both look so incredibly proud and overjoyed to find it! Even when it’s barely hidden for daft Ollie.
They enjoy a bit of training, for Ollie it’s the stuff he knows well, but it brings such a light to his eyes to spin in circle, shoeing off his skills! Womble likes to work on anything, but his attention span wanes a bit more these days, so fun stuff is usually on the agenda. He’s recently decided he loves a sheepskin tuggy, so he enjoys that one too!
One thing they both enjoy the most though, is to just ensure I sit with them and fuss them. The company and direct attention is what they crave the most.
They might be starting to slow down, but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy things still. It just means instead of long walks together, sometimes we just sit in the garden together and appreciate the sounds of the fledgling blackbird (that seems thrilled that he survived a brush with Arthur!)
Ollie and Womble have never hugely clicked. Ollie had firm words with Womble over his humping when he arrived and although Womble backed down, he held a grudge ever since. Ollie had no issues with Womble, after a walk in the rain he’d lick womble and attempt to keep him comfortable. This was always met with a curl of the lip and grumble.
But these days they spend much time together curled up, Womble allows Ollie to engage with him and actively seeks him out for comfort (to lay on perhaps!) These two are such different dogs, but seemingly getting closer as time goes on.
I will be blogging alot more on how these two enjoy life, and new games rather than letting Marley and Arthur hog the limelight!
As I was walking Arthur again this morning, I was met with a large saluki cross bouncing around onlead as we walked down a very tight cycle path. I u turned pretty quickly as the owner shouted “Oh is he friendly?” I carried on walking away until we had more space. As she asked again more insistantly “Is he friendly? This one is”
I fumbled over my own words before deciding on
“Oh he is a mardy bum onlead”
Before Arthur exploded in lunging right on cue!
Then came the judgemental expression from the owner of the friendly dog with “Oh.. I can see”.
Sigh. Arthur is friendly. Arthur can struggle with face to face greetings onlead, but he is a sociable dog and loves to play. Arthur does NOT like dogs who are bouncing around onlead like maniacs, however. It makes him anxious as he’s been bitten on the nose more than a few times by “friendly” dogs.
As is typical of people who are desperate for their dogs to have onlead meetings, this dog was bouncing and staring Arthur in the eyes as the owner was clinging to the lead. This feels like an everyday occurrence these days.
Someone who has an over-friendly, undertrained dog asking me if Arthur is friendly. Usually, because I am trying to continue teaching him he doesn’t need to meet every dog we see, so have him to one side or am actively feeding him for good behaviour.
The reality is the question isn’t “Is your dog friendly?”
The question is “ Will your dog tolerate my dog pulling over to yours and jumping all over him and being very pushy?”
No one would ever even question anyone for punching another human who came running over to them screeching wanting a hug when they never met them.
Yet somehow we expect that dogs should all enjoy being pounced on by others! It’s “socialisation”.
I don’t expect any of my dogs to tolerate being leapt on and lunged at by dogs. I want my dogs to know they can feel safe onlead. And onlead with me.
Don’t get me wrong, Arthur used to leap around like a loon on sight of every dog we met, the solution wasn’t meeting more dogs. It was teaching him to engage with me.
If your making a big effort with your eager beaver enthusiastic greeter of a dog, keep it up and carry on! You will get there! Just consider if you think the other dog will equally enjoy the encounter with your dog when asking if they’re friendly.
I will continue to respond “No he isn’t friendly” and being judged because it is a bit more polite than explaining the fact their dog needs to learn to play it cool!
Social media is an awesome and powerful tool. I use it alot for Wagging Wonders as well as being one of those people with accounts for my dogs!
Instagram is a brilliant platform for seeing some cute dogs and snazzy little “stories”.
I love seeing the variety of dogs on there. Cute poses, funny videos, trick training. I always search the hashtags and nose at #whippetlife!
I get a bit worried though. While these photos are a lovely moment in time, I know many people who take these canine profiles at face value!
They see these dogs living a perfect life, with all the best highlights. There can often be a degree of sadness, why isn’t MY dog like that dog? Why is that dog able to do things mine can’t?
It’s important to remember that these moments are but an edited highlight. A memory to cherish or look back on fondly. However, this doesn’t mean that dog and owner aren’t having tough times!
Their dog or puppy chews up the skirting board the same as yours, probably pulls onlead too!
I would bet good money their dog jumps up at strangers too 😉
Just because the dogs you follow don’t post those moments when it all goes wrong, doesn’t mean it doesn’t go wrong.
It simply means they’ve chosen that photo to pause on a moment in time.
When you look back on life, it’s the good stuff you want to see!
So when you see a dog on there and think “I wish Fido could be like Brian, he looks so well behaved” Just think, do you share your worst moments on social media?
Your dog is awesome anyway.
And so are the dogs you are following.
But no one is exempt from the realities of dog ownership.
So stop comparing your dogs to your favourite social media hounds.
It won’t do you or your dog any favours!
Instead, make your own memories and value your dog for who they are!