Polly’s owners reached out to me as they just couldn’t get their adorable little Polly, a 9 month old Cavapoo to walk to heel, or stop being reactive to other dogs. As always, I visited the family home to see how Polly behaved around her family and to see if she had basic obedience skills. Home visits are the most important part of my job. This is because they allow me to see what owners expect of their dogs at home. I can also gauge what skills the dog and owners have and decide the best way forward when we start to work outside.
Polly was very relaxed at home. She also has a wonderful sister she shares her home with, but her drive and determination was very different to her sister. Polly is very bright intelligent and wants to please. But from discussions I could see that she needed a bit of help to know what was the best way to do that. I left Polly’s owners with a set of obedience exercises to carry out over the week. Polly’s owners worked brilliantly and we got Poppy to do everything APART from DOWN. This can be quite common with dogs that are a bit nervous or dominant and with time and patience it can be worked through.
The following week we worked on going for a walk. Polly was being walked on a harness and extendable lead. These two pieces of equipment, if used incorrectly as they’re often are, can create a dog that pulls very quickly. So, we swapped out the harness and flexi-lead for a good old fashioned leather collar and lead. I like to use leather as the connection between you and your dog is enhanced and leather is affordable, resilient and comfortable for your pooch.
In this lesson we taught Polly to wait patiently at the door and leave the door to heel. Her owners worked to use the clicker to Click Treat and Reward desired behaviour. At this point in the training, patience is key. You must DEDICATE time and patience to your dog, realise that we are taking small steps to gain great rewards and always finish our training sessions on a positive note. Polly came on SO well during this week, her pawrents worked so had to ensure her sessions were short and rewarding. On my third visit I was so pleased with Polly’s progress. She was walking beautifully to heel up the hilll and was maintaining beautiful eye contact with her mommy.
It was at this stage we were ready to introduce other dogs. For this exercise I always use my little dog,Hobo. He is very non reactive when other dogs lunge and bark at him. This helps my students concentrate on working with their dog instead of worrying what others may say about their dog’s bad behaviour and apologising for it.
We carried out basic heel work with Hobo and Polly and slowly worked to get the two dogs closer and closer. When we met Polly’s threshold we continued with the heel work without feeding in to the reactivity but instead working on maintaining good eye contact and listening, which was rewarded. I should point out that it is not my goal to get the dogs nose to nose and playing. That can be stressful for any dog to deal with and there can be a lot of body language displayed between the two dogs that can be warning signs. It is easy for this to be missed and a negative encounter ensue. Instead we just want the reactive dog to calmly be in the presence of another dog without losing her marbles. Not only did we achieve this, but we also had a little miracle. Polly gave us a DOWN!!! Proving that she was calm and comfortable with her mommy in the presence of another dog.
Good Girl Polly. It was a pleasure to work with you and your pawrents.
Is your dog reactive? What have you done to help it calm down? Did it work? Let me know in the comments below:
Read how Polly the Cavapoo learned to walk to heel and stop barking at other dogs.Tweet
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