Having recently welcomed our new puppy Duke to the family, a Rhodesian Ridgeback – Mastiff cross, it’s safe to say that this cheerful little ball of fluff may soon grow up to be quite a size! So it’s important to get him off to the best start possible with his behaviour and obedience for which training classes are ideal for all breeds, sizes and ages as well as being great fun for dog owners too.
Attending his 1hr classes in Tring, just a short drive from Aylesbury, Duke is becoming the perfect pupil as he struts around to commands, practices recall, mingles, plays and makes new friends with the several or so other tail-wagging pups in his class.
Having previously had a beloved chihuahua called Joey – a small-but-mighty little chap smaller than the cat who loved taking me for a walk rather than the other way around – I was accustomed to dogs pulling on leads, barking at the postman, chewing shoes, running off when called and leaving cheeky little puddles around the house. I always thought it was part of his personality and found it rather endearing, but having a bigger breed of dog now I’m not sure my sofa and shoes would feel the same way.
Puppy training focuses on making obedience fun by teaching owners the correct way to handle and manage a dog and their behaviour; giving clear, consistent instructions soon turns bouncingly chaotic, energetic puppies into calm, attentive and loyal companions for life. Gone are the days of jumping up at strangers, scenting the washing machine and tearing up table-legs – Duke thrives on praise, pleasing us all with his obedience and earning himself tasty treats as a reward.
Learning outdoors in a large open space allows the puppies to be taught in a real-world setting complete with the sights, sounds and distractions they’d face whilst going for a walk. The objective being to teach the dogs how to be calm and attentive to their owner in the presence of others whilst developing their social skills, learning valuable commands and finishing with the reward of a puppy meet and greet. I’ve never seen so many saggy tails and cheesy teething-grins in one place!
Receiving advice from the trainers has proved to be absolutely invaluable for us as they’re a fountain of knowledge for all things canine – from the best walking leads and accessories to use to deciphering the fine print on pet insurance plans, finding suitable rewards and outlining the importance of exercise limits as puppies grow up.
Having a puppy is much like having a baby when it comes to responsibility, and whilst I’ve always had my mum at the end of the phone to help me to raise my two children it’s just as reassuring to have the trainers on hand too. Each week the children get so excited to take Duke to his classes, proud to show off everything he’s been practising at home and keen to learn something new!
At our first class we were taught:
-Dogs walk from the left hand side
-Use your left hand for rewards and right hand for the lead
-The command heel whilst walking in a circle keeping the dogs attention
-About turn, turning away from the dog and walking in the opposite direction as he follows
-Recall, somebody else holding the dog as you walk about 10 metres away, call, release and the dog runs to you saying “come” and enthusiastically repeating “what’s this” with your hands together
-A puppy should have 5mins of walking per months of age/ per day to not overturn calories for growth. At 4 months old Duke can take 20mins of walking in total each day – this increases up to a year old
-Socialisation for puppies is key
-Puppy insurance is expensive but worth it, you get what you pay for but it doesn’t cover inoculations or yearly jab, worming, flea treatment, castration or anything routine – always read the small print. Anything in an emergency is covered
-Weaving puppies in and out of the circle whilst keeping attention on you with treats not the other dogs passing by
-Trying weaving a second time without treats
-Don’t allow puppies to eat mud and grass as they will develop a habit, keep all attention up on the owner
-Reward puppies with a couple of cocktail sausages pulling pieces off – not every day just for training and recall
-Sit, stay and step away before returning to the dog and saying “good boy” do not give any food or they’ll be too eager to run to you
-Diet – don’t add any wet food to biscuits as adding more protein when the complete food is already enough will cause the puppy to be overactive and hard to control
-Raw food feeding of just meat causes behavioural problems
-Wearing pet clothing as a puppy is good as it’s cold and Duke has short fur
-Remain calm around other dogs and keep the attention on the owner
-Train puppies on a non-retractable lead as when you call and return you don’t want it banging and bouncing behind them
-Second meet and greet and puppy play
-Recall stood in two lines facing each other, owner at one end and puppy has to run past everyone to return on “come” command
-Take the puppy into garden on a lead and use a trigger word to toilet wee or poo say “be quick” repeatedly so they associate it with toilet. When they need a poo their bottom pops out slightly and they’re distracted. Hold them on a short lead and spin them in a circle and they’ll naturally squat to poo
-Use a puppy spray to remove enzymes from household wee sites – household sprays contain ammonia which is the same smell as wee and will confuse a puppy on where they should toilet
-Use a stiff lead to walk a puppy so when it pulls on their neck it’s a deterrent to ease off otherwise with a retractable lead the more they pull the more freedom they will get