Practice, keep those skills sharp

This was printed in a shorter version Northern Virginia Today and was published in April 2018.

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I was subbing in a fifth-grade class when a student asked me the time.  I suggested he check the clock above the door. The student informed me he could not read (analog) clocks.  This student has been in the school since Kindergarten.  I know telling time with an analog clock is taught there.  I have taught these lessons many times as a sub. I have used other skills kids knew to show them how to apply it to telling time: half and quarter circles for quarter, half, and three-quarter hours, counting by fives around the face then by ones to get to times like 3:48, etc.  By the time I was done with these lessons I was able to get most students able to correctly complete worksheets and play “Tell the time” games. I have even given assessments where analog clocks were a part.  I also learned why this student could no longer tell time with an analog clock.  I will get to that in a moment.

A parent with a child between my two in age and in the same school system complained to me how upset he was certain things were not being taught anymore. He had a laundry list of things he wanted the schools to teach.  Well my son graduated in 2017 and my daughter at the time of writing this is in middle school but taking one high school class in the mornings.  I got my hands on the curriculum (all online and easy to find) and shared the highlights with him. Based on the grade, this child had already covered many lessons Dad insisted he had not. I talked to my daughter who told me she learned many of the things the father insisted were not being taught when she was in 7th grade.  Since she is two years ahead of peers in math, she said the student would have gotten the lessons in 9th grade.   The father’s kid was in 11h grade. The rest of the topics would be covered the next school year. The more we talked the reason why the child could not do these basic skills that had already been taught became clear.

Let’s look closer at the two students and learn just why the issues happened.

The fifth-grader admitted to not using analog clocks outside class.  He passed the assessments and stopped using those skills.  His parents never had him use analog clocks outside of school.  He always used digital.  Once he passed assessments he did not think knowing how to use analog clocks was important.  Analog clocks are still in use in many areas.  I see them all the time in schools, hospitals, various buildings, etc.  Kids need to keep these skills sharp as they grow.

The father admitted he had no idea what the kid was learning so he was not able to reinforce practical lessons outside of school. He never checked the syllabi for his child’s classes.  He did not go to open house nights and listen to what was being covered that school year.  He did not go to parent-teacher conferences. He did not ask to look at homework, etc.  He had no idea what the kid was learning.  Therefore him attacking the schools was out of line.  Why?  He has NO idea what was going in.  I told him then he had no right to be able to spout off when it was HIS job to know what the child was doing in school and HIS job to make sure his child was able to apply lessons outside of class.

Now, I am not a perfect parent but I know the importance of practicing skills.  I also know the more work I do as a parent the easier it is for the schools.  Therefore, I worked with many lessons even before the kids were in the grades the skills would be taight.  Even in early elementary school we discussed budgets, taxes, how to calculate sales tax, the risks of credit cards, etc.  We practiced cursive writing.  Yes this is not taught to the level it was when I was a kid, but many teachers are trying to address cursive if time allows.  If not practiced, the kids will lose these skills.

It has been over 35 years since I played violin, I cannot play it now.  Why?  I lost those skills.  However, I can drive a car though it has been over thirty years since I took driver’s ed.  Why?  I drive almost every day. I am always using these skills.

Now apply this to dogs.

A former client called to complain about his untrained dog. The dog last saw me when he was about 16 weeks old.  It was now five years later. I encourage owners to keep practicing even when the dog appears to know what is expected.  Sadly, once the lessons are over I have no control over what owners practice, or not. When I asked questions, I learned the couple had not practiced leash skills for five years.  The dog forgot all his leash manners. The wife was told to start exercising for her health and decided to walk the now larger, adult dog.  She was pulled over.

Another client was not practicing between sessions and was upset her dog was not improving.  Not only that but she did not do the needed management of the environment to prevent the dog from performing these behaviors while we worked through them.  There is no way a dog can learn and retain the lessons if we are not doing the work.

A mistake many make is stopping all practice when behaviors have been given a few times with one or two cues.  A few sits the first time cued after a couple of sessions does not mean your dog knows what is expected and when.  Completing a course of training classes does not mean your dog is trained. This is the time we need to keep working.

Work the behaviors in to your daily routine. Determine how you want the behaviors molded into good manners such as not jumping for greetings. Take your dog to other places for quiet practice. Highly reinforce when the dog gives you the behavior when you did not ask.  Make sure you go back and refresh if you see the beginnings of the behaviors slipping.

My oldest dog is going to be 11 in May of 2018.  Even he gets lessons refreshed every now and then.  Yes, things he has been solid with for years we still brush up.  This is why he has remained solid with these behaviors for years.

The old saying “Practice makes perfect” is inaccurate because nothing is perfect.  However, practice helps keep needed skills in place and improving.  If you do not practice, refresh and apply needed skills to daily life, do not be shocked when the behaviors are not there when you need them.

Karen Peak, West Wind Dog Training.

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Safety During Hunting Seasons

When I first wrote this, deer season was in full swing.  All over along the road side in areas of my county I would see the vehicles of hunters.  Many of us want to walk our dogs in the woods and may go where hunting is allowed.  During hunting seasons I often see stories shared of dogs shot by hunters or caught in leg hold traps. How can we be safer during hunting season?

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Always remember safety is a two way street.  Let me make an analogy to cyclists.  No matter how safe car drivers attempt to be, if cyclists are being reckless they can compromise their safety.   It takes a couple seconds for even an alert driver to process and act on a situation.  Depending on road conditions, vehicle weight and speed it can take some distance for a vehicle to stop.  When cyclists run red lights and stop signs, dart into busy traffic, swerve dangerously around cars, cut off vehicles while making left turns, and fail to signal when they are turning, etc., cyclists increase their own risk. Cyclists need to take some responsibility for their safety.  Similarly, when we are out in areas where hunting and trapping is permitted during hunting season we need to work to increase our safety and that of our dogs.

Knowing hunting seasons and permitted hunting locations is the first step.  In Virginia check the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries website.  https://www.dgif.virginia.gov   Click on “hunting” in the menu bar.  Some county websites also have hunting information specific to them.  Whenever possible it is best to avoid areas where hunting is permitted during hunting season.  Luckily in this region it is pretty easy to find alternative areas to walk. If you still choose to go into areas where hunting is allowed you need to take precautions.  

For readers who are not in Virginia, check your state Department of Fish and Game websites for hunting season information.

Though the majority of hunters try to recognize their target before firing, things may look different depending on environmental conditions.  When it is darker, foggy, lots of dense brush, etc., you and your dog’s appearance may be altered.  Then yes, there is the risk of a few less than responsible hunters.  Hunters who may be new, excited and a bit fast to fire, ones who are overtired or yes, those who may be under the influence of something may not be as aware of what they are firing at. If you go walking in areas where hunting is permitted you and your dog must be highly visible.

There is a reason hunters wear blaze orange, or should: it stands out.  Blaze orange clothing is easy to get.  Many stores carry various blaze orange clothing as does Amazon. Your dogs should be in a blaze orange jacket or at bare minimum a reflective orange collar.  Go all out with the orange!

You may want to let Sparky run loose in the woods.  What dog would not love a good romp amongst the trees, the ability to chase squirrels or bunnies?   It is best to keep your dog on leash during all walks.  There are leash laws in all National parks and Forests as well as in most counties.  Also your dog may be mistaken for animals such as a coyote.  Never hope a hunter will see you far behind your dog.  Do not use long lines or extending leads when walking in hunting areas for the same reason.  Dogs that are ranging out are at risk of being snared in traps.  Yes, many areas still permit their use.

I remember a furious rant by a dog owner whose dog was badly injured by a leg hold trap.  I asked her was she walking in an area where trapping was permitted.  Yes.  Was her dog off leash.  Yes.  So she was allowing her dog to be loose in an area with permitted trapping and she was angry at the trappers.  Her dog’s risk would have been reduced had be been on a six foot lead and/or had the owner chosen to walk in an areas where trapping was not allowed.  It is the owner’s responsibility to know what is allowed, when and where.  This dog owner knew she was letting him run loose in a trapping area during trapping season. Yes, there will always be some hunter or trapper who hunts or traps in areas where it is not allowed.  However, dog owners have the responsibility of knowing what is allowed, where, and when.

As dog owners we are ultimately responsible for the safety of our dogs and the safety of those around us.  If you like to be out in the woods with your dogs, take a few minutes and research different hunting laws and times where you live.

 

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Prepping for the Real World

We train and socialize and work and do what we can to prepare our dogs for the real world.  The summer Uhura came to live with us my daughter and I abandoned the boys for two nights in Gatlinburg, TN.  We were going to take the dorky Standard Schnauzer pup for some socializing and to see how far she had come. OK and a trip to Ol’ Smokey Distillery, kicking around the mountains, etc., were added to the mix.  We knew what to expect in Gatlinburg – one of our favorite places.  We were pretty confident Uhura was ready for the town. The first evening, good training and manners allowed Uhura access to patio dining and in several businesses.  The next day’s events drove home just why I do what I do and encourage what I do with clients in regards to training and socializing.  

 

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Summer in Gatlinburg, TN.  Sarah and Uhura on a socializing trip.  (c) West Wind Dog Training

 

I must add, Sarah was ten at this point.  She had done the majority of the work with Uhura who was 14 weeks old.  She was the one who was taking her through puppy classes.  She was the one getting her ready for shows.  Sarah was the one learning what to do to help her puppy succeed. 

We had spent the morning poking around Pigeon Forge, driving a lovely mountain road outside Gatlinburg, exploring a beautiful park and stream and talking with a retired teacher.  Then we headed downtown.   Now anyone who has been to Gatlinburg knows how busy it can be in the summer.  Uhura and Sarah were doing OK.  I made sure they got time away from the crowds as needed for breaks.  we had plenty of water and snacks.  Many air-conditioned places were dog-friendly too.  But right now we were walking down the main drag.

As we were walking along a congested sidewalk, we saw a younger woman struggling to support an appearing drunk, older woman.  Her cries for help were being ignored.  I handed Sarah the backpack and went to help.  The younger woman and I guided the older woman to the ground.  The younger woman was in distress. The younger woman was beginning to panic.  The older woman was not drunk. I asked if the woman on the ground was diabetic – yes.  She had not eaten or drunk since that morning – it was now after 3pm. She was in diabetic shock which can lead to death. 

I called 911 and began giving what info I knew and directions to where we were in the town.  Luckily a nurse happened by and began taking vitals.  I handed her my phone and she relayed the vitals to dispatch.   During this time, my focus was off Sarah and her puppy.   Realize even young ‘uns learn very well.  If started from birth, raised with positives and exposed to many things … there is a reason we do what we do… there is a reason I prepare my dogs as I do – and my kids…  Well… read on…

The moment I told Sarah I was going to help, she went into action with her puppy.  Sarah took the backpack and Uhura and moved away from the building crowd.  Sarah pulled out treats and made the entire situation a positive experience for Uhura.  Sarah was feeding the pup, talking to her and working to get Uhura to relax.  Sarah hearing what was going on, stepped up to the plate.  She got water, went to the drug store next to us, explained what happened and came out with a pharmacist who understood the medications the woman was on.  Sarah did all this while managing Uhura.  Sarah did all this while keeping Uhura calm.

The crowd was building and people were taking pictures.  The nurse kept the older woman managed while I handled the crowd and waved down the EMTs.  As soon as the EMTs got to the woman, Sarah, Uhura and I went back to being tourists.

That night, Sarah, Uhura and I were still in town. It had been day.  There was a Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream staffed by a couple of slightly um, happy hippies. Ice cream seemed like a good dinner. Uhura and Sarah were tired. Sarah went in to order ice cream while I stayed out front with the pup.  Next thing I knew, the guys violated various health codes and brought Uhura inside to hang out. They gave the dorky pup a small bowl of vanilla.  Sarah and I chilled before heading back to the hotel in Knoxville.  

Life brings things we cannot anticipate.  Ten year old child, 14 week old puppy both able to calmly handle a stressing situation many adults of either species could not.  That day it was a woman in a life and death situation, rude tourists crowding for a peek, Mom stepping away to assist, sirens – so stressing.  Then being invited into a place with loads of yummy smells by a couple of happy hippies…

Training, socializing, positive lessons – what else can I say?  You never know when that simple trip will become something more.  When it does, will you and yours have the ability to handle it?  If you start young and right, there is a better chance they will. 

 

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Giving the Gift of a Pet

This was originally run in a shorter version in the print edition of Northern Virginia Today, Dec 2017.  I have expanded it here for my blog. Though this covers the Winter Holidays, the same holds for any time someone will consider gifting a pet.

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Grandma has heartwarming dreams of her beautiful Sally opening a box to find her dream kitty. Carols playing, a glittery box, Grandpa dressed as Santa. This is a better gift than the other grandmother will give!  What about giving a pet to your new girlfriend Christmas Eve?  Oh how great would that be? Puppy and a mistletoe kiss! Stop. Turn off the Hallmark Channel thoughts and look at reality. The reality is pets are a commitment. Some are more of a commitment than others.

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What needs to be considered before gifting a pet?

  • Can the recipient meet the physical, behavioral, financial, short and long term needs of the animal?
  • Is there a chance of a move in the future?
  • Are there plans to take in an ailing relative?
  • Have you considered allergies to the animal or an associated product?
  • Are there community restrictions about what type or size pet that can be owned?
  • What if the pet is not what the recipient wants or can sanely live with?
  • Are the parents fully on board with you giving their child a pet?
  • Does the person even want a pet at this point?
  • If the recipient cannot keep the pet for whatever reason what will happen to the animal?

Before you gift a pet make 100% certain the person is actively looking to add one. This goes for friends and relatives.  There can be NO surprises. What can happen if people do not consider the life of the recipients and that of the pet?

The recipient must choose the pet, the source and the timing. If any of these are wrong the outcome may not be favorable for owner or critter.  Here is an example:

A couple I worked with was thrilled to be retired and all their children had moved out.  They saw FREEDOM. To celebrate they made arrangements for a several month trip to travel the US. Reservations were made. An RV was rented. They were excited. Then the children decided Mom and Dad must be lonely and gave them a puppy.  The dog was physically and behaviorally a good match for the couple but the timing was horrible. None of the children were able to take the puppy for those months so the couple cancelled their plans.  All during sessions I heard how upset they were. They did not want a puppy at this point.  They made it work and grew to love the pup but there was loss of deposits from the trip. Now they had to figure out how to either travel with the dog, find someone to care for him, or not take their dream trip at all.  Not all places or RV rentals are pet friendly.  Travelling with a pet can affect how long you can stay out and where you can go.  By gifting a pup when they did the well-meaning children were selfish.  Their parents had been dreaming of this trip for years and now could not do what they wanted, how they wanted. They were not opposed to having a dog.  The timing was horrific.

When gifting a pet all you can be is the person who pays. This means the recipient makes ALL the decisions including no pet at all. However, if you know the animal is a poor match such as your brother wanting a bulldog for a long distance running buddy or the critter is not permitted in the community, then nothing is making you write that check.  It is OK to say “No.”

So, the recipient is 100% in agreement and actively looking for a pet. The desired critter is a good match for the potential new owner.  The source has been chosen and everything is set to go.  Can you now give a pet over the holidays? The answer is “It depends on what the holidays will be like.”

If the recipient hosts parties or has seasonal plans, wait. The recipient may not want to housetrain a puppy during the winter or worry about a kitten and that Christmas tree.   If the recipient is a homebody and has no plans to host or attend events then the timing may be better.  Again, it is up to the recipient so have careful conversations.

A friend of the family was actively looking for a pet.  She knew exactly what she wanted.  She was prepared to bring in the critter at any point.  She had the time and resources to make it work.  A friend of hers made all the arrangements and “surprised” her friend with the puppy she had been looking for.  In reality, it was all set to go.  It was simply a case of waiting for the puppy to be old enough to go to a new home.

Now on to you parents!

Your child is begging for a pet and is writing letters to Santa. He is driving you crazy! Should you get him that puppy he wants?  Stop and ask yourself “Do I want the responsibility?”  No matter how mature or responsible your child seems, no matter what he promises, the pet’s care is ultimately yours.  Do not forget that long term commitment. My Sheltie, Muffin was with me through the end of elementary school, middle school, high school, college, marriage and the purchase of our first home. When she was not able to be with me, who was responsible for her?  It is better to tell a child no than to make promises you have no intention on keeping or bring in an animal you will not care for.

My daughter wanted guinea pigs like her big brother had.  When the time was right I located a woman who was getting rid of her daughter’s guinea pig.  The pet was a gift from the parents and they assumed the child would be fully responsible.  Within a couple months the parents were doing all the work.  Instead of being responsible for the pet, they decided to get rid of it.  She lived with us for many years.

Gifting a pet is much different from gifting a pair of socks. Close communication and consideration for both the critter and the recipient must be addressed.  I have known people who met all the criteria and the pet had a wonderful home.  The recipient was actively looking for a pet.  The giver knew what was wanted and the timing.  The recipient was 100% on board with the puppy. So it can work but there can be no surprises.  If you are not willing to follow the strict criteria about giving a pet, do not. Instead of giving a pet wait until the pet is acquired and give the gift of pet supplies and pet supply gift cards!

Karen Peak is the owner of West Wind Dog Training and the Safe Kids/Safe Dogs Project in Virginia.

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100% Trained Myth

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Uhura, Qualifying run at a Fast CAT trial.  Picture owned by West Wind Dog Training and taken by M. L. Baer

 

“We can train your dog to be reliable all the time!” Since I first started dog training in 1982 and began my path towards becoming a trainer, I have heard many variations of this.  However is 100% reliability a reality?

Decades ago my early mentors insisted we could get 100% reliability with animals if we trained hard and long enough.  I was young and watching these dogs early on made me want to believe my mentors.  However the more I was training with them I realized 100% reliability is a myth.  The longer I watched competitions, the more I saw their dogs making mistakes and not qualifying.  Years later I attended a lecture weekend put on by a guide dog organization.  One of the speakers discussed how even highly trained dogs could fail in their work as service dogs. It was an eye-opening lecture.  It mirrored what I had been seeing in the competition ring.  I was seeing this in pet dogs coming from other programs.  Owners were upset they had gone through all these classes or sent the dog off to be trained yet the dog still ran off or bit someone or jumped on an elderly relative, etc.  They assumed sessions would make a dog 100% reliably trained.

I have friends who are horse people. They know practice and refreshers are needed. Zoos are always reinforcing the behaviors needed in their animals.  I love watching handlers at good zoos working with animals, refreshing training, etc.  Even with all the work they do I have yet to speak to a horse person or zoo keeper who will state their animals are 100% reliable 100% of the time.

When my son was doing therapeutic riding he was paired with a pony used for many children with special needs.  My son had ridden her numerous times, groomed her and helped get her tack on.  He was being led around the ring and the pony wanted a roll in the dust.  So the pony rolled.  Before she even hit the dirt the staff had my son off the pony.  He was right back on shortly after. The staff was apologetic but I knew from years of working with animals that things can and will happen.  Therapeutic riding is safer with good animals and good staff but not 100% risk-free.  People seem to understand this with horses and other animals yet insist 100% reliability will happen with dogs.  When people believe this they may become complacent.

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Connor doing therapeutic riding to help with balance.  (c) West Wind Dog Training

 

Sadly I have seen dog owners with well-trained dogs begin ignoring basic safety. I had a client who had an extremely dog-fearful dog.  After months of work he was able to walk around well-behaved, leashed dogs without trying to attack.  This dog was doing wonderfully in situations where other dogs around him were controlled. He was happier and relaxed.  I said never assume his level of training would override his fears in all situations.  He could never be trusted at dog parks or in group play sessions. However the behaviors achieved made one of the humans in his life complacent.  Over time both began to assume since the dog was not reacting when around other dogs on walks that he was now friendly with other dogs. My lessons to the humans were forgotten and the dog taken to a dog park.  The dog mauled another dog who was behaving in what should have been a non-threatening manner – play bows and puppy games.

Another dog I knew who was HIGHLY trained had a momentary lapse.  Now this was a dog who was out often for refreshers.  He was a competition dog.  He was often placing high in his classes and had many titles.  He was also an older dog owned by an experienced handler with decades of experience.  Sadly the dog had that momentary lapse.  He was doing something he often did with his handler out in a field.  No one knows what triggered the lapse in years of training and practice. All his handler knows is the dog decided to ignore his training that one day.  The dog ran off and was tragically killed.

Animals are not robots. They are creatures with thought processes.  Animals learn, they forget, they decide to follow training or not to follow.  It is our job to practice, refresh and even retrain if needed.  Be reasonable.  Do not knowingly put your animals in harm’s way and hope their training will override all their emotions.  Remember these are animals and at any point could respond as an animal.  The hope is between good training and observation we reduce the risks of training lapses and incidents happening.

Karen Peak – West Wind Dog Training

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Adoption Adjustment

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Hunter, my carefully chosen and much beloved and sadly missed rescue dog.

 

There is always an adjustment period when we adopt a dog. We need to remember before adoption this dog had another life.  Then there was his time at the rescue or foster home. Now he is in a new home and has to adapt yet again to a new life.  It is common for owners to forget this: before us, the dog had a life.

It is also common for owners to jump headlong into an exciting life with their new dogs.  “Let’s go to Uncle Clyde’s Holiday party!  We must check out the dog park so you can make new friends.  Oh shopping – we must buy doggie things!”  It is tempting to want to take your new best friend out the day he comes home.  Ignore the impulse to have your new buddy go everywhere with you the moment you bring him home.  It takes time to help a newly adopted dog adjust to his new human and home. Your first priority should be bonding and not forcing him to be an immediate social butterfly.

When you bring in a new dog no matter what you were told about previous behaviors expect regressions. Housetraining may have been great in his previous home, but that was his previous home.  He needs to learn potty skills for your home.  He may try counter surfing or chewing your shoes.  He may jump on people when it was said he was well-mannered, etc.  This is normal!  The good news is the majority of behaviors owners of newly adopted dogs complain about can often be worked through.

I would keep the first few days quiet and low stress. Over the next several weeks I would closely observe and gently work with the dog.  I would avoid overwhelming areas.  The more trust you build and the care with how you start early training makes a big difference.  It may be a prudent idea to hire a private trainer for a few one on one sessions to help you start off of the right foot.  A good, positive trainer who understands the care needed with helping a newly adopted dog adapt is an asset.

You have gone slowly for the first weeks. You are easing more things with your dog.  Life seems to be going great so you ease back on the work you are doing. Now behaviors are regressing.  This is when we need to keep working.  A few days of good behaviors does not mean the dog is all set with his new life.  In reality all it means is the dog had a few good days.  We need to keep working.  If we stop working now there is a solid chance the old behaviors will return.  Another reality is dogs are always learning.  Even with well behaved dogs trainers know we are always working on some level to keep the behaviors we want going.  A few good days or weeks does not a fully trained dog make.  In reality, you will never completely stop training your dog. Every interaction a dog has with his environment is a learning experience.  Learning is ongoing.

How long will it take for your newly adopted dog to settle in? There is no exact answer covering all dogs.  Many variables play into how fast a dog adapts including; background of the dog, the quality and quantity of the work done, environment and genetics.  Be prepared to spend several months or more if needed to helping your newly adopted dog adjust to your home.  Have patience, go slowly, be respectful of the dog’s needs and you increase the chances of success.

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Can Dogs Adapt to a New Name?

Why would someone change a dog’s name? Won’t this confuse the dog?  There are various reasons to consider changing a dog’s name.  Think the rescue dog who cowers whenever his name is called.  A dog like this may have a negative association with his name.  The name evokes a fear response.  Some dogs never properly learned their name in their previous home.  My old Seven came from a house that never properly taught her a name.  She had been returned to the breeder when the family lost their farm.  Seen was a working farm dog helping protect livestock.  The parents called her one name, the kids they learned did not like it so were calling her something different. When called, there was no real response.  What if you do not like the name your new dog has?  A woman I trained with took a dog from her son.  He named the young pit bull “Satan”.  Mom said he was not ready to have a dog and removed the dog from his care.  Mom refused to keep the name the son chose.

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My old Seven – she did not respond well at all to what her family named her so after she came to us, we changed her name.

 

Before you teach a dog a new name, remember these ground rules. First: do not call the name if you are not in a position to reinforce a response.  If I walk around saying my dog’s name without reinforcing a response, how I can make sure my dog is learning it?  I do not want his name to become ignored background noise. Second: never put a negative association with the name. This means never saying the dog’s name as a precursor to punishment.  How can my dog learn his name is good when I say it and then do something bad? Giving my dog’s name negativity affects our relationship. Now let’s look at the process.

Get a handful of high value treats. Begin in a quiet, low distraction area.  This increases the chance of the dog not getting distracted and increases the chance of a response.  In a pleasant, happy voice, say the new name.  Do not use the treat to get his attention.  Do not wiggle it in front of his nose first.  Keep it hidden. Simply say his name and when he looks, treat.  If he does not look at you, wait a few seconds and try again.  If he still does not look, try getting closer or moving to an area of less distraction. The moment he looks at you after you say his name, reinforce it with a treat. Once he starts reliably responding to his name, increase the distractions a little.  As you increase distractions you must increase the value of the food you are using.

Move around the dog and call. Every time he looks at you, reinforce it. Go to different areas of the house and your community to practice.  This is important as you need your dog to respond to his name in a host of different situations. Along with high value food, use games such as fetch or tug of war to help reinforce the name.  If your dog enjoys being handled, you can do this at times.  Use a host of things to reinforce a response. How often do you need to play the games?

Every interaction I have with any of my pets is a learning experience for them – even if I do not think it is. If my dog has any negative association with his name, it affects my relationship with him.  Therefore I always work on some level to keep the name meaning good things.  When I am in higher distraction situations I will play name games – even with my older dogs. What if you have a new puppy or a different species?  The same concepts apply.

Finally, having a dog who responds reliably and happily to a name lays the foundation for teaching other behaviors.

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