Anyone Can Train Their Dog – November 2011

Anyone Can Train Their Dog

By Art Hess


dogtrainerWith the onset of Fiesta Patronales and the other various and sundry occasions that bring out the dreaded “cohetes” or “Boom Booms” in gringo talk, it’s timely to address your dog’s anxieties over loud noises.

Instead of resorting to drugs or Superman capes over Buddy’s shoulders, let’s teach him to enjoy and actually look forward to the noises. As we do in so many other exercises we set out to trade an experience or treat of such a high value that it replaces the anxiety of the noise.

If you could visualize your most favorite treat or meal in portions that were unlimited there are most likely very few distractions that would stop you from enjoying this experience. This is what we are going to do with Buddy but in small steps and small distractions (loud noises) and gradually build up to where you can literally fire off a shotgun beside the dog without him having a negative reaction. This is the same system I was taught many years ago when we trained our hunting dogs.

With Buddy’s case we’re going to start with a loud noise like dropping a pot and lid on a tile floor. Get an old one or Mom is likely to drop you on the tile floor. You need a helper who can drop the pan on signal.

We start with a very “high value” treat like cheese or meat. This is jackpot time because we aren’t doing the “lure reward” system here, we are creating a new emotional experience.

 Okay let’s get started. With Buddy on a leash so he won’t leave the training environment we say his name and when he looks at us we give him a juicy treat and praise him for his response. We now look over and nod to our helper who is at least fifty feet away and he drops the pot from about knee height.     

As soon as Buddy acknowledges the noise we give him a big treat and praise. This is a feel good time so put your heart into this. Take a few minutes and repeat the exercise. Buddy will soon ignore the noise and you can have the helper come a little closer and the pot is dropped from a little higher and you continue to heap on the treats and praise.

If you take your time, and I’m talking days to practice this not hours, it won’t be long ‘til Buddy is completely ignoring the noise and you will get to where you can literally drop the pot and lid right beside him and he’ll just look up for the reward.

Next comes the cohetes. As soon as you hear the first rocket you get all excited and tell Buddy “Boy oh boy, here comes the boom booms”, and you get ready to heap on the hugs and  pile on the goodies.

We don’t sympathize and do the “Poor Buddy” routine —we get all excited about Buddy having a great experience when the rockets go off. Keep it up until they stop. Admittedly it can be a little harder when they start at six am but think of it as a positive training experience for Buddy and at our age most of us are already up for the early pee break anyway.

As with all training that is altering the emotions, don’t go too fast. If your dog is nervous and freaking, back up and go more slowly. It will work but the results are entirely dependent upon your efforts.

“Loose Leashes – Happy Tails”

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