Thursday, 15 May 2008

On Training

We were walking along a narrow path in our local woods this morning. Finn was off in front when I heard barking round the corner. Usually when people are approaching on a narrow path I get Finn to sit at the side while they pass- not everyone appreciates 7 stone of German Shepherd hurtling towards them with a little voice in the background yelling 'He IS friendly'! Finn was waiting at the side of the path with 2 collies barking their heads off at him, the owner making no attempt to control them. When I stood next to Finn waiting for her to pass the dogs were jumping all over me. The only form of 'apology' I got was 'One of them's deaf so it's no good saying anything' !!!! I don't mind dogs jumping at me, but not everyone feels the same, and I can't help what the reaction would be if it had been the other way round. Finn would probably be classed as a dangerous dog and I would be taken to court for failing to keep him under control.

On a brighter note, we went to one of our favorite beaches on our way to work this afternoon. It is situated on the estuary of the river Teifi, so there is both river and sea. Finn loves swimming and we spent quite a lot of time retrieving sticks from the river. The tide was coming in and the current was quite strong- good muscle building exercise. We walk around the headland but can't get very far because of the incoming tide. On the way back we do some training, practicing instant downs, sits and stays. As I said before it is one of our favorite dogfriendly beaches and sometimes at the end of the walk Finn is enjoying himself so much he doesn't want it to end, but today he is so focused on what we are doing he has his lead put on with no problem. In my opinion, the key to getting the best from your dog is to be the most interesting thing in his world. Not the easiest thing I admit.
When Finn was about 10 m0nths old a friend took him for a walk, he slipped his collar, instead of walking the other way and letting him come back, the friend and all the children in the road had a grand game of chase trying to catch him, the result was he thought this was a game Mum should learn to play consequently we had a period during which at the end of the walk, he would sudenly say 'You can't catch me'. At the height of this phase it could take up to 2 hours to catch him, which isn't fun after a walk of 1 1/2 hours! I must admit on this particular occaision I did everything the books tell you not to do!
To break him of the habit I went right back to basics, concentrating on sit and stay and forgetting recalls, the theory being to focus on making him proud of the things I knew he would do and not giving him the chance not to come when he was called. Recalls were done on a long tracking lead and we had a week of walks on the tracking lead. The first few walks off the lead always had a gate at the end so he could show off how clever he was sitting waiting at the gate. With patience and making lead work fun we have come through the phase and are able to enjoy our walks offlead and even have people say how good he is, if only they knew!

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