Obedience Training Helps a Culver City Puppy Learn to Listen to Her Family

By: David Codr

Published Date: November 4, 2016


This beautiful dog is Mabel, a ten-month-old Boxer / Greyhound mix who lives in Culver City, California. Her guardians set up a obedience training / puppy training session with me to stop her from stealing and eating things, counter surfing, digging in the back yard, stop pulling on the leash, jumping up on the bed and not always listening to commands and corrections.

Maybel’s guardian was cautious when opening the door as they live on a busy street and the dog has shown a proclivity to running out of the door if given the opportunity. This can be a dangerous situation so its a good thing we set up this puppy training session.

Once inside, Maybel got over excited for a minute or two; invading my personal space, nudging me and wiggling around the room. I avoided any direct eye contact and did not pet her at all while she was in this excited state. Many humans confuse excited for happy but when it comes to dogs, excited is just another unbalanced state of mind.

I had previously suggested the guardians practice my petting with a purpose philosophy. This will help them avoid petting Maybel when she is over excited and help the dog feel like she has to earn her affection. Puppy training can take a lot of work and effort, but this strategy gets really easy one it becomes second nature.

I suggested some rules as well as a few new ways for the guardians to communicate and interact with Maybel. A lot of these are small things like having the dog come to you rather than chasing after them, not walking around the dog and instead walking through her so she feels like it is her job to get out of the humans way instead of the other way around.

The guardian mentioned that she works with Maybel as much as she can, but as a mother of a active young girl, sometimes her attention is diverted elsewhere. I suggested that she start putting Maybel into a stay position when she needed to give her daughter her full attention.

The problem is, Maybel needed a lot of puppy training with her stay. She would stay for a few seconds or as long as her guardians were repetitively telling her to stay. If you have to tell the dog something multiple times, it’s a safe bet they either don’t understand what you want or don’t care.

In Maybel’s case I believe it is the former, so I spent a couple of minutes training the dog to stay.

In the above video, I only covered the first step in teaching a dog to stay; duration. It will be important for Maybel’s guardians to master duration before moving on to the other two steps; distance and distraction.

This YouTube video has instructions on how to take the next puppy training step for teaching the stay.

If the guardians can master the stay exercise by practicing multiple times a day (1-2 minutes max for each practice session) for the next few weeks, they will be able to put Maybel into a sit / stay position anytime their daughter needs their immediate attention or something else is going on.

Another great way for a dog to develop some control and discipline is teaching them to redirect their attention to you with a command word. To help Maybel develop this skill, I spent the next couple of minutes demonstrating something I call the Focus exercise.

Just like the Stay exercise, it will be important for Maybel’s guardians to practice this multiple times a day for short 1 to 2 minute practice sessions. I would like to see Maybel take a nap or sleep in between each practice session as this is when dogs are able to process and categorize new information they learn. This is the case for all dogs, but especially important when puppy training.

Next I wanted to do a little bit of leash training. When I mentioned this to the dog’s guardians, they mentioned that Maybel would get up and walk away anytime they tried to attach the leash. I asked them to demonstrate this for me so I could observe her behavior.

This was puzzling for Maybel’s guardians as she enjoyed going for walks so much. It’s possible that there is a residual memory of the prong collar or leash corrections that were applied before I came into the picture. It can be very frustrating when your dog pulls on the leash and sometimes that frustration travels down the leash and reaches or is shared by the dog too.

Whatever the reason for Maybel’s decision to walk away from the leash, it’s something that I thought could be easily fixed with the right approach and some positive reinforcement.

One of Maybel’s guardians mentioned that she used some similar approaches on occasion. I recommended that both guardians utilize the same technique every time they leash the dog up as well as practicing the technique without placing the leash on the dog. This should help Maybel develop a positive association of being leashed up

I wanted to go over a few leash training and heel training exercises next but it was clear that Maybel had too much stored up energy to really pay attention. Her guardian had skipped her regular morning walk so that I could see and experience her default behavior.

Now that I had seen it, I needed to help Maybel drain this excess energy in order to help her focus on the exercises I still wanted to teach her.

Anyone who follows my page on a regular basis knows that my preferred way of burning excess energy in large dogs is a quick dog skiing session. I fitted Maybel up with a harness and strapped some rollerblades on so that I could get in a few quick laps around the neighborhood and drain her excess energy.

Maybel’s guardian has been spending a lot of time trying to get the dog to not pull on the leash the last few months. Although her behavior on walks was much better, she still did some pulling. I was anticipating that this would carryover to the harness, but it did not.

Well at least not at first.

Simply having the dog run along side you is a good workout as it allows the dog to run much faster than a human on foot, even one who is running. But if the dog likes to pull, the workout is enhanced dramatically. My Border collie / Dalmatian / Pointer mix can go on a 6 mile job and want to play fetch when she gets back home. But if I have help pull me on roller blades, she is wiped out after a 20 minute, two mile session.

Because this was a mix of dog skiing and running along side me, it took about 25 minutes but when we returned to her home, it was clear that our dog skiing adventure had done the trick.

I recommended that Maybel’s guardians take her out for regular dog skiing adventure is like this while she is still a puppy.

It will be most effective if the guardian can do a little bit of dogskiing early in the day before they leave for work. Everyone likes to sleep in a little bit later and I find many people put off exercising their dog until after work as a result. While this is certainly still a good way to drain the dogs energy, it is not going to help with their behavior in the day before they go. This should have a positive impact on her daily behavior and certainly during any puppy training.

Because dog skiing is so quick, it shouldn’t take the guardian longer than 15 or 20 minutes in the morning to conduct a loop around the neighborhood. Hopefully he will be able to get up a few minutes early to make this happen because I think this will have a much more profound impact on Maybel’s behavior throughout the rest of the day.

After giving Maybel a good 20 minutes to cool down, we headed out into the backyard so that I could demonstrate a technique that will teach the dog to walk on a loose leash. Puppy training yours to heel is one of the most underrated commands out there. If you can teach your dog to heel, walking enjoyment goes up by a factor of 10.

The key to this loose leash training exercise is a lot of repetition. At first the guardians will need to provide the treat every three or four steps and then eventually get to the point where they ask for a few more steps from the dog before rewarding her.

I recommended that the guardian pick up Jean Donaldson’s book Train your dog like a pro. Jean is a force free dog trainer / behaviorist who offers a wealth of dog and puppy training tips and suggestions in this book. If you order the hardcover version, it comes with a DVD where she demonstrates many of the techniques which makes things a lot easier.

By the end of the session, Maybel seemed much calmer and was listening to the commands and corrections offered to buy her guardian right away. I was quite pleased with the puppy training progress we made in this session.

By practicing these puppy training techniques and exercises a few times a day, every day, it shouldn’t take long to for Maybel to become a pro at them. The more the humans practice the heel, the better Maybel will behave on walks. Once she fully gets it, she will walk next to her humans on her own rather than needed to be reminded or corrected.

Because Maybel is an intelligent dog and her guardians are so motivated to get her to walk with a loose leash and behave in the home, I suspect it shouldn’t take long for these unwanted behaviors to stop for good.

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This post was written by: David Codr

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