A new puppy. One of the biggest decision any family can make. Opening your home to the equivalent of a toddler for the next 10-15 years is not a decision that should be made lightly. Feeding, cleaning, keeping them occupied…. It’s a lot of work.
I’ve been around dogs my whole life. In fact, our first family dog, a golden retriever named Brew, was my first word. Growing up in a home with a woman as passionate about dogs as my mom, Karen Brearley, you can’t help but learn a thing or two about them over the years. I’ve been to more dog shows then most, even been entered in a few myself in my younger days. So when my husband and I finally made the decision to get a dog after moving to Manitoba and purchasing our first home with some property, I thought, no problem. With all that time spent watching my mom train her dogs and the puppies she’d bred over the years, this will be a piece of cake.
We finally got our first puppy, an American Brittany named Lucille, a week ago. What an eye opener it has been. It’s one thing to lay on the couch and watch someone else take care of everything, as I had done over the years watching my mom. The feeding, taking them out to go to the bathroom, keeping constant watch to make sure they’re not chewing something they’re not supposed to be. But now, Karen is three provinces over in Armstrong, BC and for the first time, the dog training is 100% up to me.
Naturally, I had a few questions that my mom was able to help me with:
Me: “House training. Where do I even begin?”
Karen: “The best thing you can do for this is to have your dog crate trained. When it’s time to go to bed, have them sleep in their crates instead of on the bed, or roaming freely. Dogs don’t like to do their business where they sleep, so they will learn quickly not to do so in their crates.
This is beneficial to house training because it allows you to utilize their crates if you can’t watch them. For example, you need to go shower or make dinner, and can’t watch your puppy full time for the warning signs (sniffing, circling, etc). If you can’t watch them, put them in their crates. Then when you have a minute, let them right outside before they even have the chance to go in the house.”
Me: “What about chewing?”
Karen: “You need to be proactive with your puppy, and make sure they have the right kinds of things that they can chew on. Don’t leave your brand new expensive shoes out until you can trust them. Otherwise you’re just setting them up to fail. Make sure that the things she can chew on are enticing. A pig’s ear or beef stick. Something yummy so they’ll choose it over the rug. If you do catch them chewing on something they shouldn’t, make sure to follow up your ‘no’ with a yes. Let them know what they can do. Catch them with a power cord in their mouth, say ‘no’ and point them towards the pig’s ear... ‘Yes’! The more positive and happy the environment for them, the more willing they will be to follow your rules.”
Me: “Lucille has gotten pretty good at recall in the house. But when we go outside, she hardly comes at all. Sometimes, I forget to have treats with me. Could that be part of the problem?”
Karen: “ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS reward the recall. Puppies are learning and they do what works so be sure that you both have cookies in your pockets. Just be sure not to Bribe the come…do not show her the treat and then call. Call and when she is committed into coming. YES and then reward! It is a fine line.
As for treats, people always ask, when can I get rid of them…? Hmmm… when you do your job better do you get a raise or a pay cut?? The deal being is that it has to turn from a ‘lure’ to a ‘reward’.. When I compete, you are not allowed food or toys in the ring and yet, I get 100 percent effort from my dogs. Why? Because they know that when they do a good job, mom will give them that reward.”
When my mom chose “Longhaul” to be the name of her business, I know she was paying homage to our dad’s long career as a truck driver. For me, “Longhaul” is a testament to the dedication and passion she puts into her work. I have never met someone who is so truly happy and excited about what they do. And her excitement is contagious! She is the reason I’m so eager to be working with my Lucille. In the first week, she already can sleep through the night in her crate, spin left and right, go to her mark, let us know when to go outside…. It’s unbelievable. And as much as I’d love to take full credit, I would have never been able to accomplish as much as we already have without my mom’s guidance and support. Thanks, Mom!
I would like to share a story that happened to me this summer which is just one of the many reasons to train your dog! My daughters and I took our Shelties to the river for a little swim. It was a hot day, and many people and their pets were enjoying the cool water. One man was on the river bank with his toddler and his small dog. He was walking with a crutch, and it was easy to tell he had his hands full. My dogs were playing in the water and his dog decided to come and see. I called my dogs back to me and they happily complied. This poor man, on the other hand, had his toddler wondering off in one direction and then his dog decided to go in the other. He was hobbling around trying to catch both of them. It would have been much easier if the dog would have had a reliable recall.
The most important thing you will EVER teach your dog is a reliable recall. It could literally save their life…
Dogs that have the best recalls are the dogs that have been given freedom to run. If your dog is always on leash, how will they ever learn to come when called? Of course, starting with a young puppy is ideal but there are also plenty of ways to train even an older dog. There are many different exercises that will help you achieve this, but here are a few of my favourite:
Lets start at the beginning… Does your dog know his name? I start by saying the dog’s name and putting a cookie in their mouth. For all examples, our dog's name today will be Fido.
So to start, you would say, "Fido!", then feed, and repeat it three times. Next, throw a cookie, tell Fido, "GET IT!", then call them by name. "FIDO!" Your dog will definitely be coming back to you, so say "YES!" and feed him again with another treat.
MAKE SURE THAT FIDO IS COMING TO YOU, NOT THE COOKIE IN YOUR HAND.
This exercise should be done in your house where there are not too many distractions. Also, do not forget to end this, or any exercise before your dog gets bored. You quit before they do!
Another exercise you can practice in your house is to hide on your dog. Warn Fido, "I'M LEAVING!" then run and duck into another room out of sight. As soon as your dog finds you, say, "YES!" and feed them another cookie... ALWAYS FEED THE RECALL!