Training and playing games with your dog has so many benefits:
- Stimulating their Brains
- Strengthening Your Bond
- It’s fun for both of you!
While I’ve slacked off on training Luke for a while now, I did sign up for a new online class at Fenzi Dog Sports Academy this month, “Calling All Dogs”. This class is to help train your dog to have a reliable recall, to have a dog who pays attention to you no matter the distractions. I waffled between this class and a trick training class, which I know both Luke and I would have enjoyed too.
While Luke’s recall has been decent in the past, lately we’ve noticed he ignores us when we call him into the house from his yard, especially if he’s eating something he shouldn’t be! While we’ve learned that tapping on the window gets his attention better, that’s only going to work when he’s in the yard. He’s also been less reliable about paying attention to me when we’re on walks. He’d been pulling a lot more and not checking in with me like he used to. While I doubt that I will ever be comfortable enough for Luke to be an off-leash dog, due to his fears, my hope was that this class could help him to be more attentive, especially since there’s always a chance a dog could get loose! I also keep in mind that any new things I learn could help with any future dogs that join our family as well.
Part of the class introduction said this: “The foundations for a great recall are a great relationship, a dog who believes it is HIS responsibility not to lose his human, and a human who knows how to effectively and creatively reward her dog. We will work on each of these elements separately before combining them into a recall in increasingly difficult environments.” This sounded like just what we needed, and my hope was also that it could benefit us on walks overall.
When one of the first lessons included “giving in to leash pressure” to get your dog’s attention, I knew that we’d made the right choice. This means that putting tension on your dog’s leash or harness gets them to turn towards you. I always “audit” the classes at Fenzi, which means you have access to all lessons and materials, but you don’t have to turn in videos for homework (though you can see the other students’ work). This works well for me, so we can do this at our own pace.
It turns out this was the right time to take a class, with colder weather and storminess lingering here. It gives us something to do on those days I just can’t drag myself out of the house into the cold. We’ve been working on the leash pressure now, luckily we have our long hallway so I can walk Luke up and down it and around the house. When the weather gets better, we’ll take it outside.
As we have time, we work on that, and then we play “find the treat” where I hide treats around the house and Luke sniffs them out. Luke loves this game, and it’s so much fun to watch him trotting around the house searching out his treats! Luke knows when I get his blue harness out, that it’s time for games or training, so we always put that on, so he knows. It’s the same type of harness he wears to walk, the ComfortFlex*, and I know he can’t tell the difference in colors! But I keep the training harness in a different place, so he does know the difference from when we’re going to be training and playing, as opposed to taking a walk, by where I take the harness out of.
There are other treat, toy, and body awareness games in the class that we’ll be trying soon. Some of them we can start indoors, and then we’ll move them outside more as the weather gets better. Even though we haven’t gotten far enough with the harness pressure for him to be aware of it on walks, I do already feel like he’s paying more attention to me when we’re out there. Sometimes when I slack off on training with him, I forget just how much we both enjoy it, and just how much it brings us closer. Even though we may never work up to off-leash recall, I know we are going to learn a lot along the way that can benefit us both, and our relationship, in many ways.