Friday, 15 August 2014

Help! My puppy won't come back!

Elly's a Delta Therapy Dog
On a beautiful New South Wales Spring day I was enjoying walking Elly (my daughter’s Delta Therapy* Dog) around Curl Curl lagoon when I became aware of a woman walking a Staffie puppy. I noticed her as she was giving the puppy a non stop stream of ‘commands’.

The fact the puppy was completely ignoring the owner didn’t curb the torrent of words. Certainly anyone within earshot would have known her dogs name was Zippy…..

Zippy! don’t jump up
Zippy! come here
Zippy! leave it
Zippy! come on, I’m leaving you behind, I’m going home
Zippy! come away, no, stop that, this way
Zippy!! Oh no, opps, sorry she did that (to a passer by she jumped at)

Elly who's 8 thinking she's a pup
Whilst the owner thought she was giving commands, all her dog heard was ‘Zippy bla, bla, bla, Zippy dag, dag, dag, Zippy dag, bla, dag, bla.’

By chance Zippy ran up to me as I was giving Elly a treat, the owner said I could give Zippy a treat too. In excitement Zippy began jumping up (of course!) but I got her to sit and then gave her a treat. I then began chatting with the owner and asked if it was her first dog. It was.

Just then Zippy, who I found was 12 months, started to run towards a couple of dogs – and the owner immediately went to call her back. I suggested she let Zippy go and meet the other dogs.

I didn’t understand why at an off leash park she kept calling her dog back. First of all you're setting yourself up to fail if you call as your dog is running towards others. Secondly, your dog is there to play and interact. She said she called Zippy to stop her jumping up at people (a strategy clearly not working!)
Turbo walking round Little Manly

So this time she let Zippy go. We watched and I waited for the ideal instant to recall Zippy and saw it when, just for a moment, Zippy was standing on her own. Right then, before she found another distraction, I called really loudly and with lots and lots of inflection in my voice:


I put my arms out and how I wish someone had been filming because Zippy, who had met me barely 5 mins earlier, came flying to me in a straight line like a missile. As soon as she reached me I gave her a treat. The owner could barely believe it and said ‘Wow, she’s so good for you!”

It wasn’t magic, it was just that the owner, being inexperienced, was making a number of common mistakes but perhaps the biggest was:


To Zippy her owner was background noise - like us being at home and having the radio on. A training voice has to differ from background noise. If your dog can’t hear you, they can’t respond to you. And your dog won't hear because it will tune out and and ignore ‘commands’ which are given in a continuous monotone.

Talking is fine to reinforce bonds, but with training the command voice has to be distinctive -  loud, clear AND encouraging.

Also, I always work to achieve a relationship where dogs I'm caring for find me more interesting than anything else. This is essential as you need a dog or puppy to want to come to you as you cannot make them do this from a distance. To achieve this they must ALWAYS associate returning to you with good things, fun (play) and/or food (tasty treats, chicken or steak work best).  

Some dogs work for fun, others for food, some for both. Find the key to your dog and you are half way there.

Elly and I were leaving and nearly at the car when I saw Zippy - she’d followed the food/fun person! The owner was calling in the distance - and of course Zippy was ignoring her! So I called Zippy and ran towards the owner calling ‘Zippy!’ using my most exciting voice. Zippy bounced along next to me enjoying this play - which is what it was to her - and as we reached Zippy’s owner, once again she was amazed.

The owner was constantly calling Zippy back in an attempt to stop her jumping at people. But if a child has bad manners at home, would you expect them to behave well when eating out? 

To stop a dog jumping in public you first have to teach them not to jump up at people in the home. This is an issue I help owners with routinely.

Training dogs take patience, time, repetition and commonsense. But if you are new to dogs it really is worth the investment of even one session with a trainer. The reward is results which come fast once you know how to implement effective training strategies.

I’ve trained many dogs and below is a reference from Sarah who owns the wonderful Turbo, an Australian Bulldog. Rather than taking Turbo walkies, Sarah was taken for a daily drag! One session with Turbo and he was walking to heel :-

Turbo the Australian Bulldog who I've trained
Dear Maralyn...

Turbo and I are very grateful we met you. It has  greatly improved our relationship...we  now understand each other ...

and it only takes three little words!!  sit...heel...come...maybe four.. as sometimes I say "lets go"....

I now understand how to control him with a lead.... we have more eye contact as well.
My back is also very grateful to you...

I've even heard people say when passing what an obedient dog.. if only they knew what we looked like before your training!

I've been singing your praises to all my doggy friends...and anyone that will did a magnificent job.

I still let him sleep on my bed as he now knows who is mistress!. But.. he still refuses to wear silk pyjamas......

Lots of licks....Sarah and Turbo
Turbo does love to chew a ball!

Zippy’s owner had a demonstration of what a couple of minutes can achieve when you know what you’re doing.  I gave her my card and very much hope she calls me.

If you are having puppy or dog problems do contact me. A one-to-one hours session is $65 which could be the best and possibly only investment you need to get on the right track with your doggie partnership.

*Delta Therapy dogs. Before a dog can be accepted to become a Delta Therapy Dog there are many tests for not just the dog but also the owner.
Using a willing volunteer as an Elly Chair!
Once they have passed the rigourous selection process the dog and owner make regular trips to aged care facilities, hospices and children in homes.

This whole scheme is run by volunteers and my daughter with many others gives up her Saturday mornings so those who love dogs but do not get to see them due to their situation or illness, can pet them.
Click here for more info on Delta Therapy Dogs

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