‘Oh look, a training opportunity’ is a phrase that I find coming out of my mouth a lot.
I like to pre-empt any possible problems by being proactive to facilitate an issue doesn’t come up in the future. That might be teaching my young excitable Lurcher that the sight of a bicycle means come to me for a yummy treat and calmly watch the speeding deer replacement go by. Or by starting work a month in advance to prepare him for the firework season by upping his Tellington TTouch body work and wearing his body wrap more often.
The salient point we should understand is that the training exercises they do in a class or one to one session are just the foundation of helping our dog be safe, confident and compliant in the real world.
We have to practise these skills in lots of environments and with increasing distractions over weeks and months before the command becomes an automatic response in our dog. It is so much easier for them to get it right with guidance from you than for you to wait for them to get it wrong, when left to their own devises, and then you have to re-train him from doing the self-rewarding behaviour – we are back to the deer replacing bicycle again! Prepare for the worse instead of despairing at his actions when he gets it ‘wrong.’
Many owners might think they don’t have the time to train in their busy schedules but training and supporting your dog to get it right is just part of life. We should be doing it every day, all day. See a jogger/cyclist/child on a shooter and help your dog make the right decision whether that’s come to you and sit for a yummy reward or a game of tuggy on your favourite toy. Or if it’s a bit scary have a few minutes of calming, confidence building Tellington TTouch body work.
People often thank me for getting my dog under control as they go by, but in reality, I am keeping him safe. Safe from making the wrong choice that could end up with him, another person or dog being injured, and safe from any legal actions his impulsive choices may land us in.
The point is, it doesn’t take up a huge amount of time each day and you can make it super fun for both you and your canine pal.
Being proactive, in the long run, saves time and sometimes heartache. As guardians, we have a duty to coach our dogs in the skills they require to fit into our confusing and frustrating world so they can be stress-free and emotionally content. Now isn’t that worth a few extra minutes on a walk or the time it takes to grab your treats and a toy as you walk out the door?
Toni Shelbourne has worked with domesticated and wild canids since 1989. After a long and successful career with the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association, she started her own business as a Tellington TTouch Companion Animal Practitioner. She is now one of the highest qualified Practitioners in the UK. In 2001 her skills in TTouch took Toni to the UK Wolf Conservation Trust were she meet a pack of socialised wolves. She went on to work with them for over a decade as a Senior Wolf Handler and Education Officer for the organisation. Through observing the wolves she has a unique insight into their behaviour. This led to her questioning the ingrained ideas about the alpha theory with dogs, ideas that were often in conflict with her own knowledge and observations. Today she advises wolf organisations and zoos on wolf behaviour and management. She teaches all over the UK and abroad, works with clients’ one to one, writes and runs workshops.
Over the last decade, Toni has been developing her writing. She spent two years editing and writing features for Wolf Print, the UK Wolf Conservation Trust’s international magazine. She went on to write for national dog magazines, rescue society newsletters and websites. Her first and second book, The Truth about Wolves & Dogs, (Hubble and Hattie 2012) and Among the Wolves (Hubble and Hattie 2015) have been a great success. Her latest writing collaboration with author Karen Bush sees a series of books entitled Help… My Dog is. The first, Help…My Dog is Scared of Fireworks is available as an eBook or in paperback format and is an essential guide for the owners of noise phobic dogs. More titles are planned.
Visit www.tonishelbourne.co.uk for more details about Toni, TTouch and her books.
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