Wednesday, November 17, 2010

ASK THE DOG TRAINER, with Mike Shamp, Painfully Playful Water Dogs, Part II

by Mike Shamp
Master Dog Behavior Therapist and Trainer

(c) Carrie Boyko
Stay, Tanner. Good Boy, Tanner.

Responding to an All Things Dog Blog reader, Carol, our trainer, Mike Shamp started Carol with some tips for preparing her Lab to accept watching her family swim without her in Part I of this topic, Painfully Playful Water Dogs. If you missed Mike's first installment, you may wish to return to read it at Part I. Now we'll move on with Mike's continuing assistance for Carol and India:

Another critical skill is India’s ability to come to you no matter what distraction is present. The goal is to be able to get her attention from a distance and call her back to you. A basic Come When Called command is a crucial skill. As in any training situation, you must have control of the exercise and demonstrate to India that you are in charge. She needs to respond to you every time you issue a command. Begin by calling India from a short distance of just 4 to 5 feet away. Assume a crouched, playful position to get her attention. Use a happy, playful voice to call her, praising her as soon as she turns her head to look at you, and each step along the way. If you use a firm voice, shout the command or lose your patience, she will avoid going to an “angry boss.”  The come when called command is a happy command and must be executed no matter what she has done or has in her mouth. Gradually increase the distance until she responds and comes from at least 30 feet.

Be a Happy, Cheerful boss to encourage her to come. Positive reinforcement and reward in the form of praise using light-hearted, happy voice tones is the most effective way to keep India focused on you and be willing to please you. Training Dogs the Aussie Way  by Danny and Sylvia Wilson is a great resource for teaching these skills, and lists other games you can teach India.

Combine the come when called command with the sit/stay exercise to develop self control. This can be a fun, playful exercise for everyone. Use a ball or toy to begin playing. After two or three tosses and returns begin giving a sit/stay command, toss the ball or toy but keep India at your side until you release her to fetch the toy. Alternate fetch and stay commands to make the exercise unpredictable and fun.

Stop the exercise before India becomes tired. You must retain control and end the game on your terms, not because India has lost interest. The advanced stages of this game include allowing India to chase the toy and calling her back before she reaches the toy. Good distance control will allow you to call her out of the pool despite the good time she is having with the children.

By the time summer rolls around India will be more focused on you and be more willing to respond to your commands. Begin the swimming season with slow quiet activity in the pool. If India becomes excited or jumps on the children call her out of the pool to sit and watch the children from your side. Release her to go back in the pool and monitor her behavior. Each time she gets excited repeat the exercise. Gradually increase the intensity of the play in the pool until she accepts all levels of play without the explosive energy and enthusiasm she has shown this past summer.


(c) courtesy M.S.
Our ASK THE DOG TRAINER Column can be reached at
For more information on Mike Shamp and his training, you may find him at Bark Busters of Central Florida. You can also visit Bark Busters' Training Tips Page for help.
A personal appointment with a trainer will likely provide more specific information on your dog's issues and your questions.

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