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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Ask the Dog Trainer: Velcro Dog

by Michael Baugh, CPDT-KA, CDBC

© All Things Dog Blog
Independent Play?

Dear Michael:

I am going to need help on this for Skipper. Skipper was in obedience classes twice 6 weeks each. He would never sit and stay and let me walk away. I would take a baby step backwards and he would take a baby step with me. I would put him back and it was the same thing all over. He did get a little btter and I could take maybe 6 steps. Skipper is our rescue and was abused. Skipper was 6 months old when we drove to Nebraska to pick him up. We were his 3rd owners. The first owner never got him his shots and was taking care of him. the second family got his his shots but could not keep him because he chewed everything up plus he was in a small kennel all day and out just for a short time in the evening and back in the kennel. They also had an older female Vizsla that was a hunting dog. I saw the ad in the paper and contacted the lady. We made arrangement to meet them in a park in nearby the Nebraska/Iowa state line. We took Schooner with us to make sure they would get along. Skipper name was Bo we changed the name because he needed a boating name and it had to start with an "S". Schooner and Skipper saw each other and took off running and playing. What a great match. So they offered us the kennel and I said OK we would take it but when I saw the little kennel that Skipper was in I said no. I don't know how Skipper could even turn around in the kennel plus the end of his tail was rubbed raw. I felt like crying for Skipper. Schooner has a brother and it was a perfect match for both dogs. Skipper is a very Velcro dog and needs to be right beside my husband, myself or Schooner all the time. So if you have any ideas for Skipper let me know.

Thanks, Sharon

Hi Sharon,

Thank you for taking Skipper into your home and into your heart.  You’ve done a great thing by rescuing him.  I know you’re going to do great things with his training too.

The main things here are making independent thinking and action both safe and fun for Skipper.  Look for opportunities to praise Skipper for getting it right, and let him know you’re his biggest fan.  Reading your post about Skipper’s friendship with Schooner made me wonder.  Do he and Schooner ever romp and play away from you?  If so, cheer that on. I might also consider putting “go play” on cue.  You do that by telling Skipper and Schooner to “go play” right when you think play is going to break out anyway.  Make it seem like it’s your idea.  In no time at all they’ll start responding to the cue to “go play” just like any trained behavior.  This encourages independence and fun time away from you.

You’ve worked on stay and I bet you can master it with Skipper.  Take it slow.  Work on building Skipper’s endurance just a step or two away from you.  Don’t go for a great distance quite yet.  See if you can build Skipper’s confidence to the point at which he could sit or rest a short distance away for 5 minutes or so.  Reinforce him periodically with a treat and some praise. Such a brave boy you are Skipper.

I really like to teach dogs how to “back up” as a game.  The dog gets reinforced for increasing distance between himself and you.  The game builds confidence and keeps the dog from getting under foot (not a bad combo).  I found a couple of examples of “clicker training back up” on youtube.  The easiest one is to simply step into Skippers space.  When he backs up even a step, click and treat.  After a dozen or so repetitions you can add the cue: “back up.”  Pause.  Then step into his space.  In time, he will simply take a step back when you ask him to.

In all his training I might recommend you reinforce him (deliver the treat) a foot or so away from you.  This will teach Skipper to sit and down outside of your personal space and not directly against you.

Of course, there is a time for closeness.  Nothing is more rewarding for a dog like Skipper after a job well done than a little cuddle time.  And who can blame him.  At the end of a long day you’ll find me right on my sofa, spooning Stella or Stewie, with just a hint of a contented smile, and the Velcro hardly visible.

© Robyn Arouty
Michael and Stella
Houston Dog Trainer Michael Baugh CPDT-KSA, CDBC is the Director of Training and Behavior at Rover Oaks Pet Resorts. Michael's advice does not replace an actual consultation with a qualified trainer.

Check out Michael's Archives Page, or these recent articles:


FANCY the Red Standard Poodle said...

Hi Y'all,

Loved this post. Rescue dogs are so special and all have issues that sometimes make normal training frustrating at best.

Just stopped by to catch up on your happenings and say hello! Enjoy your week!

Y'all come by now,
Hawk aka BrownDog

Dog Owners said...


thanks you for your tips… keep up the good post

Dog Owners

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