With over 20 years of experience as a dog behaviourist and trainer, Adem Fehmi is here to help you with all your dog training needs this summer and beyond! Here he gives us some top tips for having the most fun out and about with your canine best friend.
1) Help your dog to become a confident traveller
When travelling with your dog it is important to consider how far you will be travelling and whether your dog is used to travelling for this length of time. It is also important to consider if your dog likely to become stressed travelling on your chosen mode of transport. If you are worried about your dog travelling, undertake practice runs. You should start by simply introducing your dog to the vehicle e.g. sitting in the car but not going anywhere, playing the radio. Remember to make the experience enjoyable by rewarding calm behaviour with a tasty treat! You can then start to take small journeys, building up the time as you go, until your dog is confident travelling.
2) Build your dog’s confidence so that you can enjoy experiences together
When picking places to explore with your dog it is important that you consider both their physiological and psychological capabilities. Going to the park for an hour is a very different experience to attending a busy town centre or country show. Similarly, ensure you tailor the duration of your visit to meet your dog’s needs, taking regular rest breaks or organising to attend for only a short duration if necessary. Start small and build up your dog’s exposure to experiences slowly. Working at your dog’s pace and help them to understand the world that we live in.
3) Centre your training around what YOU need as an owner
My top tip for training would be to teach actions that are useful for you! Consider, what do you need your dog to understand in order to make your time more enjoyable together? This might be walking to heel without pulling on the lead or it may be that you need them to learn how to come back to you when you’re in the park together. If you have children or young relatives, it might be that you need them to wait patiently on their bed whilst you get young children’s shoes on and get ready to go exploring all together! Whatever your requirements, start with the basics and build from there. There is no point your dog knowing how to balance a treat on their nose or stand on two legs like a meerkat if you don’t feel confident in their behaviour when outside of your home. You can always come back to teaching the tricks later when you’ve mastered the basics!
4) Teach commands clearly
For your dog to understand what you are saying you must ensure that you time your commands and positive reinforcement correctly. A training command should be given as the dog completes the action. For example, if you wanted to teach ‘sit’ you would need to say ‘sit’ as the dog placed their bottom on the floor and assumed the correct position, giving a tasty treat that they enjoy within a couple of seconds to reinforce the command. The more confident you become in your dog’s ability to understand your commands, the more places you can explore safely together without worry.
5) Take time to understand your breed of dog
Consider, what energy level does your dog have? Do they have any physiological challenges such as short legs or short noses? What types of toy interests them most? Choose toys that are appropriate for your dog to play with and that will help you to hold their attention when out and about. A tennis ball might be great for a Labrador, but a chihuahua will have a much harder time picking this sized ball up! Scale up or down or choose alternative toys as necessary for smaller or larger breeds. Carry these with you when out and about so that you can have fun in lots of different locations.