New to dog ownership and this forum.

Posted by aussiegirl1
Jul 21, 2009

I have decided to ask for a lilltle help with my lab. I rescued back in Oct, and here are the details of her background as i know them.

She is 2 years old and born/ lived in Spain, she was put on a long chain in a field and only had contact with family at feed times and when they could be bothered, They moved to England with her to a much smaller property and had problems house training, a week after her arrival she was sent to a dog borstal where she was taught to do as she was told with harsh treatment, after 3 weeks she was sent home very timid and scared. They kept her for another week then put her up for adoption. Now with us and having been given too much love by myself, family and lots of children (i am a childminder)
she has settled very well (too much really) She is a very loving, caring dog and none of us would be without her.

There are a few problems(not major one) firstly, off lead she stays close to me until she sees another dog, rabbit etc, to play with ( she only wants to play) then she will not listen to me at all, she will come back when she is ready, (last time was about 1 1/2 hrs). she is fine on the lead until she sees another dog, then she pulls until she says hello.Toys are another issue, fetch seems to be one way and thats hers - she wont drop it, not even for treats. Rope toys, squeeky toys or soft toys are shreaded and or eaten. and lastly, toilet - She has quite a big area to use and did so all the time until about two weeks ago when she decided to go anywhere but there. She even held on for hours until i took her for a walk, she went on the first peice of grass she could find.

If anyone could help me solve these problems i would be very gratefull.
Posted by KOPsarah
Jul 26, 2009
Hi aussiegirl and thanks for your post,
Teaching drop and come to the point where they are reliable in all situations takes a lot of time because they require your dog to give up something very exciting i.e. the toy or the chase. I will outline the tricks for teaching both below however both will require a lot of perseverance. As far as the toileting issue I would just like to get a little extra information. What sort of area is she normally toileting on and has there been any other changes or incidents for example do you think she may have had some sort of scary experience while toileting in her usual place or has she been sick recently?

Teaching your dog to “Drop it” is a very important command to master. Your ultimate goal in teaching “Drop it” is for your dog to open her jaws and release whatever she’s holding in her mouth. This command is useful for a number of reasons including getting her to drop dangerous or delicate items she may have picked up. It is also important if you plan to teach her to play fetch.

Step One
-Armed with a tempting dog toy, and a small bag of tasty treats (small pieces of chopped-up meat or cheese are good) take your dog somewhere there are few distractions.
-Holding a treat in one hand, give her the toy. Allow her a few moments to really get absorbed in it, then hold a small piece of treat-food near her nose and say “Drop it”.
-When she opens her mouth feed her the treat immediately while giving an enthusiastic, “Good girl!”. Pick up the chew with the other hand.
-Return the toy to her and repeat the exercise. If she’s no longer interested in the toy(since she knows you’ve got treats!) break off training until you see her pick up something else in her mouth before repeating the exercise.
-Aim for 10 repetitions per day every day until she is reliably obedient.

The Next Step
When she’s reliably obedient at “drop it”, you can begin to phase out the treats. Don’t do it all at once, you’ll still need to treat occasionally; but studies have shown that treating ‘now and then’ is much more effective than treating every time without fail, and treating none of the time.

Here’s how to start phasing out the treats:
-Keep the bag of treats nearby, but don’t hold one in your hands. Give her the toy.
-Hold your empty fingers, pinched together as if holding a treat, near her nose and ask her to “Drop it”. If she’s practiced enough with the first step of “Drop it” (see above) she should obey. If not, you’ll need to spend more time on Step One.
-When she drops it, praise her warmly, and immediately give her a couple of small treats.
-Aim for 10 repetitions of this per day until she’s reliably obedient.

The Final Steps
The next step is for you to take a more active role in the “Drop it” command. Perform the commands as listed above, but this time keep your hand on the item before asking her to drop it. The point of this is to get her used to having human hands on and around what she considers to be “her” possessions (the ultimate sign of possession for a dog is to carry something in her mouth). Last of all, build up to real-life objects: household items like remote controls, pencils, footwear, and so on. The wider the variety of objects that she is accustomed to dropping, the higher her quality of obedience is likely to be.

The Drop Command and Alpha Training
“Drop it” is a generalised command for dropping many items. In teaching and using the command you are reinforcing your status as the dominant ‘alpha’ dog. “Drop it” training is therefore more difficult if your dog does not see you as the pack leader, because if in the dogs mind it is the pack leader it will feel that it has the right to control all resources such as food and toys. Therefore to assist in your “drop it” training as well as to improve your dogs behaviour in general be sure to keep up your alpha training. To refresh on the details of alpha training see your secrets to dog training manual or the premium download area for detailed instructions. 

When training, you should never give a command that you cannot immediately reinforce if your dog doesn’t give the desired response. For example, calling your dog to “Come” while she’s playing with another dog, chasing squirrels, or is far away from you is courting failure. If she doesn’t respond, there’s nothing you can do to enforce the command, so in effect you’re teaching her to ignore the command. Follow the pointers below to increase the effectiveness of your training:

Common mistakes to avoid when teaching “Come”
-Don’t work on the ‘Come’ command with your dog OFF the leash until she is 100% reliable ON the leash – in a wide range of situations and a variety of leash lengths.
-Use a cheery tone of voice when you call her, to make yourself an attractive prospect.
-Keep your posture welcoming when she’s still learning. If you squat down and open your arms out wide it will help to forge the association in her mind between the command and the desired action. Most dogs respond instinctively to this. With some dogs excitedly moving backwards is more effective as this makes coming more of a game.
-Do not repeat commands. When you ask your dog to “Come”, say the word once. If she doesn’t respond, reinforce it with a leash flick.
-Don’t overuse her name or eventually she’ll become immune to the sound of it.

The recall command “Come” is one of the most important commands you can teach your dog. It’s also one of the hardest on your dog. Whenever you ask her to “Come”, you’re asking her to leave something enjoyable and interesting to return to you. That’s a pretty big ask - and one of the most common complaints we hear is about dogs not coming when called.
The only way to ensure that your dog will “Come” every time is to spend a lot of time practicing and training in a variety of situations, and with varying levels of distraction, to ensure that she learns to respond to “Come” in every situation.

Key training tip:
As soon as your dog starts walking towards you, praise her in a low, encouraging tone of voice. “Goooood girl, what a goooood girl!” You want to praise her as she’s heading your way, so she associates the praise with walking in your direction. Keep your voice steady and low-pitched. Put a smile on your face for added effect. Overly-enthusiastic praise tends to distract the dog from what she’s doing.

The moment she reaches you, get that treat in her mouth as fast as you can. Some dogs prefer a short game with a cherished toy as an alternative reward to food treats: you’ll figure out which of these your dog prefers as training progresses.

Good luck all the best,