Whole Dog Journal's Blog July 8, 2012

One of My Proudest Accomplishments

Posted at 12:01PM - Comments: (9)

If I had to pick which training accomplishment I am most proud of with my dog Otto, I’d have to consider a few. He’s got a rock-solid, enthusiastic recall that I love. When we’re out on the trail and he sees a duck and ducklings on the shore of the river, say, or hears a deer crashing through the brush away from us, this recall -- combined with a strong “Off!” (a.k.a. “Leave it!”) – never fails to bring admiration from my walking partners. (And because I reward him so richly for this, with a veritable avalanche of tasty treats, it stays nice and strong.)

But perhaps the most useful for walking in my semi-rural town is his ability to “look at me” when we are walking down the sidewalk and there is a dog (or several dogs) going berserk on the other side of a fence as we walk by. This is an extremely stressful thing for a dog to do – to completely ignore some very dramatic behavior from fellow dogs – and it does make him nervous. His pace speeds up, he’ll whine a bit, and he’ll lick his lips and flick his tongue in distress.

However, he knows what to do to make it less nerve-wracking: look at me. If he turns toward me, I allow him to walk or trot faster – heck, I want to get out of there, too! – and I speed-feed him treats as we hustle on out of there. I also praise him in a calm and happy voice, “Goood boy, Otto. What a good boy!” I make sure not to make it squeaky, scared-sounding, or fast and frantic.

When I first got Otto, four-plus years ago, I wouldn’t even attempt such a thing. If there was a dog going nuts in a yard as we approached (or I was previously aware of a lurker who would burst out as we passed), we’d veer out into the street or even turn and avoid that block as we practiced. It was an overly high-stress exercise for him when he was younger. But as he has gained confidence in both the behavior and in me, he’s gotten even a little cocky about it. Not long ago he surprised me: As we walked along, with Otto looking at me and eating the treats I was steadily feeding into his mouth as a dog on the other side of the fence going crazy with barking, snarling, and throwing himself against the fence, Otto suddenly stopped, and – still looking at me – lifted his leg and peed against the fence, pretty much right in the berserk dog’s face. Oh snap! That dog was dissed! And as rude as it was, I was still proud.

Comments (9)

What I've done with my 2 dogs is teach them to come with a storm whistle that I hang around my neck. We walk off leash in a forest area of northern Arizona so we run into antelope, cattle, horses, and they do get pretty far away from me. I started by playing hide and seek, then I would hide and give a a toot and the first one to find me got treats. Great game and you can start this in the house or yard. Lynn, Honey and Gamer

Posted by: Gamer | July 15, 2012 12:42 PM    Report this comment

That is too funny, peeing against the fence. I had a pit bull in the early 90's, family pet. My neighbor had a fence with a real yappy little dog, running up and down the fence barking at my dog all the time. One day, my dog lifted his leg and peed right on him through the fence. The dog was little so it went right on his head. I just stood there in awe at my my dog had just done. Then I laughed and thought I guess you got even with him. I was proud of my dog for not barking back at the dog or lunging at him, he just peed on him and walked away. My pit was not vicious at all! hahaha

Posted by: Unknown | July 10, 2012 10:20 PM    Report this comment

I have a related question...Buddy (Bischon / Poodle) is / was reactive to other dogs on leash. Now he is doing much better since learning to look at me when another dog enters the scene. My problem now is with the "owner" of the other dog. Surely they can see I am working with Buddy, keeping his attention on me, praising him and giving him treats. Nevertheless, often they will come marching over to us from across the street even as I put out my hand in the "STOP" gesture and say "not a good idear" or similar phrase. What are they thinking?! and how can I make it more clear that we want to politely avoid their company?

Posted by: Becky and Buddy | July 10, 2012 7:45 PM    Report this comment

Way to go Otto!!!

Posted by: ThrpyDogTeam | July 10, 2012 3:30 PM    Report this comment

Nancy, Very funny story, it brought a smile to my face! Now, isn't the whole idea of using Positive training methods, such as a food lure, only supposed to be used temporarily? Your supposed to eventually take away the food and get the same results. One of my girls is over weight already... The other wouldn't have even stayed close enough to smell the food, let alone show any interest.

Posted by: ROBERT P | July 10, 2012 2:12 PM    Report this comment

hmmm. i don't think dogs pee to be disrespectful (that would imply some pretty fancy abstract thinking). they do, however, pee as a calming communication. just a thought.

Posted by: Diana A | July 10, 2012 12:25 PM    Report this comment

Yay for you and Otto! Also loved the training tip. I live on a dirt road in a very rural area and can safely walk with my 2 dogs off leash because I've conditioned them to come directly to me in those rare times when there is a vehicle on the road by giving them yummy dried "lamb lung" treats. Their recall is so rock-solid, that they only have to hear a vehicle coming and they come right to me and sit waiting for their treat. I don't even have to call them anymore.

Posted by: ANNIE B | July 10, 2012 12:17 PM    Report this comment

Way to go! Both for the training, Nancy ... and for the peeing, Otto!! :)

Posted by: Natalie H. | July 10, 2012 10:50 AM    Report this comment

Hilarious. Thanks for making me laugh.

Posted by: carol323 | June 5, 2012 9:30 AM    Report this comment

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