I have trained with Rob for more years than I care to mention. Five dogs, one no longer with us, have passed through the Topdog system (and some continue to do so) and I am delighted with them. I have worked them from puppies right through to advanced classes and Rob still thinks up new things to do. Any problems have been sorted out rapidly.
I can't speak highly enough of the club and Rob - the best in the area - and I have thoroughly enjoyed my association over the years.
I have had three dogs go through the Topdog training experience and what a long way we have come. I was a complete novice handler when I first went along ten years ago and I have learnt so much. I am very proud of my dogs and what we have achieved together and Topdog have been a big part of my ‘dog’ life; and instrumental in starting me off and guiding me on my way.
Sometimes people ask me why I still take my senior dog (rising 9 years old) to obedience classes as he is such a well behaved dog! And yes they are right, he is brilliant. I tell them it’s because he absolutely loves it and we have so much fun. It’s difficult to explain exactly what we do and the games we play; it would be best to come along on a Wednesday morning and watch the advanced dogs having fun. It’s pretty awesome to see what they can do.
It’s thanks to Rob at Topdog that I am now hooked on agility. I spend many weekends competing at agility shows with my two dogs, who have done really well. I had no idea what amazing things you can do with your dogs until Topdog opened my eyes.
I really enjoy training every week at Topdog and so do my dogs, and we have been lucky to make some really good friends too along the way.
I was amazed when I worked out that I have been going to Topdog Training for both obedience and agility classes for 12 years now!
In that time I’ve had five dogs, all different characters, who, thanks to Rob’s help, have gone from puppy class to adult class, to become happy, well adjusted and obedient dogs.
They all have loved going to class which Rob makes fun for both owner and dog, whilst at the same time teaching me handling skills and teaching my dog focus and social skills.
Rob is always there with invaluable help with any problems that arise and thanks to his help I can happily let all my dogs off the lead amongst people and strange dogs and know that they are under control and will bother no one.
Thank you Rob for helping to make my dogs a pleasure to own.
"I will be forever grateful to Rob for showing me how much can be enjoyed and achieved with my dogs" - Kate
When I am standing shaking in the queue at an agility competition, I say to Rob that I only came to Topdog for a ten week puppy course. That was eight years ago.
I now have two more dogs and all three participate in weekly obedience and agility classes at Topdog. No two weeks are the same, Rob comes up with new games and challenges each week and the dogs just love it.
I had never even considered trying agility before - my dogs are not breeds which are typically associated with agility - but thanks to Rob not giving up on us, and a hefty kick up the backside from Kerry to enter our first show, we are now competing regularly and absolutely loving it (despite the shaking).
I now have three confident dogs that I can take anywhere, and the bond I have with all of them has changed my life. I will be forever grateful to Rob for showing me how much can be enjoyed and achieved with my dogs.
Kate, Bacchus, Ronnie, and Remy
Before puppies are fully vaccinated, there is risk attached to taking them to public places and putting them on the floor – you are potentially exposing them to a number of diseases that can be caught from unvaccinated dogs or their faeces…
However, the vaccination period from start to finish is around 3 to 4 weeks and as this is such a vital and formative time for a puppy, we shouldn't be wasting it by wrapping the puppy in cotton wool and staying indoors until it's 'safe' to go out!
Of course, it is important to keep your puppy safe during this time but there are loads of things you can be doing.
So here is a guide to “how” to introduce your puppy to the big wide world and a list of suggestions for you.
How to introduce your puppy to the outside world
It is very important that you do not over-face your puppy with new sights, sounds and experiences.
At this stage in your puppy's life, it is possible that if your puppy gets a big scare from a new situation, it will remain frightened forever so bear in mind the following:
Here's an example:
Often, the first time a puppy sees traffic is when it goes for its first walk on the lead. A number of factors can mean this goes well or badly!
So, what’s the best way to introduce puppy to traffic…?
During the vaccination period, carry your puppy to a quiet road, with plenty of pavement space and preferably on a dry day – take some tasty treats with you.
Let the puppy watch the traffic from a safe, calm distance giving him a little treat now and then and talking to him so that he can experience traffic at an acceptable level.
As he sees more and more, you can take him closer to the road and then to a busier road, all the time increasing the exposure but at a level where he does not get frightened – keep up the tasty treats and soon he won’t care about the noise of the traffic and this in turn will make your first walk much more enjoyable for you, and more importantly, for your puppy!
Our suggestions to help socialise your puppy
So, applying these same principles and keeping your puppy in your arms, here is a list of suggestions!
Ideal places for puppy socialisation
Lots of people will come up to see your puppy and say hello – remember the principles of not over-facing the puppy and making the experience positive!
Other considerations for socialising your puppy
There may be things specific to the type of dog you have.
If you have a dog that will need regular visits to a dog groomer, then this must be factored in to your socialisation plan!
Also getting a pup used to wearing a muzzle may pay off when they become adults!
The way to think about puppy socialisation is to consider what you will expect your dog to cope with as an adult and start putting the building blocks in place for this now! It will make your and your puppy’s life much easier in the long run.
If your pup isn't having a good time and enjoying itself there is a very good chance the experience won't be a positive one. Generally dogs don't just 'get over' things by themselves, so if your pup becomes anxious or worried about a situation, it is probably best to leave and consult a professional for help to find the best way forward.
REMEMBER: Exposure alone isn't socialisation!
*** THIS COURSE IS NOW FULL ***
There are spaces available on our ten week evening puppy obedience course, starting Tuesday 13 March 2018.
This puppy course incorporates the Kennel Club Good Citizen Dog Training Scheme Puppy Foundation Award.
Completing the 10 week puppy course will take you nicely onto the Intermediate levels.
13 March 2018
6:15pm - 7:15pm
Sparlings Farm, Braintree Road, Felsted, Essex, CM6 3LB
Spaces are limited to ten puppies on our courses to ensure that everyone gets the assistance and attention that they require.
Please contact us to reserve a space.
*** THIS COURSE IS NOW FULL ***
When we are approached for help with behaviour problems, the first one-to-one session is very much focused on a “fact-finding” mission - a basic assessment of what is going on and why.
We have to look at the whole picture: the breed of dog, its gender, age and general nature.
Also does the client have any other pets at home?
All these aspects are important.
The session also examines the general home life of the dog, ie what is happening "within the pack"?
Dogs are pack animals. In the wild, both wolf and dog packs require law and order.
If a pack were leaderless and allowed to run amok, going wherever they wanted, doing whatever they wanted, making loads of noise and stirring up trouble, the pack would not last very long! There would be constant fights and injuries (very detrimental to the pack – prevents effective hunting of prey and prevents the protectors of the group from fighting off intruders), plus prey would know exactly where the pack was and make itself very scarce which would result in starvation for the group. No good at all!
The most successful packs are those with clear rules, boundaries and constraints; every animal knows its job and what it can and cannot do.
This presents the dog with a strong sense of security and in turn, results in a calmer and happier dog who knows exactly what is expected of it.
As we know, dogs live very well within our families because to them this equates to pack mentality.
To help dogs live with us and us to live with them, we too need to clearly outline and instigate rules, boundaries and constraints and show consistency.
Without rules, our dog often begins to display unwanted behaviours such as play-biting, jumping up uninvited, stealing and behaving like a real 'wild child'!
Mistakenly, we try to fix the actual problem but the underlying causes remain and the behaviour never really disappears.
Hence why, when people come for a one-to-one session with a behaviour problem, we look at all of these areas and will often put some "house rules" in place before beginning to tackle the presenting issue.
This can be confusing to us humans – we don't always see the connection between the dog sleeping on the furniture or on the bed and the dog being aggressive with other dogs or humans; the reality is that without consistent rules at home, the dog is unclear about its responsibilities and what is expected of it within the "pack" and often behaves inappropriately.
For example, with some instances of what is thought to be "dog-to-dog aggression", the behaviour is actually the dog just trying to keep other strange dogs away from his pack members rather than out-and-out aggressive behaviour.
This of course doesn't fit with our requirements – we don't want our dogs assuming this job but by putting some sensible rules in place at home, this helps the dog to know who calls the shots in the "pack" and then we can make a start in retraining the behaviour to the client's satisfaction.
The best course of action is to sit down, as a family and agree the rules between you – write these rules down and put them somewhere visible to all (on the fridge is a good place).
The whole household must then unite and stick by the rules in order to be fair to the dog – he or she needs to have consistency from everyone in order to learn what is expected of him or her.
Here is a list of suggested rules, which should remain in place until the dog is at least 2 years old:
Without rules and boundaries, not only are you likely to see behaviour problems begin to creep in, your success in generally training your dog to do as you ask will be limited and you will not experience the true joy of a well-adjusted, well-mannered dog of which you can be justifiably proud.
The biggest mistake people often make is to treat animals like humans. We give them what we think they should have, not what they actually need. Sadly for dogs, this means we often respond and act inappropriately around them.
For example, puppies due to their cuteness, are often given huge levels of status and attention and older dogs much less so. This is the wrong way round.
A puppy that is loved, trained and shown the rules from day one stands a very good chance of growing into a happy and balanced adult.
A puppy that is spoilt and made a fool of and given no direction is more likely to fall at the first hurdle.
At best this may result in things such as the dog having to stay on lead because it has no recall or has become aggressive or, at worst, due to its behavioural issues, it joins the swelling ranks of those in rescue centres facing a very uncertain future.
The Christmas holidays are a very exciting time, especially with young children around; but it is all too easy to take your eye off what your dog is up to this time of year.
So if you are a dog owner and you would rather spend your time with family and friends, and not at your veterinary emergency clinic, then here is our guide to keeping your pooch safe this Christmas.
We humans just love to overindulge in stacks of rich, fatty foods at this time of year but these same foods can seriously upset your dog’s stomach and can even be toxic. Just because it’s good for us doesn’t mean it’s good for your dog so here are a few dos and don’ts when it comes to grub!
The trick is to be sensible and if you don’t know if it’s good for your dog or not then don’t give it. And remember, everything in moderation!
If you think you dog has ingested something it shouldn’t and is showing signs that all is not well, consult your vet immediately.
Dogs are highly curious by nature so all those additions to your decor are going to be high on the list of things to check out when you’re not looking.
All the parties and family ‘get togethers’ mean lots of commotion which might mean fun for you but not for your dog.
The noise and large numbers of people can be stressful and disorientating for them, especially if they are highly strung or of a nervous disposition.
They are best off in a crate or quiet room right out of the way throughout the frivolities and can come out again when it’s all over.
The worst that can happen then is they get a bit bored and have to do a bit of extra sleeping; or even better make sure they have a really good walk before the fun starts and then they will be too tired to care.
So many dogs get loose and run off at this time off year, usually as a result of someone not shutting a door, and some never find their way home again or are killed on the roads.
So whatever you have planned this year, please keep an eye on your faithful friend over the holiday season and keep them safe.
When training dogs, it is common to hear the terms “motivation” and “reward” mentioned and rightly so, in that they are probably the most important element and tool in our training kit when we are working with our dogs and training them to comply with us and our commands.
A motivator is basically something that gives the dog a good reason to carry out an action or behaviour.
A reward is what the dog gets when it has carried out an action or task that we have asked it to do.
So really they are one and the same – the dog is motivated by the reward that is waiting for it!
A motivator or reward must be something that the dog really likes and wants more of.
For example, tasty treats or a good game with a ball may well be very motivating to most dogs.
Breed disposition can often influence what motivates the dog – for instance, a collie or a German shepherd dog will usually LOVE to chase a ball, whereas a labrador or rottweiler may well prefer the offer of a tasty morsel! Whatever it is, it must be a worthwhile reward!
It is a common thought that use of motivational rewards is bribery and less experienced trainers or dog owners can often be concerned that use of rewards will mean that the dog will never do anything without the offer of the food or toy.
However, this is incorrect. The young or untrained dog NEEDS to have a reason to work with us and learn our language.
Imagine doing your job and working really hard in the belief that it was going to be worth your while – then at the end of the month you find that all you get is a pat on the back and nothing in your bank account!
Would you continue to work after that? We doubt it very much!
Ultimately, once the dog is trained, the reward can be reduced or changed as behaviours are learned and set.
We would never advocate removing reward completely as everyone and everything needs reward and encouragement to maintain behaviour but the requirement changes. It is no longer necessary to reward so quickly and frequently.
This is probably the most common and easiest way to reward a dog for giving us the right response. It is easy to manage, carry and quick to give immediately the dog complies with our request. It is the best form of reward to give within a class environment as use of toys in a group of dogs can cause over-excitement in all of the dogs whereas use of food means that your dog concentrates on you, not the surrounding handlers and dogs.
When we talk about food reward or tasty titbits, we do mean tasty! It’s the difference between paying someone minimum wage (ie giving the dog a piece of dry kibble from his normal daily food) or a nice big fat wage (ie a really tasty bit of food that he doesn't get in his everyday dinner bowl – examples of recommended tasty treats are below).
The higher the wage, the more attention the dog will give you, enabling you to carry out your training with the greatest benefit.
Recommended tasty training treats:
Before you use any treat, make sure it passes the “Three Second Test” which means:
a) does the dog really WANT it
b) can the dog actually eat the treat and be ready for the next in less than three seconds?
If yes, use it! If no, then give it a miss.
As a quick reference, the “give it a miss” group of treats includes any sort of biscuit – the dog will need to crunch and chew a biscuit.
This means that firstly it is unlikely to be completely consumed within three seconds and secondly, often the dog drops crumbs on the floor which then means its attention goes there, rather than back to you!
Other examples of “treats” (and we use the word loosely) that have been brought to our classes in the past and have not been high in the motivation stakes are:
You should always make sure that you have more than enough treats for your training session. It doesn’t matter if you have too much – you can always put them back in the fridge to use the next day (because of course, you should be carrying out your training on a daily basis!).
Remember as well that the dog should be hungry for the treats before you start your training. It is not sensible to feed your dog his normal dinner and then expect him to work for food rewards.
Finally, we always get the argument that people are worried their dog will get fat. Well, if you are training regularly, walking the dog at least once a day (and training during your walk) then the dog is getting plenty of mental as well as physical stimulation and it is highly unlikely that he or she will get fat.
But if you are worried, you are better off reducing their normal dinner slightly so that they can get their full quota of training treats – if you have a pup or a young dog, you will NEVER get this time again! Don’t waste it!
The ball is probably the most common toy used to motivate a dog. Dogs generally like balls as they are comfortable for the dog to pick up and they move really quickly! Great to chase!
And let’s be clear about what we are dealing with when we have a dog that loves to chase a ball.
Basically, this is the dog behaving naturally and being a predator! The ball is the prey, running away as fast as it can and the dog is chasing it, hunting it down! And remember, the faster the ball moves, the better the dog likes it.
So this means that if you are training out in the field on your own, then a good long ball throw is a bigger and better reward for your dog than a little short boring one. Once the dog really gets into this game, your recall also starts to improve dramatically as the dog realises that the quicker he gets the “prey” (the ball) back to you, the quicker it will begin to “run away” (the throw) again! Everyone is a winner!
Use of the toy is the same as with food - we ask or lure the dog into a position or into carrying out an action for us and when the dog complies, we IMMEDIATELY reward the dog with the ball throw.
Some dogs may not be motivated by the “chase” but may like a game of “Tug of War” and this too can be used as a motivational reward by using a ragger or another type of “tug” toy.
A lot of terriers like this kind of game BUT you do need to train a controlled “Leave” before you utilise this method of reward. It is also important that the dog “wins” the game sometimes, otherwise it will cease to be fun!
Finally, whatever method you use to motivate your dog, you must be prepared to reward frequently – a generous trainer whose timing of the reward is swift and relevant will make fast and rewarding progress and earn the trust and willingness of their dog, thus the dog will consider them to be the most important person to be with and strive to please at every opportunity!
Enjoy your dog and your training!
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