Hi, this is Robin. You’ve probably seen me at the clinic with one of my four Irish Setters behind the front desk. My husband and I have had Irish Setters for more than 35 years. When I took my first Irish Setter puppy to an obedience class, someone there told me that you couldn’t do obedience with an Irish Setter. More than 35 years later, I’m still proving them wrong!
All dogs can be trained. You may have to adjust your expectations to suit your dog’s temperament and abilities, but an obedient dog is a wonderful thing! I love to compete with my dogs in obedience, rally and agility. Let’s face it, when they call your number and you get the blue ribbon, it’s a real rush! But that isn’t the best thing about having a well-trained and well socialized dog. The best thing is that you can take them with you wherever you go, and not just dog parks. Many hotels and motels accept dogs. Most restaurants with outdoor seating will allow well behaved dogs. We have walked through the streets of Ottawa, New Orleans, Memphis and Key West, to name a few, with our dogs. And boy do you meet people when you have a dog with you! While most people you see on the street will just pass you by, lots of people will stop to pet your dog. There have been times, when we have been on trips that we have had to plan to leave the dogs at camp or in our motel room so that we could do some sightseeing without constantly being interrupted by people that wanted to see the dogs.
Come is probably the most important obedience command you can teach your dog. It could save their life, and it can bring you peace of mind. You will be more confident taking your dog out with you if you know they will come when you call.
Start small, and always reward your dog. I use a lot of treats when I am training, why? Because dogs understand food! As they learn you can replace food with praise.
A fun way to teach come is to work with two people and one dog. Start a short distance apart 6 – 10 feet. Have one person hold the dog while the other one calls the dog to come and shows them the treat. When the dog comes to you reward them with the treat, praise them and then turn them around and have the other person call them to come. Increase your distance. Increase the amount of distractions.
Combined with wait or stay it is a wonderful tool. Before opening any door, to attach a collar or leash, when being approached by another person or dog, in general when you want to have a little bit more control of the situation. Again using a treat, tuck your dogs back legs under them while holding a treat over the nose and say sit. Reward. Repeat.
From the sit position, draw the dog’s nose down between their front legs with the treat and say down. Reward. Repeat. Let’s face it, your dog already knows how to come, sit and lay down. All you need to do is teach them the word for it.
Loose leash walking
Walking nicely on a leash is a little bit trickier. I do something I call “wacky walking”. DO NOT USE A FLEXI LEAD!!!! You lose all control, and they can be dangerous. Use a 6-foot nylon or leather lead. In an open area hold on to the end of the lead and start walking, if your dog starts to pull, change direction. Don’t say anything, don’t jerk or pull, just change direction. Continue doing this until your dog realizes that they need to walk where you are walking.
Obviously I cannot teach you how to train your dog in one newsletter. But you can see that it isn’t really complicated. There are many trainers that teach obedience, and clubs you can join that hold classes. See us at the front desk for a list. Let me end by saying that you have taken on the responsibility of your dog for its entire life. Part of that responsibility is teaching your dog to be a good citizen. You will both be happier for it!