Richard Whately, 19th century Oxford academic and Bishop of Durham, taught his dogs to climb trees on the banks of the river Cherwell, and jump into the water from the branches.
Fortunately, there are much easier ways of getting your pet dog used to taking a dip. But the key word in the previous paragraph is ‘taught’. Dogs are not born swimmers – they need teaching to a certain extent, even though most of them can stay afloat and doggy-paddle their way back to shore if you throw them in. But this is certainly not a recommended way to introduce pooch to the pond!
Many of them need no persuasion at all, and jump into rivers, ponds and the sea at every opportunity. Others are less eager to take the plunge, and some breeds are simply not built for the doggy paddle.
Sorting the Water-Dogs from the Non-Swimmers
Dog breeds with no snout, such as the Boxer, English bulldog, French bulldog, Pekingese and Pug, have great difficulties keeping their noses above the water. Their squashed muzzles – ‘brachycephalic’ is the proper term – means they are simply not built for swimming. Similarly, breeds with large heads and muscular upper bodies such as American bulldogs and Staffordshire bull terriers are not able to swim well, or at all.
Dogs with short legs find it hard to get very far in the water, even though they are capable of holding their heads above the surface. This applies to such breeds as the Basset hound and Dachshund.
Taking the First Dip
For dogs that can swim in theory but are a bit nervous, or simply not yet used to taking a dip, there are a few tips and tricks that should turn them into water dogs in no time.
Choose a location with water shallow enough for you to easily rescue the dog if it starts to panic. Somewhere with a slope is ideal – a lakeside, a gentle river, or a coastal pool. A paddling pool at home is where many dogs take their first swim.
Try to choose a quiet location, to minimise distractions and enable the dog to concentrate on the swimming lesson.
Keep the dog on a long lead during these early dips.
Take a stick or toy to tempt your dog into the water. If you go in first, the dog will be more inclined to follow. Some will leap in at once, others need more time to get used to the idea. Never drag, throw or otherwise force a dog into water.
Doggy lifejackets can be bought, if your pet is particularly nervous, or if you’re not sure whether he will be able to swim very well, based on his body shape.
Once the dog is used to being in the water, wade further out (tricky in a paddling pool!) and encourage him to follow you. It’s all about building confidence.
To help a nervous dog get used to having its feet off the bottom of the pool or river, hold him by the middle for reassurance. Paddling with the front paws will be instinctive, and you can encourage use of the back legs by raising the dog’s back end slightly. He will instinctively kick his hind legs to regain equilibrium.
Once the dog is paddling at the front and kicking at the back, he’s cracked it. You can now let him test his new skill – but stay close and be prepared to hold him by the middle again, in case he tires or suddenly panics.
It’s a good idea to take a towel to dry the dog once it’s emerged from the water. Smaller ones in particular can get cold very quickly. Be prepared for a gentle soaking as your wet pet shakes the water from its coat!
For many dogs, the so-called training process will be over in a couple of seconds. Many hounds swim as naturally as they woof – breeds such as Newfoundlands, Poodles, Otterhounds, the various Retrievers, Spaniels, Setters, and – surprise surprise – Portuguese and Spanish Water Dogs, for example.
And rest assured – you don’t need to teach them to climb trees as well!
When we got our Miniature Schnauzer, we had already had a catflap in the garden door for years. We soon realised that our little dog would easily also fit through the cat flap, and this would allow her to go in and out of the garden whenever she liked. We decided to pin it open to see if she would even use it at all, and it turned out to be a hit. It worked perfectly and in the summer it was nice to have a light steady breeze from the door. But we all know, summer must come to an end one day. And it did.
Winter came and with that freezing air blowing through the cat flap every day, all day. Unpinning the door meant having a sad little furry dog staring at it in disbelief “This used to be open all the time! Why is it locked now? And since when can the cat walk through walls?” The surprised look on our dogs face every time the cat appeared and vanished in the door was adorable and yet a little upsetting. How she wished to have the cats ability of passing through closed doors. And I wished that too. The comfort of going in and out whenever she wanted proved to make for a demanding dog, that needed help to open and close the door. Countless times a day.
Something had to change. As she didn’t understand how the door worked, we would have to show her and help her a little. I had used clicker training with other dogs before, and it was not only fun for me but also for the dog. Somehow we had never started training our newcomer with it, but now I dug out the clicker from the ominous corner drawer in the kitchen that hardly ever gets opened these days and made a plan.
Teaching my dog to use the cat flap!
My dog got the concept in a matter of hours and used the door by herself on the next day. Now she is young and very intelligent, but older dogs should also be able to learn this trick in no more than a few days.
Dog Clicker Training for flap doors – let’s get started.
Four essential things you need:
Small dog treats or favourite toys
A cat flap
A dog (any dog will do…)
If you’ve never heard about clicker training, then I will try to quickly introduce you to it. In short, clicker training conditions the dog through positive reinforcement to repeat certain behaviours. There is no such thing as active punishment in this training – “punishment” is shown in a passive manner by ignoring the dog. Dogs thrive on attention, they mostly don’t mind if it’s positive or negative attention – they often might not even be able to tell them apart. As long as their favourite humans interacts with them, that’s great news. Nothing is worse for a dog than being ignored. This is very useful when it comes to training.
A click tells the dog “That’s exactly what I wanted you to do!”, then a treat follows. Click means treat – that is very important. Never click without it being followed by a treat – even if you click by accident. Click and treat go hand in hand. For most dogs, food treats work great, it is possible though to offer toys as a reward instead. Depending on the dog or the situation – I don’t take the clicker on walks for example, but I use the same method of “Do well and something good happens” to train my dog to, for example, stay sitting while I walk away. If she waits for my release command and comes running, we play with her toy. If she runs towards me without the command, we don’t play. That way she realises that, even though staying put might not be the most fun thing to do right now, but when that’s done, there are better things to come!
But let’s go back to the cat flap. If your dog already works with clickers, then great, skip this paragraph and read the next. For everyone who has never used a clicker with their dog, you will want to get your dog accustomed to the clicker, what it does, how it works and how he/she can actually “make it click” to get to that tasty treat.
I admit, I am very impatient and extremely lucky with my dog. I have done all this in fast forward mode, but generally it is best to take some time and be patient… Start with teaching your dog what the noise means. With your dog in the same room, click the Clicker. Your dog will most likely look up at the noise, but even if he doesn’t, make sure to click and immediately offer him a tasty, small treat.
Click again, give the treat.
Click again, give the treat. Repeat.
Click again – does your dog already look a little excited about the noise? Good, he is starting to realise that a treat follows the click every time he hears it.
This stage shouldn’t take long at all, and it’s soon time for the next step.
I thought about what skills the dog would need to open the door. To go through the door she would have to push it with her nose. So my next goal was to get her to touch the cat flap with her nose. The direct approach didn’t seem to be very successful, so I got a colourful Post-It note out of the cupboard. Maybe this isn’t necessary if you manage to make your dog touch the door with its nose. However, I wiggled the bright pink piece of paper in front of her nose and the first thing she does is give it a quick sniff. As soon as her nose touches the paper – CLICK! and treat.
Move a few steps away and show the paper, have the dog follow you, trying to touch the paper with its nose.
When the dog touches the paper reliably, you can now introduce a command such as “Touch” every time the dog does the action. Your dog will soon connect the motion of touching the paper with the word.
Keep this up until she touches the paper with her nose every time she sees the paper. Once this works well, phase three can begin – stick the Post-It on the flap door.
With the Post-It on the flap and the dog knowing the “touch” command, the next step was quite easy.
Ask your dog to touch the paper. Click when they do. Your dog might not push the door yet, so start to encourage him to touch it harder. Stop clicking if the nose only just touches it, instead click only when the dog put enough pressure on the door and the door slightly wiggles.
Does the door wiggle a little every time now? Great, then take away the click again until your dog starts to push the door harder.
This is a gradual process and encourages the dog to think about what you want it to do. When he figures it out himself, he learns a lot faster. Teach him gradually to not just make the door wiggle but to push so hard, that he has to stick his head through – at this point he will usually have realised that he can walk through as the door actually reveals what’s behind, and eventually you will be able to gradually change the slight door touching to actually walking through. Like magic!
My dog was finally able to make her way in and out of the house whenever she wanted – and we could finally take off the second layer of socks.
Introducing a new puppy to your home is very exciting, but it is also important to remember that this can be quite a frightening experience for a young dog. Take a look at our top tips for setting in your new furry family member below…
1 – Take some time off work
When you have been informed of the day you can collect your puppy, it is wise to take at least a week off work to stay at home with your new four-legged friend, to settle them in to your home. If you work full time, you will also need to make suitable arrangements after this time for letting your dog out for toilet breaks and exercise during the day.
2 – Start in one room
To avoid overwhelming your puppy with new sights and smells, keep them in one room to begin with. This will preferably be a room with direct access to the garden for them to go outside for toilet breaks, and will also be the place where you intend to keep their bed, food and water bowls in the long term. Unsurprisingly, your puppy will be very excitable and full of energy, so take them outside to become familiar with their surroundings and have a run around!
3 – First interaction
The first few days with your puppy are crucial for establishing a strong and positive relationship with your pet. You should take the time to interact with your dog; playing, cuddling, stroking. Introduce them to a couple of toys and begin playing and rewarding any good behaviour with treats.
Your new puppy may also be a little weary of you to begin with. Be very gentle when you are handling him and slowly you will be able to develop their trust in you and become familiar with your touch, voice and scent.
4 – Feeding
To maintain as much consistency as possible while your puppy goes through a confusing change to their environment, it is wise to follow the same diet as the breeder was feeding to the litter. Find out as much information as possible before you go to collect your puppy, so you have time to research and purchase the appropriate food. Once your puppy is home follow the diet as closely as possible, and if transitioning to a different type of food, do so gradually to avoid upsetting their sensitive stomach.
5 – Playpen/crates
While excitably exploring their new space, your puppy may be able to injure themselves or damage items in your home, if left unsupervised. Obviously, you will be unable to monitor your puppy’s every move day and night, so it may be wise to consider a puppy playpen or dog crate to use for short period’s of time and at bedtime to keep them out of harm’s way when you cannot be with them. Dog crates are also a very useful training tool, and provide nervous puppies with a safe den they can call their own.
Add a bed, blankets and a couple of toys to your puppy’s crate to create a warm, cosy space. Puppy pads are also advisable for potential accidents inside, but make sure you are letting your puppy outside regularly to go to the toilet and stretch their legs.
Omlet Director, James, who recently adopted a Cavapoo puppy named Pip, said that getting a puppy “was like having another newborn child. It’s wonderful but you’re also nervous because you want her to settle in really well and be happy. In the first few days, she spent a lot of time curled up on my feet or on my lap. I slept downstairs for the first week to keep taking her outside to go to the loo while she was being puppy trained.”
You’ve seen it on some TV programmes or driven past small-holdings and seen canines and chooks living in harmony.Maybe they are a working dog? Maybe they are a family dog? How do they do it?We have put together 7 expert tips to help you introduce your new dog to a flock of chickens.
Understand How Dogs and Animals Learn
Our canine companions, on the whole, are super intelligent and trainable, providing we know how they learn and what we need to do to train them.Introducing them to our chooks can be done and co-habiting harmony does exist. It’s through this small thing we call desensitization. Stay with us for a short Psych 101 and we promise it’ll be worth it.
Desensitization is a process where, through graded exposure, an emotional response is diminished and adapted to a specific stimulus.
Now, what the heck does that mean I hear you yell?
In short, you expose your dog to your chooks, from a distance.As he behaves how you expect him to, you gradually move him closer to the chooks.You eventually get to the stage, that through the gradual exposure, he’s not that interested in the chooks after all.His emotional response has diminished, and he has adapted which results in a calm response.
Start with your chooks in their coop or a fenced in area.Keep your dog on leash and feed him treats, providing he is ignoring the chooks.If he is paying too much attention to them, move to a greater distance.The aim is to find a distance where he is not having any emotional response towards them.
Grade the Exposure
Providing your dog is ignoring the chooks at a certain distance, you can move gradually closer to them.Say you start at 50 feet away, slowly reduce to 45 feet, 40 feet and so on.Continue to praise and reward him for ignoring them. Remember, you want his emotional response to diminish. Keep training sessions short, you don’t want to over tire your dog.Some dogs get hyper-aroused just by being over-tired.
The Big Moment!
You’ve finally made it to near the chicken coop or fence, providing he is still pretty chilled out in ignorance of the chooks, ask him to sit next to the fence or coop.Praise and reward.If he behaves how you expect him to, lengthen the leash, so he can move around the border of the coop or fence, he can sniff and explore.If he’s calm, the chooks may even come over to investigate.Stay calm.If he starts getting excited or lunges/barks at them, remove him to a safe distance where he will ignore them again.You may need to do this a few times.What he learns is that to be around the chooks, I must stay calm.If your chooks will stay in a coop or fenced area, this may be where you spend the time repeating the behaviour and praising and rewarding.You may sit with him with a chew or just work on some commands.Again, the aim is to encourage him to ignore the chooks.
If you plan on having free range chickens, and canine and chooks will be mingling daily, read on.
The Great Escape
When you feel confident that your dog has so far, happily ignored the chooks and not shown any aggression or heightened arousal towards them, you can let them out of their coop/area to roam freely.Keep your dog on his leash.Ask him to sit or lay down if this makes you feel more comfortable.As the chooks are roaming, providing your dog shows little interest, praise and reward him.Again, you may want to give him a chew or even a slow feeding puzzle game.He just needs to learn than he can co-exist with the chickens without interacting with them a great deal.
Patience Is A Virtue
You may have to spend a significant amount of time working through these steps, but done in the right way, it will be worth it.Whilst on leash you can walk him through the chooks, he may sniff, they may also show interest too.The only behaviour you don’t want to see is aggression, lunging or chasing.If this happens, go straight back to beginning and work on the gradual exposure again.
The most nerve-wracking part will likely be when you feel he is ready to be let off leash to mingle on his own.Again, take your time.You may pop the chickens back in the coop and let him explore off leash around a fence.You may prefer to put him on a long line (50ft) when in with the free-range chooks.This way, he feels like he has more freedom, but you still have control if it goes pear shaped.Be realistic though, some dogs just never quite make it to being able to mingle unsupervised with chooks, so watch the behaviour of your dog and make the call.
Chooks to dogs are super-interesting, like most things.The long and the short of it, successful introductions mean the chooks are no longer that interesting and your dog learns that to be around them he simply just needs to be calm.Arm yourself with some high value treats, chews and any other slow feeder puzzles; start from a distance and encourage the behaviour you want to see.Praise and reward when you do.Grade the exposure.Always stay calm and in control and don’t be afraid of going back to square one if things don’t go as you’d hoped.It may take time, but it will be worth it when you have canine and chooks living in harmony.
A clicker is a little box with a button that gives a “click” sounds once pressed, In the ‘50s it was mainly used as a training device for dolphins and cetacean, but it quickly became extremely popular among dog trainers.
Why use a clicker instead of just voice commands?
Using only voice commands to train your dog can be quite challenging and confusing. The same word can be pronounced with different intonations and used in different contexts, while a clicker always produces the exact same sound, giving you the opportunity to train your dog in an efficient and straightforward way.
Arm yourself with patience
Choose a suitable training place, without many distractions for your dog
Start the training when your dog is still hungry, otherwise the treats won’t be much of an incentive
Make sure your dog has already peed so you can have its full attention
Step 1: positive reinforcement (clicker, treat)
The clicker wants to be a training device based on positive reinforcement. With clicker training you want to encourage and reinforce a particular positive behaviour rather than punish your dog’s “bad” actions. As a first step, you will need to teach your dog to associate the sound of the clicker to a prize. Click the device and immediately offer a treat to your dog. Repeat the action for around 10 times then take a break. Repeat this at various times during the day and in different places so that your dog will associate the clicking sound to the receipt of a treat, regardless of the location.
Remember that the “click” sounds becomes a promise, so if you click the device by mistake you’ll still need to treat your dog.
Step 2: teaching the action (command, action, clicker, treat)
Once your dog learns that for every “click” sounds he gets a treat you can start the proper training. For instance, if you want to teach your dog the command “sit” you will need to command the action with a specific word and gesture of your choice (and that will always stay the same). As soon as your dog sit, immediately press the clicker and give him a treat. Repeat the cycle “command-action-clicker-treat” until your dog has learnt it.
If you’re not confident or not sure you can train your dog with a clicker, do contact a professional dog trainer.
Rocky is a Medical Alert Assistance Dog and a fantastic companion for 7 year old Josh who has unexplained hypoglycemia and Epilepsy and has had many hospital stays since he was born. Rocky has been trained by the Medical Detection Dogs charity to alert Josh’s family when his blood sugars drop dangerously low and could trigger a seizure.
We spoke to Josh’s mum Paula to find our more about this delightful friendship!
What type of dog is Rocky? He’s a Cockapoo
How old is he? He’ll be 2 on the 28th September. He joined our family when he was 9 weeks old.
What does Rocky do to help Josh on a daily basis? Rocky spends all his time with Josh and alerts us when his blood sugars drop too low by sense of smell. Josh has unexplained hypoglycemia along with epilepsy and his seizures can be triggered by low blood sugar. We test Josh’s blood sugar numerous times a day but are extremely lucky to have Rocky with us who has alerted us many times when his blood sugars drop to a dangerous level which has fortunately stopped things escalating to a medical emergency. Rocky sleeps in Josh’s room and we are confident he will come and wake us if he ever senses a problem.
If Rocky wants to alert Josh, he stands on his back legs and puts his paws on Josh’s shoulder and licks his face. If Josh is asleep he comes to find me and licks my hands to wake me.
Did the Medical Detection Dog Charity advise you about what type of dog to get? We had spoken with the charity prior to buying Rocky and knew what to look for when looking for a puppy to give us the best possible chance of buying a puppy that we may be able to train successfully. Obviously we knew there were no guarantees on this and also looked for a puppy we thought would be the ‘best fit’ as our new family member.
Did you have to crate train him or was he already crate trained when you got him? We chose to crate train. He was used to a crate from being with Mum so it was very straight forward. He took his blanket in with him and was always happy. The training we did with Rocky with the crate was very easy, primarily due to him already being used to one.
During Rocky’s Medical Detection Dog training did you have to attend lots of classes? Rocky and I used to have one to one training on a weekly basis. Josh attended the training whenever possible. I would also send off any records of alerting behaviours along with all of Josh’s blood sugar recordings.
What did the training include? Where was the training held? The training was held at a variety of places. It included public access, off lead walking, heal work, distraction work etc etc. We had a train trip, a bus trip, taxi ride, public access – so inside shops, supermarkets etc, in school, busy places and quieter places, all to see how Rocky would react. And of course, a vet visit.
How long did the training take from start to finish? Rocky qualified at 18 months of age. The youngest possible age to qualify. We were training with him from the moment he came home at 9 weeks of age.
Do you have to go for additional training even now he has qualified? We have a first post qualification check 6 months from qualification and then every 12 months after. If we come across any problems at all at any point, we are fully encouraged to speak with MDD for full support wherever it is needed. We will also attend regular refresher training to ensure Rocky maintains his high standard of behaviour and alerting.
What type of treats do you feed Rocky as a reward? Rocky always has the same reward, dehydrated hotdog sausage – his absolute favourite!
Is Rocky allowed to go everywhere with Josh?
Yes he is. Rocky has to wear his ‘Medical Alert Assistance Dog’ tabbard whenever we are out in public and is allowed in all public access areas including shops, restaurants, beaches and cinemas.
Rocky and Josh are best friends. Josh trusts Rocky completely and understands that he helps to keep him safe. Rocky is simply a life changing member of our family.
It’s very common for people to assume that crate training is cruel and that dogs don’t like small spaces, but it has been shown that dogs love a calm, safe place that they can rest in and call their own. A dog crate offers a place to train as well as a place to sleep at night. It offers security from loud noises like fireworks and thunder, and a place to snooze after a long and tiring walk.
Crate training is an important process in your dog’s life, and is really helpful with toilet training your dog, so you’ll want to make the experience enjoyable for both you and your pet. The key thing is to make sure that your friend is happy and comfortable in their crate. There are a number of things that you can do to reinforce the idea that this is a nice, safe space for your dog to be in.
Here’s 7 reasons why crate training is important for a new puppy:
Appeals to a dog’s instinctual desire for a den-like structure.
Sets a puppy up for success by reducing wee and poop accidents.
Prepares a pup for handling alone time.
Serves as a time-out device for pups and owners needing breaks.
Discourages and reduces separation anxiety in many cases.
Gets pups used to confinement that may be required at the vet’s, the groomer’s and during car trips.
Contains a pup if he is injured and his mobility must be limited.
Make crate training an enjoyable experience
Create a positive association with the crate using food and treats. Start feeding your dog near to the crate, and perhaps even put treats in the bedding. This way the idea of food, which is positive, will be associated with the crate.
Use a blanket. Covering the top of the cage will give it a more solid, den-like appearance, and may make some dogs more comfortable with using it.
Crate train slowly. You need to be patient with your pet, as this can be a bit of a difficult concept for them to grasp. If you rush training, it’s unlikely to stick, and this can create frustration for the pair of you.
You can secure a traditional dog crate in the Fido Nook when you are puppy training. Using the innovative quick release lock you can remove the dog crate whenever you want to transform the Fido Nook into the ultimate luxury dog kennel.
It is always best to crate your dogs when travelling in a car so that they are secure and wont be at risk of injury if you break sharply or are involved in an accident. It also means they are not a distraction to you as the driver making it a much safer journey for everyone.
Make sure your dog is crate trained before you first want to take them on a trip. Some dogs find journeys stressful, you don’t want to increase this stress by putting them in a crate for the first time and then putting them in a moving vehicle.
A crate shouldn’t be used as a form of punishment, positive reinforcement will encourage your dogs to use the crate with ease. Never force them to go in their crate, leave the door open and let them go into the crate by themselves.
Make sure you take them on a long walk before you are heading off on a trip, this way you will tire out your pups and they will more likely want to rest once they’re in the car, this also prevents accidents happening.
That being said make sure you plan stops en route at least every 2 hours to allow them the opportunity to stretch their legs and go to the bathroom.
When you do stop, remember not to leave your dog in a parked car, you’d be surprised how quickly your car can become very hot and will leave your dog dehydrated which is potentially fatal, never risk it.
Make sure you have the right sized crate for your dog. Omlet Fido Classic Crates are available in 24, 30 and 36 inches, with optional accessories such as water bowls and beds.
It’s a nice idea to sometimes bring your dogs favourite blanket or toy to relax them and keep them calm.
Make sure your dog is microchipped before you set off, also carry a recent photo of them just in case you become separated.
Test the water with a few short drives prior to your big trip, get them used to the car and they should become less anxious.
Make a list of all your packing essentials such as the food/water bowl, wipes, waste bags, ID tags, collar, leash etc.
Feed them at least 3 hours before you intend on travelling to prevent them feeling sick, if it’s a very long journey feed them some light snacks when you stop for a break.