Clean white landscapes dissolve to browns, grays and greens. Crisp cold air warms under the ever increasing light. Birds return to share their melodies, and our dogs, race around the yard infatuated by the smells of a newly emerging world. Spring is a time of beginnings and provides an excellent opportunity to remind our canine friends about the rules and expectations which guide the way we live.
Animals are creatures of habit. Dogs have an internal clock which lets them know when they can expect to be fed. They have intuitive abilities which make them aware of our moods and intentions. Dogs quickly realize that grabbing a leash predicts a walk, and the rattle of car keys suggests the possibility of an exciting ride. These magnificent creatures are usually only too eager to please.
As the snow recedes and our yards cover with mud and damp grasses, we need to focus on greeting protocols. When we return home from work, our canine buddies want to rush to greet us. Most young dogs, in their enthusiasm, run towards us and immediately leap up and place their paws on our chest and look into our faces. They want to tell us how much they have missed us. Muddy paws and flying debris spatter over our clothing, and a joyful intention turns into a muddy mess. A few training ideas can help to change this messy affair into a pleasant experience and an educational opportunity.
For very young dogs, under five months, you can distract their enthusiasm with food treats. When you arrive home, take a handful of kibble, go into the yard and greet your puppy. Call your puppy's name and be prepared for an excited response. As your puppy races towards you, scatter the kibble. Your puppy will channel much of its excess excitement from you to the treats on the ground. Help your puppy to find the treats by brushing your hand beside the food pieces. Your puppy will be delighted to work with you to find and eat all the hidden treasures. Once your puppy has directed their excess energy into searching for treats, stroke their fur, play puppy games and give them the love and affection which makes you both feel great.
Modify this technique as your puppy gets older. Reduce the amount of kibble you throw. Allow your young dog to search for the food without help. When your dog finishes their ground search, command them to "come" and to "sit" in front of you. When they sit calmly reward their obedient behaviour with a few pieces of food. This will remind a young teenage dog about your position as leader, and will help to channel their energy into intense obedience.
When your dog becomes an adult, the greeting protocol can be developed to support general obedience. Call the dog when you arrive home. Command them to "sit". Then ask them to "heel", and to "down", and to "wait", and to "come". Make your dog connect a number of individual obedience behaviours in a series before they get a reward. Their enthusiasm for greeting you will be channeled into effective obedience training. They will love to work for you and their energy will make your training fun and exciting.
Smart and timely training will help your dog to be eager to please!Noel Pepin -- Noel Pepin Canine Behaviour Specialists