Friday, June 5, 2009

How to train a Labrador


This is the story of Dallas and Taylor. Taylor fostered Dallas as her senior project. Dallas was dumped for being rambunctious, jumping on people etc… All the things that a bit of caring and training can correct. Taylor took up the challenge.

Watch the video Dallas Training Video

Dallas is a wonderful, happy dog, and I have had a great time working with her. I had her at my house for the whole month of May, during which I worked with her daily. I saw her come a long way. She went from completely crazy to relatively controllable.

When I first brought her home, she was like a tornado--she literally ran around destroying everything in her path. She bolted through doors, ate things, chewed up leashes, knocked people over, etc. I now can trust her to walk around in the house and not damage things. She also has found some manners and is a pleasant dog to have around the house.

The first few days I had her, she would bolt out of her kennel the minute I opened the door. I wasn't going to have any of this, so I shoved her back in and taught her to wait until I let her free. Now she always stays in the kennel until I tell her she is free. Also, each time I lead her through a door, she sits and waits until I tell her she can go through. It is the same for getting in and out of the car, also. More than anything, her self control has improved so much. She used to run around pacing the house when I let her free inside, but now I can tell her to lie down and stay and she will. It is such an enormous improvement.

I wanted to write this up for her new family so that whoever adopts her can know some of the these that I have learned while living with her this month. She loves to drink out of toilets, so you'll want to close the lids. She has a bad habit of chewing through leashes when she's tied up, so you may want to invest in a chain one (but she has learned to eat the leather handle). She loves bones, but be careful with rawhide because she eats them very fast. She loves food too, so make sure not to leave any around if you don't want her to eat it. I'm sure she'd get fat very easily, so you might want to watch her figure.

She is super smart and may try to trick you sometimes. She has learned to read when I am about to put her in her kennel and at that time will try to run away from me. She loves cats and is very curious about them. She will chase them if they run from her but with no malicious intent. She likes to try and climb in the shower if you let her in the bathroom while you are in there. She will even try to lick the soap off you! It's really bizarre but also really cute and funny. She likes water a lot but will only get in to wade around. She doesn't actually like to jump in and swim in the deep water. Once she was walking around in the shallow part of my pool and accidently fell into the deep water. I think it sort of freaked her out. Then, when we went down to the lake, she was really scared of the waves. I'm sure she would get used to swimming though if she did it more often.

Dallas loves people and dogs! The only time that I truly can't control her at all is when she meets new people or dogs. I can have her sit and stay and she will not move even when people walk by, but if I let a stranger pet her, she tries to lick them to death or mouth them or jump on them. She gets where it is almost impossible to control her or hold her back, because she just loves people that much. She would never do anything to harm another person or animal and is pretty much the most submissive dog I have ever been around. She never even would be in a fight with another dog because she would just lay on her back and submit to anything and anyone. She can be totally and completely trusted with all people and dogs, but I would be careful with her around little kids. She is so hyper and strong that I'm sure she could scare them or knock them down.

She is also pretty good on a leash now. If she starts to pull, I just say heel and give a jerk on the leash. At this point, she usually recedes back by my side. When I stop, she is trained to sit by my side, and a quick tug on the leash will remind her of this. Whenever she does something I don't like, I say "eh-eh" in a harsh tone. She will usually stop whatever she is doing. Then I say "yes" in a really high-pitched, happy tone. That is her praise word that I use every time she does what I want. She knows that it means good job, you get yummy treats now. I have also taught her several commands. Here is a list of them and how you can get her to do them:

Sit -- she knows this one really well. She will almost always sit if you just say "Dallas, sit". I make her sit and wait before coming out of her kennel, out of the car, going through a doorway, etc. The hand signal for sit is moving the hand upwards with the palm up towards the sky.

Down--she knows this one pretty well too. Usually if you just say, "Dallas, down", she will do it without a problem. If not, the hand signal is the hand moving down towards the floor with the palm down or just pointing at the floor. She will sit from a down and usually does a really cute little jump and her ears fly backwards.

Stand--she isn't quite so solid on this one, but she will do it from a sit if you hold your hand out in front of her nose and lure her to stand up.

Heel--this is the command that I use for walks or to make her not pull on the leash. She walks on your left side with her front feet even with yours. If she gets too far ahead, give a quick jerk on the leash and say "heel".

Wait--tell her wait if you want her to not do something until you let her. Free is the release command for wait. For example, you would tell her wait before you let her go through a door or before you let her eat something on the floor. I also can tell her wait and then drop food on the floor right in front of her and she will not eat it until I tell her she is free.

Leave It--I tell her this when I want her to leave something alone and not ever go near it. For example, I would tell her "leave it" on a walk if I didn't want her to go up to a person or if I didn't want her to eat something that we walked by.

Stay--she is pretty solid on this one, as well. The hand signal is a palm up towards her. When she is told to stay, she has to remain in whatever position she is in (sit, down, etc.) until she is told "free" as her release.

Shake--hold your hand out in front of her, tell her to shake, and she will place her paw in your hand. She is very good at this.

Roll Over--she can only do this one if you guide her with a treat. Tell her to lie down and then take a treat and put it in front of her face. Then move it in a clockwise circle around the back of her head. At this point, she will usually lie on her side, roll onto her back, and then go completely over. She always rolls onto her left shoulder.

Spin--this is similar to roll over but from a sitting position. Take the treat and move it in a clockwise circle. She will spin around.

I have also taught Dallas to do some agility work. She knows how to get up on the table and sit, down, and stay on it. She can also do jumps. Put the hand closest to her out extended towards her and tell her "jump" or "hup". Guide her over the jumps that you want her to go over. This is the same for the tire jump except the command for it is "tire". She also has learned how to do the a-frame and dog walk (which I call "bridge"). Say the word for the obstacle and use your hand to guide her over. At the bottom, tell her "spot" and make her remain with her back legs on the obstacle. This way she will learn not to jump off the contact zones that the dogs are required to touch during competition. I have also taught her to do the weave poles. Right now she is working on doing them when they are all lined up in a straight line. I have been doing "channel weaving" with her where the poles are spaced so there is a channel in between them. She has done well with this and is currently able to do the poles when they are as close together as possible without being completely straight. The command for them is "weave, weave, weave", and the dog has to enter with the first pole on their left. She can also do the tunnel. It is pretty easy, and you basically just say "tunnel" and point your arm towards it. She can also do the chute, but it a little more hesitant with it. I did not teach her the see saw, because that is a very difficult obstacle that can sometimes scare dogs. Since I wasn't sure if she would ever actually do agility, I decided not to teach her yet. I have started working on front crosses (where you go ahead of her and spin to her other side) and back crosses (when you let her go ahead and cross to her other side), but she isn't completely solid on them yet. She has a great start in agility, and she has great potential to compete in the future. I know that she loves it, because she does the jumps on her own when I leave her out in the yard. It is really cute, and I know that she loves it. I really hope that she will be able to have her own agility career some day!

Thanks Taylor for showing Dallas the way.
HOTLab Rescue

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