A guest blog by Patrice Kuiken.
I met Patrice at a local networking event and was immediately drawn to her. Both for her quiet smile and kind eyes, as for her description of the positive training she provides, for those of us with challenging dogs. And, for those who are just good pet parents in wanting to bond with their dogs through positive training. I love how Patrice approaches her work and how she doesn't blame the pet parent or the pet, but works to help everyone play well together! Isn't that what the human animal bond is about? Learning to use our love and affection for each other in a positive, useful, supportive way?
This post is especially focused. Read on...and learn.
As a dog trainer in Denver I myself have a hard time finding those spare moments to work with my own dog, Finn, an Australian Shepard. Isn’t the saying, “the Cobbler’s children have no shoes”? Well, that is true in my household some days more than others!
I have found a way I can get both the enjoyment of playing with Finn and training him all in one game. Tug-of-war!
Tug-of-war has been a contentious game in the dog training world, with some trainers claiming that it will make your dog more aggressive, or that you always have to win so your dog will know who’s boss. Thankfully, this is not really the case. Tug-of-war is a great game to play with your dog that can teach him wonderful impulse control as long as you follow a few rules…
1.) I always initiate the game with my dog (I am the one who offers the toy for Finn to play with). The reason being, I don’t want my dog to learn to just jump up and grab anything that I have in my hands. I am a big fan of scarves, but not much of a fan of those scarves being turned into tug toys. Thus, Rule #1: I let him know when we are playing by telling him to “Take” the toy and encourage him with praise and happy talk.
2.) I take frequent breaks with “Drop it” and “Sits”. This is the best part of this game because you get many chances to teach your dog good manners and impulse control while having fun and bonding at the same time! If your dog revs up fast like my Finnegan does, you will want to take breaks every 10-15 seconds at first. I let calming breaks last as long as they need to so I can see a distinct look of self-control on his face before I begin again.
3.) If Finn gets me with his teeth at all (even on accident), the game is immediately over. No need for theatrics like yelling, though an “OUCH!” might escape my lips.Instead I just get the toy and put it on the top of the fridge, walking away from the game calmly. Next time we play, Finn is much more careful about where he puts his mouth (another fine display of impulse control that Australian Shepherds tend to lack).
4.) This brings us to the last rule: I choose when the game is over. When I am done with the game (or I can tell he is tired but doesn’t know when to quit), I ask for a “Drop it”, give him a treat for his wonderful manners, and put the toy away. I sometimes offer him the phrase “All Done” if he is looking especially longing at me. This tells him that play time is over for the moment.
Tug-of-war is a great way to bond with your dog, especially if they are the rough and tumble type. It is important that it is fun for both parties, so I definitely let my dog win his share of turns. As a dog trainer, I recommend you schedule that special one-on-one time with your dog, more so if you have a busy life. Time goes by so fast for our dogs, take every moment you can to enjoy it with them.
In Good Paws Dog Training, see more about Patrice and her work below
Patrice Kuiken has been passionate about animals, and especially dogs, ever since she was a little girl. This passion found a direction after volunteering for the Humane Society of Boulder Valley and attending CU Boulder to obtain a degree in Psychology. She worked at a doggy day care through college and worked as a dog trainer at a local pet store after graduation. She has over 8 years of experience working with a wide variety of dogs.
As a company, In Good Paws Dog Training strives to provide the most up to date, effective and humane training methods possible. Patrice is always seeking to further her knowledge in dog behavior, knowing that everything she learns is another tool in her belt to aid her clients. Her goal is to help every owner she works with develop a deeper bond and an increased line of communication with their dog. Patrice is a member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers and the Pet Professional Guild; she regularly attends webinars hosted by these organizations to continue to build her skills to provide her clients with the best dog training out there.