Lessons in Louis

Lesson 1 – Puppy Biting

Like most puppies Louis was a proficient user of his teeth. We read a lot of books with loads of different theories. We settled on the howling theory where when a puppy bites you, you howl a bit as though you are in pain. Also when he showed any over-enthusiastic tendencies during play we stopped the game; he quickly learned the rules.

Lesson 2 – Pudding

Food guarding can be a big problem with dogs. We made a point of adding extra food (Louis knows this as “pudding”) to Louis’ bowl as he neared the end. This meant that someone coming near his bowl meant more good stuff. We then added to this by moving his food around in the bowl and also making him sit and wait when we put the bowl down.

Lesson 3 – Ending The Off-Lead Walk

We always ensured that putting his lead back on after exercise was a positive experience. We do this with a two-pronged approach. Firstly he’s knackered through chasing and retrieving his toy and secondly we always have a special treat for him; chopped up sausage, chicken, cheese or liver. He starts dribbling in true Pavlovian style when the lead goes on.

In the early days we also used to call him back, give him a treat, pop the lead on and then walk for a bit. Then the lead would come off again. We have to improve his recall; it’s good when there are no distractions but when he’s got something else in mind then it’s another matter.

Lesson 4 – Chasing Joggers

When we sort this one we’ll post it here as it’s a work in progress!
Update January 2009. We handle this at the moment by going out for a morning walk before anyone else on the planet is awake.

Lesson 5 – Read The Right Books

Understanding what goes on in Louis’ head means trying to see things on his terms and this means not thinking of him as a furry human. We’ve found a number of great books that give an insight into how his hard-coded mind works. Here’s a few:-

Bruce Fogle’s The Dog’s Mind

John Fisher’s Think Dog!: An Owner’s Guide To Canine Psychology

Cesar Milan’s Cesar’s Way: The Natural, Everyday Guide to Understanding and Correcting Common Dog Problems

There’s a common theme running through these books that focusses on making sure Louis knows where he sits (or lounges on the sofa) in our pack. Might seem obvious but not so easy to fully put into practice and is more to do with what we do rather than what he does.

Lesson 6 – Begging

Louis is genetically disposed to beg; both from a behavioural point of view and a features point of view. Maybe the dogs with the most pleading features got the most scraps. I can’t say we have stopped him from begging but we have managed to get him to sit in his bed in the kitchen whilst we eat. If he leaves his bed then he’s sent back. It’s not done in a forceful manner; just a normal voice and a “In your bed Louis” command.

He still gets his treats but the dribble that is produced ends up on his bed rather than the kitchen tiles and we no longer slip and go A over T when we get up from the table. We also get to (almost) enjoy the meal. You can still feel the eyes boring into you as you eat!

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