What to Do if Your Dog Gets Loose

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Bentley got loose.  This was due to pure stupidity on my part.  I broke the cardinal rule of training a dog.

NEVER SET YOUR DOG UP FOR FAILURE!

It was the first nice day in awhile, so I decided to take Bentley for a run.  My mom keeps suggesting that when I do this, I leave Bentley off-leash because she is sure he’ll just follow me.  I know better.  But the suggestion kept running through my head.  Who doesn’t want a dog that’s so well trained and loyal that he follows you around?  Thing is, you actually have to TRAIN your dog to do this.  It doesn’t just happen magically.  The path I was running on runs along a highway, behind people’s houses, so it’s got chain-link fence on both sides.  So at one point during the run, I dropped the leash to see if Bentley would stay with me.

Didn’t take long for him to take off.  And I knew we were approaching a street.  He would run off ahead of me, stop, turn, wait for me to get close, then take off again.  So I got his attention, and turned around and ran away from him.  Didn’t take him long to blow past me, but this time he stopped long enough for me to step on the leash and we continued our run.  Toward the end of the run, I decided to try it again.  I get onto this path at the local elementary school.  There’s an opening behind the school, and one at the far end of the baseball field.  I made the huge mistake of *hoping* Bentley wouldn’t go through the opening at the field and would follow me to where we started behind the school.  SO. STUPID.

'Running Dog' photo (c) 2009, Tobias Akerboom (at hutmeelz) - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Naturally he went through the hole at the field.  At first, I kept running, slowly, calling to him, hoping he would see that I was going away from him and come after me.  No such luck.  He knew he was free.  He was zooming around like a rocket.  I knew I had ZERO hope of catching him, so I ran on to the back of the school.  Two seconds later, Bentley came running up.  He had been running through the woods.  It had rained, then snowed, then the snow had melted, so he was absolutely covered in mud. And somehow, he had lost his leash.  His collar was still on, but the leash was nowhere to be found.  I had no idea how I was going to get him home.  Oh yeah, my dog is friendly, enjoys jumping up on people, and it was election day, so people were going in and out of the school to vote.  I was mortified.  Bentley was having the time of his furry little life.

I realized I couldn’t catch him.  He knew that if I caught him his freedom would be over, and chasing him would just make it into a game.  I didn’t want that.  So I decided to just go home.  Bentley sort of followed me.  Mostly he saw me moving off and again ran to keep ahead of me.  He stopped to say hi to some dogs fenced in someone’s yard that were snarling and making a ruckus because they saw another dog.  He wandered in and out of yards.  He went up to people’s doors only to scurry off as I passed.  He almost was hit by a car which made me feel even more stupid, idiotic and embarrassed about the whole ordeal.  I nearly got my dog killed for my stupidity.

In the end, I was able to run into the open garage and he thankfully followed me in.  At which point he got a thorough bath for his troubles.

Worn out after his adventure

Moral of the story:

DON’T SET YOUR DOG UP FOR FAILURE! Also, don’t chase your dog. He thinks it’s a game and will have lots of fun trying to keep away from you. He’s also probably a lot faster than you and has more energy/stamina. Instead, turn the game around and run AWAY from the dog. Now he’s it, and he’ll come running to catch you. At which point you can hopefully get a hold of his leash or collar!

tl;dr: Bentley escaped. I got him back by running away from him.

Heel – Part I

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In this video I start work on teaching the pup to heel.  For now, I just want him to come to me, walk around behind me and sit at my side.  Because I always walk him on my right side, I’m having him come around and sit on my right side.  I believe in showing the dog is usually on the left, but this is what works for me.  This one is definitely going to take some work.  Bentley likes to jump up at the treat rather than just coming around nicely, and he pulls back if I try to guide him with the leash.  But I’m sure he’ll get it eventually!  Just takes patience and practice!

Dogs and Car Washes

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Rotating brushes inside a conveyor car-wash.

Image via Wikipedia

The other day I picked up Bentley from day camp then decided to get the car washed on the way home.  This was Bentley’s first time through a car wash.  Despite his namesake, he did not like it at all.  The poor thing was whimpering and panting out of anxiety.

This is a tough situation to be in.  Our first inclination is to hug or pet the dog and tell him it’s ok.  Try to soothe him, try to calm him.  But all this does is reinforce in the dog that being scared of this strange thing is ok!  We do NOT want to reinforce scared behavior.  So, difficult as it was, I didn’t cuddle my poor puppy.  Instead, I tried talking to him in an upbeat voice to reinforce the fact that *I* wasn’t scared and thus there was nothing to be scared about.  He made it through the brief ordeal unscathed, and has not somehow developed a fear of the car.

DON’T REINFORCE SCARED BEHAVIOR!

Prairie Dog Antlers – Product Review

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Bentley is a chewer.  He loves nothing more than attacking a toy, obsessively ripping out every last bit of stuffing and destroying the squeaker within.  Behold the remains of a few of his toys.

Behold the destruction

Countless others have already been thrown away.  That orange rope? Used to be a raggedy cat.  That weird white ball?  Used to be a Kong Wubba.  That ball actually became his favorite toy after he’d peeled the “skin” off the toy.  He chews on it like it’s bubblegum and will even toss it around for himself.  Needless to say,  all this destruction is a big mess for me to clean up and costs quite a bit of money.

But at PetSmart the other day, I ran across a new “toy” for Bentley.  It’s a piece of deer antler from Prairie Dog Antlers.  Bentley absolutely loves it.  I don’t think he stopped chewing it for the first two days he had it.  It will get worn down eventually, but it’s already lasted a week and has barely changed shape, whereas most his toys last 20 minutes.  It’s also good for his teeth.  They are expensive (this one cost $19), but for how long it lasts and how much value Bentley is getting out of it, I think it’s well worth the price.  It also doesn’t leave polyester fluff all over the house for me to pick up!

Bentley and his Antler

If you have a dog that is a really big chewer, and none of his toys last, I highly recommend checking out Prairie Dog Antlers!  They have a range of sizes, including moose for the larger breeds.

Catch!

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In this video I do a quick little review of some tricks I’ve taught Bentley so far, as well as teaching him the “Catch” command.  This is one of those tricks that requires a lot of repetition, so once again I’m doing it at dinner time and using his kibble as the reward.  When he does actually manage to catch a piece of kibble out of the air, he also gets a higher value treat as a reward. I’m aiming right for his nose to make this really easy for him.  Once he gets better at it, I can make it more challenging by making him jump for the treat, but for now, we’re just working on learning what this new command means.  He figures out quickly what he’s supposed to do, we just need to work on mouth-eye coordination!

No, It’s Not Okay.

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Bentley on the bed where he's not supposed to be

Bentley on the bed where he's not supposed to be

 

As evidenced in a few of my videos, while Bentley is very smart to pick up on “tricks”, he’s still got a ways to go in learning good doggy manners.  We’re working on it though!  But one of the things that drives me crazy is when I try to instill in him good behaviors, and other people contradict me.  For example, I’ll be walking him, and we’ll see a person on the sidewalk, and he’ll jump up all excitedly.  I tell him “no” and “off” and try to get him to sit and behave.  But because he’s a smaller dog (and downright adorable if I do say so myself) people are often “oh, it’s okay!”

 

Um, no, it is NOT okay.  I’m the dog’s owner.  I don’t want the dog exhibiting this behavior, thus this behavior is not okay.  And it’s not okay for you to be undermining all the hard work I’m putting into training him by actively encouraging him to engage in behaviors I clearly am trying to dissuade.

 

Please, if you see someone trying to get their dog to do/not do something, don’t tell them “oh, it’s okay!” and go ahead and let the dog do whatever.  It’s not your dog, not your choice on what it can or cannot do.  You might think you’re being “nice” but you’re just sending an inconsistent message and confusing the dog, not to mention frustrating the owner.

Ring the Bell

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Continuing the progression of the “Touch” command, I’ve started working with Bentley on ringing a bell to go outside.  It takes him a little while to get the idea that he needs to touch the bell and not my hand though, as I forgot to bring the sticky note target with me.  But once, again, he catches on quickly.  It’s important to have patience when teaching a dog a new trick or command.  They have *NO* idea what you’re saying or what you want, and most of them don’t understand the concept of pointing.  All they know is that you have a treat and you want them to do something to get that treat.  Don’t get frustrated! And be sure to not let the dog get frustrated either!  Work on it for a bit, then take a break and try again later.

 

 

 

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