Laura's experience with dogs Rosie and Bo

by Dog School West Midlands // August 2017

Laura's experience with dogs Rosie and Bo

Dogs Trust Dog School is all about working with the dogs but also, and importantly, the owners. We, as coaches don’t take the dogs into class and train them, we teach the owners how to do this for themselves. The course aims to develop well mannered, happy dogs who have skills for life with a stronger sense of confidence and bond with their owners. We also work with each owner to build their confidence and skills in dog training and communication with their furry friend. We love helping the owners as much as the dogs.

Recently we had the pleasure of meeting Laura Kearns, who is the Deputy Editor of the Leamington Observer. Laura attended our classes with her two rescue dogs Rosie – a two year old German Shepherd crossed with a collie, and Bo – a four year old Staffordshire Bull Terrier cross Boxer.

Laura came to us with a real interest in teaching her dogs to recall reliably and settle whilst she is out and about...

“My dogs are very sweet, very funny and utterly adorable – until you want them to come back when on a walk that is, or even lie at your feet when you pop into the local pub – I think that is something which only happens on television.”

The first thing we teach all the dogs coming into class is how to settle. We do this by setting the dogs up to succeed and provide them each with their own stations. We ask their owners to bring along a familiar blanket or mat from home and begin providing the dog with the positive reinforcement for being on that mat in the form of a tasty enrichment toy. By the end of the course we aim to see all dogs in class settled on their mats or blankets without any enrichment toys and without barriers. This allows owners to continue what they’ve learnt by taking their mat or blanket with them to the local dog friendly café or pub and teach the same skill in different environments, providing the dog with a familiar cue of the blanket or mat to communicate with them what is expected. Rosie and Bo did amazingly well with this task and were settled in class side-by-side by the end of the course.

We like to put our dogs and owners to the test by making things as easy as possible in the first week but building on from this each week by making their tasks a little more challenging, for example adding in distractions or temptations little by little. During the course we took this group outdoors to practice their loose lead walking and recall. Not only do they have the distraction of one another but also the smells and noises of the other dogs and people visiting the busy rehoming centre. This can be a challenge for our owners as ultimately the dog makes the choice on the end of their long line whether they wish to return to their owner or be otherwise engaged! What is key when we teach our dogs recall is that they will get rewarded upon returning to us, and that being with us is the best place to be. We can still provide them with the opportunity to engage with all the other excitements life brings when out and about but when we call their name and ask them to return, this needs to happen for their safety and wellbeing.

When you see perfect recalls happening in the class you can really tell that the owners and their dogs have been practicing and doing their homework to build up their success and strength in the recall cue. Rosie and Bo gave a perfect example when they recalled from tasty treats on offer from our distracting and enthusiastic volunteers to get back to Laura for her attention and rewards.

Laura and her dogs made fantastic progress during our classes and from what we’ve read in the Leamington Observer, she is reaping the benefits of having well trained dogs!

“On the first week we were dragged to the class by our troublesome twosome, but by the end of the class we walked out looking like we were the ones in charge – for once. The difference in our pets has been huge. They come straight back when called, don’t jump up and are settling down when given the correct signal”. Most importantly they enjoy going out as much as we enjoy taking them. The sessions are good for dogs of any age, but I can imagine how useful they would be for puppies – setting them up for a lifetime of good behaviour”

We love to see and hear about the difference Dog School classes have made for the dogs and their owners in building that lifelong bond and strengthening their skills for continuing their learning through reward-based training methods.

If you would like to read more about Laura’s experience, you can find her full article by clicking on the link below;