Spotlights

Tips from a Trainer

November 23, 2020

We have partnered with Ashley Parker, a professional dog trainer, to answer some of our audience’s dog-related questions. As a trainer for over three years and working in the animal welfare industry for ten, she’s given advice on leash pulling, total recall, and more. Read about Ashley and her dog training tips below:

I started off my career as a veterinary assistant while in college, I took some time off to focus on my studies while working part-time in doggie daycare, and upon graduating I became an admission/transfer counselor at a local SPCA. It was at the shelter that I found my passion for dog training when I adopted a challenging dog that likely would not have found a home without an experienced handler. That coincided with the realization that more dogs would remain in their homes or would have better chances of adoption with some basic obedience and manners.

1. How do I get my dog to stop pulling on her leash?

The walk starts the moment you’ve leashed up your dog, which is typically at the door. I teach clients a sit with focus before moving through the threshold. Meaning instead of having your dog drag you through the door, you have them sit and wait for permission. This creates an important precedent where your pup then learns to check in with you before acting compulsively. I then keep a short leash, announce “heel” and reward them when they’re walking politely at my side. When they begin to pull, I turn around in the opposite direction. I allow my dog designated breaks to sniff, potty, and enjoy the walk, but once I’ve decided to move on, I repeat the heel command and resume our structured walk.

2. Is it okay to have one bully stick per day?

I love using enrichment toys and treats! However, follow the dietary recommendations given to you by your vet. Every dog has a different caloric intake and nutritional needs!

3. Best advice for total recall?

I recommend patterning recall using a long line while using food motivators. Meaning, you would call your dog (reeling the long line to you if needed) and reward them for coming all the way to you. Training is all about repetitions to set a strong foundation. As your pet gets better, always verbally praise them for doing the right thing, but withhold the food reward for only when they’ve completed the command on the first try. This ensures they’re learning/retaining the command and are not just listening out of convenience for the food reward. Practice in a controlled inside environment, and then work up to other environments progressively more challenging with distractions until it’s consistent. Recall is a lifesaving technique and an incredibly important skill. If your recall is not consistent, use a long line to help keep your dog safe!

4. Do you have any tips or tricks for smart but stubborn deaf dogs?

I usually train deaf dogs with hand signals, a lot of foundation work with a long line, tons of practice and repetition! Reminder: All dogs learn differently, and dogs with limitations to certain sensory skills might need a professional who can show you how to teach commands or use tools that could aid in this process.

If I could give any piece of advice apart from the specifics above, it would be that training is a long-term commitment, and success is dependent upon the amount of consistency you give your dog. Setting a strong foundation by teaching commands, setting rules or boundaries, and then progressing towards teaching your pet how to retain command is essential to making long term progress.

Keep in mind that every dog is an individual with its own aptitude for learning and that dog training is not a one-size-fits-all approach. There are many methods and tools out there and what works for some may not work for others! For example, some dogs are motivated by food while others are not. Using food is a wonderful way to pattern commands and teach desirable behaviors! However, it can also escalate poor behaviors when accidentally reinforcing the wrong thing or can other times teach dogs to only work for bribes. If you’re not making progress with behaviors, it’s always best to thoroughly do your homework or reach out to a professional!

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