Parlez Vous POOCH?!

Blogger and qualified ‘Dog Listener’ Julia Collins takes a look at how to train your dog to wait and fetch.

I looked at ‘Perceived Danger’ in the last issue of Village People, and the next topic I wanted to tackle was ‘The Reunion’. But times have changed, and the ‘lockdown’ situation we find ourselves in calls for something different. So I thought more light-hearted but equally valuable information might go down well… given the stream of advice we are currently obliged to accept on a daily basis.

Every time pack members reassemble, their hard-wired, basic instinct must, on an absolute need to know basis, be reassured. Who is in charge and is the pecking order intact?

This trait persists in our domesticated dogs. Each and every time you separate, be it for several hours or just to nip upstairs to the bathroom, if your dog has not been able to freely follow you, then your return to their presence constitutes a ‘Reunion’.

A very brief encapsulation of the effective behaviour to follow when reuniting with your dog could be boiled down to ‘Waiting’.

As I said, let’s leave the formal info on ‘The Reunion’ until we’re all more in the mood. However, we can take ‘Waiting’ and see just how much fun, easy learning we can all do with our furry friends!

Two skills in one

We enjoy playing ‘fetch’ with our dogs. Throwing a ball or toy before watching our pet streak, swift as an arrow, straight as a die – to retrieve and return said item to us.

Don’t Despair Corner… If your dog doesn’t bring the item straight back, never chase. Turn away, ignore totally, wait until your dog comes to you with or without the toy, then praise and give a small food reward. Persevere – throwing just a short distance and encourage/reward all steps towards a good return. Eventually, the penny will drop, the toy will be yours and retrieve skills planted in furry pal’s mind!

Retrieving already? Well Done!

So to begin, have the dog at your side, hold the collar and chuck the toy. As you throw, say clearly “wait!”

Once the toy/ball has come to a standstill, release the dog with the command “fetch”, or whatever you use.

Reward and repeat, loosening the hold gradually as instruction is established. Before long you won’t have to hold the collar.

Once you’ve mastered that, you can easily move onto ‘signalling’. Open your hand, like a (gentle!) karate chop in front of the dog, and say “wait”. Throw the toy and when it comes to a standstill ask your dog to “fetch”. So you are teaching him to go and get something.

In due course, you will be able to send him to search and find objects. This is because your dog understands being sent away from you to go and get things!

Now you can instruct your dog to “stay”, before placing items a short distance away. Return to the dog’s side then send in to “fetch”, “find”, etc.

Teaching your dog to wait is a powerful way to command his attention and confirm your leadership, be it for food, to step outside for a walk, or obey an instruction – as above!

See my videos on Instagram at walksoflifessuffolk.

Simple, clear and effective learning for your dog, extending his repertoire and your store of canine entertainment.

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