I often receive questions from clients and followers about topics that many other dog owners can relate to. In an effort to help others who may have similar questions, here are the answers to a few recent questions.
Our dog is really good at some basic things, but a lot of time we need to repeat the command a few times before she does it. For example, if we are having dinner and we tell her down, we usually need to repeat it many times. And until we get “annoyed” she doesn't actually do it. Is this common or is she stubborn?
This is a very common issue among dog owners. But it’s not really an matter of stubbornness so much as your dog not actually understanding exactly what you want them to do. Even if they responds well to a cue some of the time, if they doesn’t do it in a certain situation, that means they haven't properly learned how to respond to that cue in that certain situation.
This may look like stubbornness, but labeling a dog stubborn is technically us humans anthropomorphizing (giving animals human characteristics).
So to address this issue, you need to set up training games where your dog learns that responding to the cue is rewarding to them, no matter the situation. You can do this by starting the practice the cue in a situation when she can reliably respond, and then in gradually more difficult situations. Be sure to consider small details, such as your tone of voice, where you are positioned (how close you are from your dog, whether you are standing or sitting, etc).
Avoid repeating a cue over and over, because then your dog is actually learning to only respond when you repeat it. It can also be confusing to a dog to hear a familiar cue repeated, since this actually changes what they perceive the cue to be.
I want to provide my dog with more freedom to run around, but I don't completely trust them to be off-leash in some environments. Do you recommend a flexi / retractable leash?
I would personally advise against a flexi leash, but I know a lot of dog owners who use them and like them, so it’s of course a matter of personal preference. The reason I don’t love them is they’re a bit tricky to hold onto, and can be difficult to control if your dog tends to suddenly dart into roads, towards other dogs or people, etc.
In addition, if you’re working on leash training, they are a bit confusing for the dog. This is because the leash always feel tight and is constantly changing in length, so the dog isn't able to learn the important concept of: loose leash = proximity to you = rewards and fun things.
To give your dog more opportunity to vary their pace, sniff, and explore more freely, I recommend purchasing a long leash or a “tracking line." I use one that is 10 meters long and made from biothane. It takes some getting used to for both the dog and owner, but after a couple of practice sessions I think it’s preferable to a flexi.
I'm currently finalizing a mini-course about leash walking that includes a guide for the proper introduction and usage of a long leash, so stay tuned for that when it's released!