How To Train When You Have “A Pack”
Last week I was installing a Dog Guard Out of Sight Fence for a Client and her dogs in Davie. There weren’t a whole lot of roots or “underground problems”, so the installation was going pretty quickly. As I took a break, my client came out and had a question about the dog fence training we would be doing as soon as I finished putting everything in place. Her three dogs, Hazel, Ruger, and Brodie; a Boxer, Rottweiler, and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, were all going to be part of the training. She said that she tried to train them before and it was always a nightmare. She could never get their attention and it always ended up in a great free-for-all with nothing ever being accomplished. She just wondered how I would turn all this around and teach them about the perimeter and where they could go and not go.
Robin and I have been dog trainers for over 10 years and we have trained up to sixteen dogs at a single session. It all gets back to getting the “leader of the group” on board with the program and the rest will follow. I finished up the installation and then turned to my client to start the training process.
I explained to my client that having all of the dogs in a training session from the start makes it very hard for them to understand who is the teacher and where they should focus. We always start of with one-on-one sessions with the dogs to let them clearly focus on the problem at hand. We always suggest that we start with the “leader of the group”, the alpha, the one that all the rest follow or watch. In the instance of my client, Hazel, the Boxer, appeared to be the leader of their little pack.
We put a leash on Hazel so that we could easily control and direct her. We walked her around the inside for a few minutes until she was comfortable with us and then we took her outside to where we had installed the fence. We then walked around some more (away from the fence) so that Hazel would get used to focusing on us and obeying our instructions of “walk with me and turn this way”. Once we had Hazel obeying and complicit with the idea that we were the teachers, we could begin with the underground fence training. Without the other dogs to cause inappropriate distractions, the training took no time at all and Hazel understood where she could wander and where she was not allowed. It was now time to start with the other dogs.
We took Hazel back inside and then put a leash on Brodie. Although not the leader, Brodie was high energy and required additional effort to direct and focus. We went through the same process with Brodie until he understood the boundaries and his rules. We then repeated the process with Ruger. He was pretty easy because he was really mellow and easygoing.
At this point, each dog had been individually trained on the rule of “don’t go past this point”. It was now time to put it all together. We put leashes on all of them and walked all of them into the yard. We walked around for a few minutes away from the perimeter. We then “meandered” with Hazel up to the boundary and allowed her to receive a “don’t go here” stimulus. From her prior training, she backed off immediately and didn’t want to repeat the process. We then started to walk Brodie towards the perimeter. From his prior training and observation of Hazel, he immediately stopped and sat in the grass. He was done and decided he didn’t want to go any further. The same was true with Ruger. I had my client repeat this little exercise twice daily for a week until she could take them all out, drop the leashes, and they would calmly stay in the yard.
All we did was to slow the training process down and to focus on small, clear lessons. By working with Hazel first, we naturally enlisted the focus of Brodie and Ruger when they were reintroduced back into the class. By working with each individually, we had already established rules and guidelines. By our keeping control of the entire process, we maintained the clear ability to direct our dogs towards our desired results.
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