I was in Parkland yesterday finishing up a Dog Guard Out of Sight Fencing® system for a new client and his Labrador named Walter. (What a cool name for a dog!) Walter loved to roam the neighborhood at the chagrin of my client. We placed a perimeter fence system around my client’s property and quickly taught Walter that the yard was far better than the street. That was great and my client was amazed at the quick results. As I was finishing up, my client mentioned that Walter also liked to go in the pool all the time. He didn’t mind Walter in the pool, but not just all the time. He knew that the invisible fence wasn’t the answer and asked if I had any training ideas.
I first explained the obvious fact to my client; a Labrador is a water dog. They have been bred to naturally gravitate towards water. When my client’s kids go running out the sliding doors in the family room and jump in the pool, that is a natural trigger that would cause Walter to join. When there are people playing and screaming in the pool (just having fun), that is a natural “play trigger” that tells Walter to join in. We are in the pool because we want to have fun and we are “social animals”. Walter is also a “social animal” who my client has made part of his family; so there is no reason why Walter wouldn’t see fit to join the fun.
The problem with Walter “joining the fun” is that it is sometimes not appropriate. If we have guests over that aren’t big “dog people”, we need to respect their wishes. If there are small kids that may be scared or hurt if Walter jumps on them from the side of the pool or overpowers them in a state of excitement while swimming, that is a very large safety issue. We may want to keep Walter out of the pool because we just don’t want him coming inside all wet.
I told my client that he needed to set up rules and “behavioral boundaries” to let Walter understand that he is allowed in the pool when invited. He does not have a “Gold Pass” to go in whenever he wants. I further explained that the keys to having Walter understand these rules were his clear focus on them and their consistent enforcement of their rules.
I told my client to practice two exercises to build up Walter’s focus on them and their ability to constantly enforce their rules. The first exercise involved when the kids were going outside to go swimming. The goal was to have Walter stay inside and either ignore the fact that the kids were going nuts in the pool or to calmly watch. Here is what I suggested:
- Put Walter on a leash and have a family member hold the leash.
- Have the kids (in their bathing suits) calmly go outside and get in the pool. They are to not to nuts when they get in.
- If Walter gives them too much focus, jumps on the windows, or barks incessantly, the person holding the leash is to redirect Walter away from the window and walk him around the room or house until calm and focused on the family member holding the leash.
- It is also important to redirect Walter’s attention with a goodie or toy. He needs something to do also.
- They are to repeat this exercise until Walter could care less and provides more focus to the family member holding the leash or his goodie than the kids going outside and getting in the pool.
- Now, they are to “ramp up” the exercise. The kids should slowly get “a little crazier” when going outside and ramp up crazy and loud playing in the pool.
- As soon as Walter starts to provide them too much focus or adrenalized activity, the family member should again redirect him away until he is calm.
- They are to repeat this until Walter no longer goes nuts when the family goes out to the pool.
- They may need to keep a family member in with Walter for a while longer, even though he seems to be calm. This is to assure that if he “slips back”, there is someone to immediately provide consistent direction to the proper action.
I told my client that this should help with the inside/outside issue. We still need to deal with the situation where they want Walter outside with while they are in the pool but don’t want him to join them in the pool. This is something that they can accomplish, but it must only be attempted after they get Walter behaving in the inside/outside situation.
The goal for the “Walter outside with them while they are in the pool but not having Walter in the pool” exercise is to have Walter understand that he is allowed in the pool when invited. I suggested the following exercise:
- Have Walter on a leash in the house. Have everyone go outside together. Walter and his family member handler should go out last.
- Have the “pool people” stand by the pool but not go in yet. Direct Walter to a location such as the deck or patio near the pool. He should not be “at water’s edge”. Have him sit while his handler is standing.
- The “pool people” now calmly go in the pool.
- If Walter gets up from his sit, put him back in it. If he is adrenalized, walk him around until he is calm and them put him in his sit.
- Once Walter is sitting and calm, have the “pool people” start to make noise and splash.
- Watch Walter and correct him if he gets up from his sit and adrenalizes. At this point, if he stands up but stays calm and focused on his handler, that is fine.
- If Walter is just too nuts, pick a place farther away from the pool to have him sit. If needed, continue to retreat from the pool until he can stay calm and focused on the handler and not the people in the pool.
- Once calm, slowly move him closer to the pool, following the same “stay and focus on me” exercise.
- Once Walter is near the pool and more focused on the handler and not the “pool activities”, walk him around the yard and around the pool. If he starts to adrenalize and lunge near the pool, direct him away and refocus him to the handler.
- Repeat the above activities until Walter can stay out of the pool while people are in the pool and playing in the pool.
- Now, put Walter on a longer leash and give him more “freedom” to make his correct decision. This is done by simply giving him more leash. Correct and take back some of the leash, if needed.
- Continue this for a week or so. Next, when things are calm, invite Walter in the pool by walking into the shallow end with him on the leash.
- If Walter pulls or starts to become adrenalized, remove him.
- Repeat this until he can get into the pool in a calm manner while giving his handler focus and ignoring the rest of the people in the pool.
- Finally, let the leash go while you are in the pool. If Walter starts to become too adrenalized, you can use the leash to guide him away and refocus him.
It is important, both from a safety and leadership perspective, to have your dog understand when it is acceptable to be in the pool. We are happy to answer any dog fence or dog training issues if you simply click on Dog Fence Training Help Parkland South Florida. Our Dog Guard direct phone number is (954) 472-4724. Learn more concerning our Dog Guard Out of Sight Fencing® and how it can make your life easier by going to Best Out of Sight Dog Fence Trainers Parkland South Florida. We are happy that we have been your neighborhood canine professionals for over twelve years in Parkland and the entire South Florida area. If your dog doesn’t run away, but misbehaves and doesn’t know his commands, we are able to easily resolve that. Learn more about our canine behavior and obedience programs by going to Home Dog Training Parkland South Florida.