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Basic Training
by Cheryl Devoto
Basic Training We live in a small town where only general dog obedience classes are available. A friend and I both took our 5-6 pound Maltese females in the late summer. Both dogs were very intimidated by the gigantic dogs next to them. Then, when the instructor insisted that we use choke collars with prongs for our little babies, we both walked (out!). Prissy, who is now 10 months old, is smart and definitely recognizes words like (Out, Prissy?)...but she likes to run out the door to play for a minute when we open it to get the mail or whatever. After a minute or two, she'll willingly obey (In, Prissy!), but I'm concerned she will get hit by a car when she playfully runs around avoiding our calls. I want her to be immediately obedient to (Come or Stay)for her own safety. Does anyone know of a good video that can be utilized at home to accomplish this? Or do you think that those horrible collars are not too harsh for Maltese? I just couldn't see it.


There were a few videos mentioned on here about three weeks ago that people were happy with . . . can't remember the names, you'll have to check the archives! However, I, too, have looked into and looked away from several different obedience schools because they use choke collars. You cannot use these on this small of a breed, especially since they are prone to problems with their tracheas due to stress being put on their throats. Look elsewhere for an alternative to choke collars. Anne, a regular peruser of the sight may be able to help you out. She always has great advice for training -- I believe she is a trainer herself. You might also check in the Drs. Foster & Smith catalog, they have a few that have been highly recommended. Good luck!!

Cheryl, I can relate to your dog training experience. When Angel was just a little puppy I enrolled her in puppy school. Here too, there is only one place you can go to and if you are interested in training, it is there or nowhere. They also insisted that a choke collar is the only way to train for certain things. There were approximately 25 dogs in this class and this lady with a Shih Tsu puppy and me were the only two that flat out refused to use choke collars! We both preferred a more loving and gentler approach. Maybe as puppies ours were a little slower to pick up on such things as heal, stay, etc. but with a little extra practice and patience, Angel is just about as good as any dog that was trained with a choke collar. She knows her boundaries in the yard and comes with me to get the mail. When I step into the street by the mailbox, she ALWAYS waits on the grass. And now after reading all the posts here regarding choke collars, I'm doubly glad I did it my way. I can't help you with any good videos, but I'm sure someone will have be able to recommend something.

P.S. The one thing I have not been very successful with is getting Angel to walk in the heal position. She always wants to run ahead and pull on the lead. Does anyone have any advice for me?
Sandee M.

Hi, Cheryl, Touquet and I have been through formal obedience training, but the best training information I ever received was from a book I bought called "Good Owners, Great Dogs" by Brian Kilcommons. The training techniques are really good, and made a huge difference in Touquet's behaviour. Kilcommons does recommend choke collars in the book (not to choke your dog, but to rattle and make a noise), but there is no reason you have to use one -- I didn't. We have used a Halti from time to time, which is both effective if your dog is very rambunctious and humane, but our plain nylon collar is what we use 90 per cent of the time.

Sandee, I have used two techniques to get Touquet to heel properly. For the first, each time Touquet pulls I simply stop and wait for him to sit. Be patient, this may take 10 minutes the first time before Angel figures out what you want. As soon as she sits, praise her (I use the key word "yes") and tell her to heel again. As soon as she starts to pull, stop again. Once she sits, start again. Repeat each time she pulls. It doesn't take too many outings before they figure out that when they pull, they go nowhere. It makes me smile when I watch Touquet try to contain his excitement and restrain himself . The second technique is cheating a bit -- I catch Touquet's attention with a treat (a Cheerio) and have him walk beside me. Periodically he gets rewarded with the Cheerio for walking correctly. He even knows the word "back" to move back beside me when he starts to forge ahead. Hope this helps!
Barbara and Touquet

Carrie, thanks for your stamp of approval! Cheryl, there is some great information out there. The best video is one by Ian Dunbar called "Sirius Puppy Training" which is designed for puppies but excellent for our little ones also. He has even better ones available for alot more; it's a series of four (Companion Series), but you can get one at a time for more $$ per item. Contact Direct Book Service at 1-800-776-2665 or email: dgctbook@cascade.net or online: www.dogand catbooks.com. Anything in the catalog by Ian Dunbar is a sure and safe bet for training in a positive manner. Jean Donaldson, a Montreal resident, has a wonderful book out called "The Culture Clash", and it is endorsed by Ian Dunbar. She is a trainer and a behaviorist. Their books, in my opinion, should be required reading for anyone owning a dog!

Sandee, to answer your question about heeling: Walking on a loose lead is becoming much more preferable for the companion dog than heeling. It's more relaxed, more flexible, more fun and easier to learn. When your dog pulls, *quickly* turn and go the other way or change directions. Praise her when she relaxes the leash. I don't mean for you to turn so fast as to have the dog on two legs....just don't be looking back at the dog and saying, "Is izzums coming?!!" Do it quickly to let the puppy know this won't work. This is the *correction*, if you will. After a few of these, I think you'll notice he's beginning to pay attention. This is the time for PRAISE!! Please talk to your dogs when walking them, too, to help keep their attention. Hope this helps. Let me know.

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