Dog’s Eye View: A latte and a bully good time
It’s summer, so it’s time to sit at an outside cafe with friends. This, of course, means with your wonderful doggie companion, as well.
This always has been a goal and a special pleasure to share with my bull terrier, Stuart.
One of the many useful things we teach in our family dog training class is what we call “mat work.” This involves selecting a mat or comfortable rug or blanket that your dog can learn to identify as his own special “home away from home.”
We teach our students to carry a doggie tote with them when they leave the house. The tote contains your dog’s water dish, bottled water, a Kong™ or hollow bone that can be stuffed with soft treats, cheese or peanut butter and his special mat.
You will be wearing your treat pouch filled with “high level” (meaning extra special) treats that your dog will want to eat that can trump an exciting environment.
Mat work is learned in your home first.
We place his special mat on the floor next to us and with his leash on (yes, in the house). In order to keep him near you, we drop food treats on his mat when first, he looks at the mat, then places his body on the mat, then lies down on his mat. The goal is to create in our dog’s mind the understanding that there’s something wonderful about being on that mat. Every time he lies down there, food appears from the sky right on his mat.
We practice this scenario in different rooms in the house, then outside in the backyard, perhaps at a picnic table, then in the park. This helps your dog generalize this skill to different locations.
Our goal is to take this to the downtown cafe. His mat can be placed right next to your chair, perhaps protected by the shade of the table.
He will be on leash, of course, and the leash will be laid across your chair. You will sit on your leash in order to keep your hands free to eat or drink your latte.
The power of using treats to reinforce your dog’s desire to seek out and stay on his mat can be illustrated by the following real life scenario.
My friend, Laura Tyler, and her rat terrier, Skippy, met me at an outdoor cafe. I had my bull terrier, Stuart, with me. We laid our dog’s mats down on the ground next to our chairs. We put their leashes across our chairs, sat on them and were having a relaxing conversation when to our surprise, a bear loped across the parking area near us. Thank goodness it was headed away from us. However, neither of our dogs left their mat. They had been so consistently and powerfully reinforced for this behavior, that they stayed quietly planted. Without this training, it could have been a different and not so pretty picture.
Enjoy your summer and your four-legged buddy.
Sandra Kruczek is a certified professional dog trainer at Total Teamwork Training LLC with more than 25 years of experience. She can be reached at http://www.totalteamworktraining.com.
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STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Explore a mix of in-person and virtual events happening this weekend in Routt County.