Teach Your Dog to Stay on Cue
Staying when told is another wonderful skill to teach your dog. It allows you to settle your dog down when you want a few quiet moments in the evening in their raised dog bed or to keep it out of trouble so you can check out a strange noise in the garden. More importantly, staying in place teaches your dog patience, impulse control and can prevent one of the most common behavioural problems; the inability to cope with frustration. Dogs who learn to stay when asked can be more fun to live with and are probably happier themselves after learning to control their own emotions.
There are three components to a great stay:
You will need to work on each of these one at a time.
Start with all three factors in the lowest possible level of intensity. This means you need to start in an area where there are no distractions from dog accessories and toys, and you are only going to be one to two feet away from your dog. Ask your dog to sit and as soon as it does say ‘stay’ in a low, quiet voice and move the palm of your hand toward your dog as if you were trying to stop traffic. Stand still, look directly at your dog for only 1-2 seconds and then give it a treat from your other hand. Be sure you move towards your dog to give it the treat, so that it doesn’t have to get up to get it.
After you’ve given it the treat, release him/her with your chosen release word (e.g.’free’, ‘that will do’,’finished’,etc). Then walk away from your dog and let it do what it wants. Do not praise or pet your dog, you want the fun part to be staying in place, not getting up. This will be hard for you, so concentrate on staying quiet when you release him/her – I promise you it will pay off.
Repeat this exercise 4-6 times per day, asking for 1-2 second stays that are so short, they are almost silly. Your dog will learn more quickly if you have several brief sessions throughout the day, rather than one long one, once a day. Throw in a single sit/stay here and there throughout your day, perhaps whilst you are waiting for the kettle to boil, or whilst you go into another room briefly, or just when your dog least expects it.
Make sure the distraction level is still extremely low, and that it knows you have treats on offer at this point. Don’t be tempted to ask your dog to stay too long at this stage; this is one of the exercises in which creating a solid foundation by going slowly at the beginning will pay off hugely in just a few weeks. So patience, patience, and more patience!
This exercise is also great at practising on how to give clear and consistent cues with both your voice and your body. Concentrate on saying ‘stay’ with a low, relatively quiet voice. Your dog is more likely to stay in place if your voice drops a pitch or stays flat. Think about your body language; are you using a clear hand signal that is different from your sit cue? Are all members of the family using the same cue? Are they all using the same release word? Remember consistency from everybody is key in communicating with your dog in a clear manner.
Also, try not to confuse your dog by using the same word to praise and release it. So, saying ‘good boy/girl’ or ‘good’ as a release word is not advisable, as these are the most common words used to praise our dogs.
Recognise and Help Overweight and Obese Dogs
We’ve all been there. Our dog looks at us with those big, cow eyes, and guilt trips us into giving them just a little tidbit because we love them so much and don’t want them to look so sad. But it doesn’t take long, for those treats to add up, and before we know it, we’re getting a talk from out vet about our beloved buddy being obese and needing to go on a diet. But how do we know that our dog is fat and not just ‘big boned’ or covered in ‘puppy fat’?
What to Look for in an Overweight Dog?
There are three key ways to tell if your dog is overweight.
- Does your dog have an obvious ‘waistline’? If your dog doesn’t then he or she should have one. You can tell if your dog has a waistline by viewing him or her from different angles. From above, the waistline is what marks out the front half from the back half of your dog, it should come together with a little, rather like an hourglass. From the side, you should be able to see your dog’s abdomen rise up towards the underside of his or her hind legs.
- Can you feel or see your dog’s ribs? If you can’t feel or see your dog’s ribs, then your dog is certainly overweight, they should be visible and easy to feel.
- When your dog sits down, does their back look to be straight, or do they have any so-called ‘love handles’?
How to Help an Overweight Dog
Unless your dog has an underlying health problem, then helping your dog to lose weight should be fairly straightforward, at least in theory. More exercise, and less calories. You are the one in control of both of these things, so your dog is relying on you to keep them fit and healthy! Consult your vet for advice and support as needed.
Diet: what are you feeding your dog each day? Dried food, raw diet, canned food, human food, snacks, and treats?
Snacks are the easiest way to fatten up your dog, so try to reduce the number of treats you give them each day or switch to lower calorie, healthier options. Why are they getting treats, and can these be replaced with love and affection or a squeaky toy or play as a reward, instead of food? Can you break the treats up to make them smaller, or give individual treats instead of multiple treats at once?
Meals: rather than guessing how much food to feed your dog, try switching to a lighter or diet version of the same food, and use a measuring cup to weigh out your dog’s food. Use scales to weigh out the food, and to keep your dog entertained for longer, try hiding the food inside a Kong or similar toy, so that your dog has to work for their biscuits.
Scraps from the Table: If your dog is a canine hoover that follows your kids around or likes to help out in the kitchen or under the table at teatime, try to avoid giving them the scraps, or allowing them to hoover up the food. Cut down on giving them dishes to lick clean and restrict access to any crumbs they might find.
Exercise: are you walking your dog twice a day, or giving your dog the exercise he or she really needs? Perhaps life has been more stressful than usual, or you’ve got a new baby at home, are getting home from work later, or are struggling to walk as far as you used to due to your own ill health? If you are struggling to give your dog the walks they require, then try to find a trusted friend, neighbour, family member, or pet sitter who can walk your dog for you on a regular basis. You might find that you have a friend who would desperately love a dog of their own, but whose landlord won’t allow them to have a pet, you could both benefit from them walking your dog, even if it is just a long walk on a weekend.
Swimming: if your dog is very overweight or has arthritis or other difficulties with movement, then you could try swimming as exercise. Ask your vet about places to swim with your dog or specialist hydrotherapy facilities. Could you put up a paddling pool in your garden and supervise your dog for regular swimming sessions? Or have them swim in the sea each day, even just for a few minutes of throwing a stick for them to fetch from the water, to strengthen their legs.
Toys: are there are games, toys, or enrichment activities that you can do, to get your dog more active through the day? Can you stuff a Kong with treats, or use a ball thrower to fling a ball and have them run for it? Can you play tug at home with them once or twice a day, instead of watching TV together? Or try our fantastic Tether Tug Dog toy with indoor and outdoor options?
Join a Group: sometimes it might just be harder to walk your dog, especially in the winter when it is dark and the streets don’t feel so safe, or the weather is miserable. Are there are groups or classes near you, like flyball, agility, or dog shows? Or perhaps you could find a group on Facebook of other owners who share your love for the breed and like to meet up for play dates? Not only is this great stimulation and social time for your dog, but it’s time for you to get out and have some fun too.
Helping your dog to lose weight doesn’t have to be a huge challenge. Lots of small actions can really add up. Adding a few more minutes to a walk each day, or taking stairs instead of the lift, or cutting down the number of biscuits in their bowl at meal times.
You might start to find that your health and weight improves too and that you both start to have a new lease of life!
Written by Sarah Weldon
Sarah is a British explorer and ice swimmer, who loves nothing more than hikes in the mountain with her Italian Greyhound and cosy nights by the fire with her three devious cats.