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WHILE our four-legged pals are delighted to have us home, dogs can also get bored of being inside.
Graeme Hall, also known as The Dogfather from Channel 5’s Dogs Behaving (Very) Badly, has come up with some fun activities that prove you can teach a dog (and its owner) new tricks.
Graeme says: “Here are three really fun training plans for great games, which offer practical results and are easy to do at home. You’ll improve your bond with your pet now and create a great dog for the future.”
The first thing he recommends is practising or refining “leave it” — teaching your dog not to snatch food.
“Start with a little treat between your finger and thumb,” he says. “Get your dog to lie down and hold the treat six inches in front of his nose.
“If he moves forward to take it, tell him ‘No!’ and don’t let him have it.
“Keep going until he moves away then say, ‘Leave it!’ as he moves backwards. This way, we’re teaching him what ‘leave it’ really means.
“Wait for a second, praise him gently and give him the treat for not snatching. Keep practising until you can place the treat on the floor — or on his paw if you want to show off — and extend the time before you feed him the treat.
“Always pick up the treat and feed it to him because we’re teaching him not to help himself, even if he has been a good boy. To supercharge the training, reward him with a tastier treat than the one he ignored.”
Second is the command “settle down”. Graeme says: “With your dog out of the room, drop a couple of treats on his bed. Bring him back in and show him the treats.
“Repeat a few times and he’ll start to go to his bed naturally. As he does, say, ‘Go to bed’ so he associates the phrase with his new habit. Your next challenge is to keep him there.
“Drop one treat on the bed and tell him to, ‘go to bed’. When he gets there, encourage him to settle and give him the second.
“Extend the time he has to stay settled in bed before he earns the next treat. To take it to the next level, once he’s understood the training, make the rewards more random — sometimes nothing, sometimes jackpot. He never knows which but it’s always worth being a good boy.”
Third, use the Bucket Game to train your dog to stand patiently.
“Get a plant pot or a bucket, depending on the size of your dog, and show him it’s empty,” Graeme says. “Get him to stand two feet from it while you kneel at his side. When he’s standing nicely, drop a treat in the bucket but don’t let him get it.
“If you’ve already trained him to ‘leave it’, use that now. Good things come to dogs who wait. While he’s standing, you’ll be able to run your hands all over his body and examine him like a dog-show judge.
“Take your time. When you’re happy, let him take the treat. Build up the time he’s standing, day by day. Anyone who has chased a muddy dog round a kitchen after a walk will know how useful a ‘stand’ command is.”
To ramp things up a notch, try saying “stand up” or “bucket”.
“Two-syllable phrases are best — short but distinctive,” Graeme says. “Do these sessions ‘little and often’, so your dog will be excited to start the training next time. But keep an eye on how many treats you give them.
“To make sure your dog doesn’t put on weight, think about reducing his daily feed accordingly. If you spend the extra time you have with your pet now, you’ll have a better bond and a well-behaved dog.”
Star of the week
VINNIE the Rottweiler has been busy since lockdown began.
His owner Sam Hardaker, 24, from Scarborough, North Yorks, is a team leader at supported living for adults with learning disabilities.
Sam decided to ramp up the pup’s training and though Vinnie had already nailed the basics, in recent weeks he has learned to play dead, roll over, and “sing” on command.
Sam says: “Vinnie is a clever boy and being at home was the perfect opportunity to teach him new commands.
“It’s keeping him mentally stimulated and given me something to do. Having him around always brightens my day and working to achieve more goals has made our bond even stronger.”
Our pet vet answers your questions
Sean McCormack, head vet at the tailored food firm tails.com
Karen Tully, 33, from Teddington, South West London, has a little pug called Kiki. Her dog was always a little bit too excited when her partner Craig Hughes, 33, came over to visit before lockdown.
Q) Kiki loves visitors but she would go mad when she knews that my boyfriend was at the door. We always joke that she has a crush on him. Is that possible?
A) Dogs will have individual relationship types with everyone they regularly interact with. Maybe Kiki loves the attention Craig gives her, or maybe she finds his presence in the household reassuring or comforting.
It might be a feeling your little pack is more secure with three watching out for each other rather than just two. Maybe she even likes you better in how you act towards her and Craig when he’s around.
Joan Fordyce, 60, from Forfar, Angus, has a six-year-old cat called Rosie who has been excessively grooming herself since she was on antibiotics after developing a sore on her tummy.
Q) Why is my cat grooming excessively as her lower tummy is down to bare skin and she’s also doing it to her hind legs? How can I help, before she starts on other parts of her body?
A) Over-grooming is a classic sign of stress, but you need to rule out other causes such as skin problems and fleas. The first step is to identify what might be causing Rosie stress.
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Is there another cat coming into your garden, intimidating her through the window? Sounds funny, but cats are really threatening to one another, just with eye contact. Has anything in your household changed?
You could try a plug-in pheromone diffuser such as Feliway, which can promote calmness. Competition for resources can be stressful.
Make sure you have a litter tray for each of your cats, plenty of toys, hiding, resting and feeding areas to choose from so they can have alone time too.
Win: Casper dog bed
DOES your dog need a new bed? We have three grey Casper beds up for grabs (worth up to £210) to give your pet the comfiest night’s sleep. See casper.com.
For a chance to win, send an email with SLEEP as the subject to firstname.lastname@example.org, with the size you need (small to large). T&Cs apply.
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