Level 1 of Positive Reinforcement Dog Training is very important to complete when bringing a new dog into your home.
Every dog has a different personality. In light of this fact it is also just as important to repeat this training with each additional dog you acquire so that you will have professional input regarding how to best work with that particular dog and it’s own particular ways interpreting and ultimately living in a human world.
Completion of Level 1 is critical to the long term relationship that you will form with your dog. By committing to only 10-15 minutes of ‘homework’ twice a day for two months you will both help your dog understand what you expect of it, and it will also form a bond of trust and respect between yourself and the dog. This bond of respect and trust is vital to the start of creating a well behaved dog that abides to your instructions.
Level 2 of Positive Reinforcement Dog Training continues to polish up Level 1 exercises while also extending basic Level 1 knowledge with respect to walking the dog on leash and adding distractions in all different forms. At the completion of Level 2 the dog should be able to heel well, sit upon halt and be able to amongst many other things perform a stay while the owner is out of sight. The dog should also be able to perform the sit and down both on command and with a signal only.
Level 3 of Positive Reinforcement Dog Training starts to build on performance. Dogs are introduced to obstacles to jump over on command. In Level 3 one will be required to teach their dog a personal trick – something that is not an exercise covered in class. Some examples of tricks that other’s have developed have been to turn on a radio on command, fetch a tissue from the dispenser when someone sneezes. For my dog, Murphy, I decided to teach him how to pick up an object on command. The real world application for this trick was centred around my mobility issues and the fact that, from time to time, I drop small objects like keys, cellphone, hats or gloves or the occasional remote control. It took me over 2 months to achieve my goal of getting Murphy to pick up a block of wood on command.
Level 4 Positive Reinforcement Dog Training involved off-leash work. Our dogs had to heel and sit/stay off leash. A very important aspect of this level of training was to get our dogs to drop and stay during a recall. This can be a lifesaving skill to master when working off-leash with a dog. Other class exercises included off-leash work with distractions such other dogs, people, toys etc. The intent was to develop the relationship with your dog so that it will continue to look to the handler for instruction rather then following it’s own innate desire to investigate the distraction. Obstacle courses consisting of jumps, distractions and stop/stays were also practiced off leash. We also introduced retrieving and finding objects on command.
Level 5 Positive Reinforcement Dog Training really concentrated on proofing the previous level and because I had concentrated so much on retrieving I was bumped to Level 6.
Level 6 Positive Reinforcement Dog Training focused on more retrieving, but this time we introduced scent into the equation. Dogs were directed as to how to use their noses to find specific items, ignoring other similar items and returning the target to their handler. Additional off leash work through more complex obstacle courses were completed by all attendees.
I can now use a laser pointer to direct Murphy around an area and can also use it to indicate what item I want him to retrieve.
Murphy and I continued with Rally 1 and a Trial Prep course. Though I didn’t really have any aspirations to ‘show’ Murphy at local Dog Shows I was encouraged to participate. I, however, was pursuing the training so that I would be able to enjoy a well behaved dog that could travel just about anywhere with me. Murphy and I have done some work with the Saint John’s Ambulance – Therapy Dogs program. It is very rewarding to be able to take your dog out with you to meet others and brighten up their day. The dogs certainly enjoy the change of pace and the handlers get to meet and learn from a lot of interesting people.
Beyond that, Murphy has become the ‘unofficial’ mascot of CharterAbility, where he accompanies me and passengers with disabilities on boat trips up 16 Mile Creek in Oakville. Murphy was there from the beginning of a partnership between Stephen Cull and myself to develop an accessible boat launch/docking area in Oakville, ON.
My personal experience with Tri-Mark Canine Services has been memorable. The staff were very supportive and open minded in working with Murphy as well as my particular situation. While I did elect to proceed through the completion of Level 6, I can’t stress how important it is to complete Level 1 and strongly encourage returning for Level 2.
After all the initial effort I have put into our relationship I am now the proud owner of a Wheaten Terrier that people regularly compliment me on. It is a pleasant reminder of a job well done when people routinely ask me to bring Murphy along when I go out and about.