Training Tips and Tricks Part 10 - After the Honeymoon "Food and Lead Manners"

This blog carries on from Blog 9 'After the Honeymoon'.

So your lovely easy to lead and feed hound has had a complete personality change and is now pulling at the lead and diving at his food. Arghh! What to do?

Your hound needs to learn that nothing is for free and you need to teach him how to behave in a way that will strengthen your relationship and make you a really important figure in your hound's life.

Food Manners

This is the most valuable training tool you have for food motivated hounds. Plus it enables all of them to engage their brain.

All dogs should be taught good food manners. My hounds still get super excited about every meal, however they have learnt how I want them to behave.

It is quite simple and fun to teach a hound mealtime manners. It takes patience and time which is where most humans fall over and then continue to blame the dog for his manners. All dogs learn at different rates just like people.

To start get your hound's full food bowl, walk calmly to the spot where you normally feed your dog - if you don't have a spot then establish one. Bones or treats can be used and if you have more than one dog feed them separately to start with. If your hound jumps at you or gets in your way then just stop until he stops, and then carry on walking.

Once at the feed spot, stop until your hound stands still. Slowly lower the bowl. As soon as your hound makes a move towards the bowl, simply lift it back up. Repeat, repeat, repeat and repeat some more. Don't talk to him, let him engage his brain, don't look at his face, watch his feet. You are wanting your hound to stay put while you lower the bowl.

Timing is everything in this exercise. You are clearly telling him that if he walks towards the bowl while you are still holding it, you are going to take it away.

On the first day with this exercise you want to get the bowl to its resting spot for a split second then immediately use a release word (I use 'okay'). Carry on for a couple of days, with your goal being able to place the bowl and stand up fully, then 'release' your hound. This is when the timing of your actions really need to be clear. As you stand up watch your hound's feet, if they move towards the bowl, lower your hand back down towards the bowl and take it back. Stand up and move away slightly to get your hound slightly away from the bowl too - then start again.

This exercise sounds more onerous than it actually is in practice and once you have the basics the sky is the limit. What you should aim for is being able to put the bowl down and have your hound wait to be released.

You can then extend the time that he has to wait - if you want to! Like hounds all people are different. Think about how you want your hound to behave then start a regime to teach him.

Once your hound has earned his dinner, leave him alone to eat it - you don't like being interrupted while eating do you? Therefore it is important that your hound's eating spot is in an area of your property that he can be safely left alone.


Lead horrors

So your hound has relaxed a bit and is now feeling confident and ready to explore his surroundings, with no concern about your feelings on the matter. Before I move on from this, if you have a hound that's a bit scared of the big wide world then check out this blog for some tips.

With new lead deviance if you are quick to respond it is quite easily fixed. If your hound starts pulling simply stop and wait until he's not and then carry on. He needs to learn that if he is pulling he doesn't get a walk - which is what he wants. You need to have some patience and not worry about looking silly on the side of the road. Teach him 'stop' - see my previous training blog here, it is good for him to know and enables you to add another string to your bow in communicating with him.

Turn your daily walks into an 'improving communication' session. For example, your hound is starting to get ahead of you and you can see that tension on the leash increasing. Think 'what do I want my hound to do?' I am assuming here that you want your hound to walk calmly on a lead and not pull you down the street.  So your hound is about to pull on the leash, make a silly noise and change direction, get your hounds attention on you and then run off. Praise him for coming with you and arming yourself with some tasty treats to really reinforce his good behaviour goes a long way. And, you guessed it, repeat!

When we are out walking I have got into the habit of making what can only be a kissing (blergh) noise. But my hounds know that if I do this I am going to change direction and they need to watch me to see what direction to take. My advice here would be pick a better noise!

Do not wait until you are being dragged down the street and things have gone from bad to worse. Before (or if) you are really struggling, then ask a positive trainer to help you one-on-one.

Dogs are adaptable, I have read that they are the only animal to have domesticated themselves, they cope amazingly well with change if it is done in a clear and consistent way for them. 


Happy Training!

Bec, Priceless & Blondie.

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