March 31, 2020


Let’s talk about Perch for a minute.  I hope you’re all working through Steps 1 and 2 with some success.  Although you can use a little bit of what I call social pressure (in other words moving into the dog’s space to get movement) be careful that you are not moving too close to the dog.  You want the dog to realise that moving his back feet is getting the reward, not moving away from you.  You only need to mark tiny movements of the back feet at first so don’t expect too much.  This is the video I took of Bo this afternoon.  She is almost there.


I hope you’ve had a chance to get your obstacle course started.  The first attempt at my course was a bit messy so I cut it down to the two obstacles that my dogs were having the most difficulty with – the jump and the tunnel.  I focussed on getting the jump right first and then the tunnel and finally got them together.


Using food lures to get behaviour is the quickest way to get behaviour for the novice trainer.  The problem with using food is that the food tends to become part of the cue. But the great thing about using food lures is that there is a hand signal built-in which becomes a cue by itself.  When your dog is responding to the hand signal adding a verbal cue is simple.  However, most people tend to say the word while giving the hand signal.  Because dogs do not use language to communicate, as we do, the hand signal dilutes the word to the extent that the dog does not even register it.  So the best way to add a verbal cue is to have the word stand out.  Say the word “Down” first before giving the hand signal.  You can eventually fade the hand signal so that only the verbal cue remains.  In this video I’m teaching Fen the verbal cue for a down from the stand.


This is a lovely exercise that I’m teaching my Therapy Dog students at the moment.  Apart from making it easier for people in wheelchairs to pet the therapy dog, it is also a very useful skill when checking dogs’ ears, eyes and teeth.  It is a targeting exercise where you set up the environment for success and then gradually step by step shape the dog for placing his chin on the towel.  Have a look at this demo video to get an idea of what to do.  Tomorrow I’ll work through the exercise step by step with you.

That’s all for today folks.  Happy lockdown and successful training.


March 30, 2020


Yesterday you worked on Step 1 of Perch work.  Your dog should be stepping up onto the perch and be making eye contact with you.  Step Two is getting your dog to pivot through 360 degrees by moving his hind legs.

Step 2:  Start the session by rewarding your dog for stepping up and making eye contact a couple of times.  Then, start moving, one step at a time, anti-clockwise around the perch.  In order to maintain eye contact with you, your dog will start moving his back legs to maintain his position in relation to you.  Mark and Reward this hind leg movement, gradually raising criteria until you are getting a number of steps around the perch.  This will probably take four or five sessions.

I would like to challenge those handlers whose dogs are familiar with Perch to pivot clockwise instead of counter-clockwise, or vice-versa.   Dogs have a right/left bias so it might be more difficult for them to pivot in the contrary direction.  Try it and let me know how you got on.


The other challenge was to construct an obstacle course for your dog.  This is mine.


I tried it out today briefly and looking forward to tackling it in the morning.  Collect a variety of objects that are commonly found in your home and use your imagination.


If you have an old muffin or cupcake pan and some tennis balls you might like to try this with your dog.   Dogs who love to fetch balls are particularly good at this one.





March 29, 2020

Welcome back!  I hope you enjoyed our Day Two Challenges.  We will go back to the Down a little later in the challenges, so please keep practising.  For today’s challenge, we are visiting a wonderful little skill that has many applications.  I call it “Perch”.

Dash on Perch

This is a great game not only for teaching your pup about hind leg awareness, but it is also an essential tool if you are to teach your dog orientation in the heel position.  You can use any object for the perch such as an upturned basin, a stack of large books, a wooden box.  Once you have your perch the idea is to teach your dog to place his front paws on the perch, and then move clockwise and anti-clockwise around the perch using only his hind legs.  You can also use the “Perch” to teach your dog to pivot into heel position – but more of this later.

Step 1:  Basic perch work – Step up.  Using a raised surface that is no more than 15 cm off the ground and no more than 30 cm in diameter either lure or shape the dog to place his front paws on the perch.  Feed him three or four treats while in this position, and then toss a treat off the perch to get him off so that he can get on again.  Repeat this exercise three or four times in a session.  Repeat this session until the dog is offering putting his paws on the perch.

Step 2:  Once he is doing this confidently wait with your Mark and Reward until he is making eye contact with you and with his front paws remaining on the perch.  Reward for eye contact three or four times.  Repeat this over two or three sessions.

Your Perch challenge for today is to get your dog to step up onto the perch object and stay there, making eye contact for a couple of seconds.  We will talk about the next steps on Day Four.

For the students that have taught their dogs to pivot counter-clockwise through 360 degrees, I challenge you to now pivot clockwise through 360 degrees.

I would also like to challenge you to construct an indoor (or outdoor) obstacle course for your dog to negotiate.  You can use up-turned chairs or tables to form a tunnel, plastic basins to climb onto and into, a collection of smaller items to weave around.  Be creative.

I’ll post a video later on with my obstacle course.  What fun!!!

You might also want to find out more about Marker/Clicker Training so you can read about it here. and here.

Happy Training everyone!  Don’t forget to put some videos and pictures on our group page on Facebook.  Louise’s Lockdown Dog Training Challenges.










March 28, 2020

Good Day on this the second day of South Africa’s Lockdown.  Your challenges for today are:

Down:  When dogs get the hang of this skill it becomes one of their favourite tricks.  Getting your dog to lie down using a food lure is pretty straightforward although the problems arise when you do away with the food lure.  Obviously, you won’t always have food in your hand to lure your dog into a down so you want to get rid of the food lure as soon as possible.  I’ll post a video of my pup Bo lying down with a food lure and then just using a hand signal on my YouTube channel and send you the link in my next post.  In the meantime this is a very good video to watch.

I’m using a clicker to mark the moment Bo’s elbows touch the ground.  You can use a marker word as well such as “Good” or “Yes”.  The problem with using food lures is that the food in the hand becomes part of the cue.  The beauty of using a food lure is that there is always a hand signal built-in.  And once the dog learns the hand signal adding the verbal cue is easy.  The progressions look like this.

Down Progressions

“But, my dog already lies down on cue…”  you may say.

If your dog’s down is already on cue (under stimulus control) then you will need to proof it.  You’ll do this by asking your dog to lie down in every room in your home first of all, and in the garden as well.

How did this go?  Can your dog respond to the verbal cue “Down” in the kitchen, the living room, the front porch/verandah, the bedroom?  If so, then well done!  And, if this went well, you can try another of my challenges – and that is a Speed Trial.  How many times can your dog lie down in response to the word “Down” in 30 seconds?  Get a family member to help with the timing and the counting.  Big applause from all if you got 7 or more repetitions.

Summary of challenges – dependent on level for Day Two:

Beginner Level:  Down with a hand signal only.  The reward is given after the dog is lying down.

Intermediate Level:  Down with a verbal cue.

Advanced Level:  Seven or more cued “Downs” in 30 seconds.




March 27, 2020

Here in South Africa to minimize the spread of the Coronavirus our population is in lockdown for 21 days.  The bad news for pet owners is that there is to be no walking of dogs outside your property, no classes to attend and no gathering of like-minded doggy people.  The good news is that this is an opportunity to brush up on some basic skills and to learn new ones – all in the comfort of your home and garden.

To make it easier for you to stick to the programme I will be issuing a couple of training challenges every day of lockdown.  There will be some really basic ones to get the ball rolling with progressively more difficult and complex challenges as we move along.  You will progress at your own rate and I will be providing some training notes and tips along the way, together with videos.

If you are keen to join me in this initiative (which is free) please put your name in the Comment section together with your country of residence.  I will be launching a Facebook page (Louise’s Lockdown Dog Training Challenges) for any members to post videos of their successes and get help with any problems they come across with the challenges.  You can also add any of your own challenges.  My wish is for you and your dog, as well as members of your family, to have fun with this as well as provide mental stimulation for all of you in the days and weeks ahead.

Above all stay safe!

Training a Gundog Using Food Rewards

March 3, 2020

Louise's Dog Blog

Some Observations

Ruby and Fern (Sue Brundrett) Ruby and Fern (Sue Brundrett)

Many gundog trainers resist using food rewards when training their gundogs. Until your retriever has realised the value of expressing her innate desire to retrieve and you, as a trainer, have taught her self control around the things that she wants, food is the most desirable and the most convenient reinforcer available in the early days. But simply using food to reward desired responses is only a small part of the picture…

Using food, toys and praise is all about building a bond association with a puppy. As the training progresses the dog works with you, not against you. You become a team working together, using motivation not force. This relationship makes training easy in terms of the dog understanding what you want and trying hard to offer you behaviour you like. Positive training is about the big picture, relationship, motivation and association…

View original post 271 more words

%d bloggers like this: