Yesterday the weather broke from the rain we’ve been having so it was perfect to get out and make sure everyone, including me, got much needed exercise and fresh air. In the middle of my run, I stopped at a ditch to let Alba run back and forth in it and enjoy splashing. I love her smile when she does this and I love that her recall is getting so good that I can let her off leash and give her this freedom to just be a dog and splash in the mud a bit.
Then we got home from our run, the neighbor dog wanted to play frisbee. Once that was over, everyone was ready for some rest. Now we are watching a mix of snow, sleet and rain from our window – wishing for some blue skies!
I work from home and I travel for work. When I am home, Archer and Alba have learned my schedule (or maybe they have created it for me). Every evening at 5:30 they come running together upstairs to my office and get me for training time! Well.. I call it training time but I’m sure to them it is just fun play.
I don’t know a lot about training and I am absolutely not an experienced trainer, but over the years I have spent a lot of time consulting with trainers and reading and watching online videos. Ever since I was a young child I wanted to train dogs more than anything! I never took the dog training path professionally, but I do like to think the effort of learning what I can has paid off. I am quite proud of how well behaved my dogs are in general.
Now the 5:30 training time is a part of the day and it keeps me disciplined to take a break from work every day (even if I need to log back in and finish a few things up in the evening). If the weather is nice we’ll go outside and practice with the frisbee or a ball. It’s not just throwing the toy and letting them retrieve it repeatedly, but I use the toy as the reward for practicing all the tricks they know and to learn knew things. They have to sit, lay down, sit from a lay, give a paw, heel, sit and stay, go around me and run through my legs, play dead … all kinds of things and in all sorts of variations. Sometimes instead of fetch we’ll do tug as the reward. It’s super fun and they are always so calm and happy after we have had our training time.
If the weather isn’t good, we can do the same thing in the living room but the fetch is very modified. I get them to sit in front of me and they take turns with catch. I say the name of the dog that gets the toy and that’s the dog that gets it! A while ago I had a young child visiting and loved the dogs so I taught this to her. She entertained herself and the dogs for an hour tossing the ball at each of them back and forth. I definitely don’t recommend this with other dogs in the house that are not familiar with the game. Collisions are not fun and cause severe dog face injuries when they both go for the ball at the same time. They have learned to take turns and it works so well – lots of fun.
Spending daily time with the dogs not only makes them happy and calm but it is good for me to break away from work. I love our daily training time!
Alba is a German Shepherd from a working line of Shepherds from Eastern Europe.
Archer is a Catahoula Cur, the breed is the state dog of Louisiana – they were bred for hunting hogs in the swamps.
Alba and Archer are beautiful, energetic, fun-loving, intelligent dogs – both are capable of making our lives amazing or miserable! To make sure we have an amazing life with these gorgeous dogs, we live by a simple rule of “Inside Dog, Outside Dog”. This means when the dogs are inside, they know acceptable calm behavior and when we are outside, their boundaries are extended and acceptable energy release levels are much higher.
It took my husband and I time to both agree on these levels of energy for Inside Dog, Outside Dog, but we did agree and have given way to some compromise. For example, Archer is incredible at rough-house and play then switching in an instant to calm, cool and collected. It’s very remarkable. I use to get annoyed with him allowing Archer to rough-play with him in the house, but I’ve learned it’s perfectly fine with Archer as long as Alba is distracted with something else. She has not yet learned to turn it off as well as him.
The key to making all of this work is to be disciplined at making sure both dogs get the level of exercise and stimulation that they need … every single day. We cannot and do not miss a day. The dogs get so excited when we get their harnesses – makes it really easy for us to put them on and our outings are fun for everyone. Then when we come in the house, they are calm and the house is a nice place to be. I love having friends over for dinner – they always compliment the dogs.