Sophie is a teenager.
She is friendly and fearless and a perfect companion for the widowed lady apart from the two things I was called out for.
The gorgeous little Lhasa Apso mix is eight months old. Where on walks she never goes far when off lead and willingly comes back when called, on the few occasions when she has managed to get out of either the front door or the garden gate she has run off down the road, totally deaf to any calls to come back. It is only by luck that she’s not ended up under a car.
When the lady has people to stay, they are not always careful or quick enough to shut the front door and Sophie squeezes out. She has also climbed over the garden gate which is now fixed.
I suggested that she shouldn’t rely totally on the training and when she has people staying with her that she puts a child gate in the inner porch doorway, to make doubly sure that people are reminded to be careful about not letting Sophie through. Already she has learnt to hang back in the hall when the lady opens the door to someone and she will build on that. As with everything, playing safe is always best.
We took a whistle out into the fairly large garden having already taught Sophie indoors that one blow on the whistle means she gets something tasty. The lady smiled to see how, when she whistled, the little dog turned immediately and came racing back to her – ears flapping and tail wagging!
It’s important for now that Sophie is only whistled when it’s certain she will come until an automatic response is established and that it’s not over-used so she becomes immune to it.
We also called ‘Sophie – Come’ from one to another of us in the house, and she ran back and forth for a reward. (The lady was another person who didn’t realise that the tone of her call was nowhere near sufficiently bright and interesting to penetrate a dog’s mind if she’s busy doing something else).
The other issue is that neighbouring cats use her garden as a toilet and like many dogs Sophie finds what cats produce irresistible. The lady will chase Sophie around the garden to take it off her – a losing battle! In a way this is part of the same problem – ignoring being called.
In the garden we also rehearsed a cat-poo exercise. First thing in the morning when most of it is about, the lady will put Sophie on a retractable lead to go on ‘cat poo patrol’ armed with whistle and poo bags. Sophie can find it for her! This is made easier by the little dog having a ritual whereby when she finds some she will first roll on the ground nearby. The lady can whistle her and as soon as she comes back, feed her something extra special. If she doesn’t come immediately, then she can be reeled in. The lead handle can then be hooked over something while she collects the mess or she drops another piece of food on the ground while she picks it up with a poo bag.
Each time the dog hasn’t been outside for a while the lady can repeat this exercise. It may be a nuisance but not so bad as trying to retrieve the unmentionable from a little dog who is running off with her treasure! Eventually she shouldn’t need the lead anymore and will learn just to come away – though unless she grows out of it, it may be too much to expect her to resist if out there alone!
NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’, but I choose an angle. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Sophie. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good. One size does not fit all. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Get Help page).