Some helpful tips when getting back out with your dog again this summer.
Most gundogs are the extroverts of the canine world. Their original job description involves working around unknown people and dogs in a variety of country environments. These are the dogs who are most likely to be totally thrilled at being back out among friends, new smells, and new experiences. They are also the ones who, in their excitement and joy, might forget all their training!
Use toys to keep your gundog happy and avoid distractions.
Brush up on your recall and your dog’s focus on you. Don’t just let him off the lead as you have done in previous summers and expect him to come back to you. Build up to that by going right back to the beginning with your recall training — starting in the garden with short recalls with no distractions. Remember that with dogs the old adage ‘use it or lose it’ is very true and after a year of lockdown, many gundogs may well have totally lost it! Once you do get out and about, use toys, treats, and training exercises to keep your dog focused on you and having fun, and not on all the exciting things going on around him. It is often these dogs who in their love of life and everyone in it, bounce up to other dogs who are on leads or under close control. Don’t forget that for all dogs, this summer is going to bring challenges — don’t let your dog be one of them.
These are the dog whose job description involves them being very aware and potentially reactive to things that move in order to be able to chase them and round them up. For these dogs, being back out among traffic, people, cyclists, joggers, and excited children might well be overwhelming, deeply worrying, or just extremely distracting.
Training exercises can help with your dog’s focus.
Start quiet; don’t head straight off out where there is lots of noise and movement. This can be overwhelming and can easily lead to stress, fear, and reactivity. Look first for quiet parks and walks where your dog can gradually get back into the swing of being around people, dogs, and other moving, noisy objects. Give your dog something to focus on that you can reward him for — such as training exercises — and watch your dog closely to look for signs of arousal, so you can move him away before it becomes fear, reactivity, or the understandable desire to round up all the joggers and put them in one place!
These are the breeds whose original job description meant that they were never happier than when they were with their beloved humans. These dogs are usually small, highly bonded to their owner, and sometimes lacking in confidence around other people, dogs, and busy environments.
Some dogs may feel uncomfortable about close encounters with others.
No matter how much you want to visit places with lots of people, noise, and bustle, when you go out for summer outings with your dog — especially if he has been a lockdown puppy — your aim must be to avoid places or situations he is going to find worrying. Picnics in quiet areas where he can sit down beside you on the grass and watch what is going on from a safe distance can be the perfect way for him to gain confidence in the outside world while you are beside him for security.
Don’t for one minute think that guarding breeds are large, confident, aggressive dogs just waiting to fight off a burglar or an unwary delivery person. While some of these breeds are calm and confident in their behaviour, most guard because they are worried about intruders or people who may prove a threat to the people and things they hold dear.
These dogs are often watchful and alert to threat — and after a year of lockdown, things that they would have usually taken in their stride may appear threatening. Anyone who has had someone come up close behind them in a supermarket queue these past few months knows how that feels! Be your dog’s protector for the next few months — and watch for things that he might feel threatened or worried by and avoid them. Your aim is to remind him that he can relax and doesn’t have to be hyper-vigilant — and to help him feel safe in this strange new world.
Originally bred to fearlessly hunt vermin often bigger than they are, or to charge down small holes in pursuit of their prey, terriers are funny, mischievous, and engaging, but can be brave bordering on foolhardy, and feisty bordering on stroppy! Lockdown may well have exacerbated that.
Many terriers love to dig so think about building a digging pit in the garden.
These are small dogs who think big and are always looking for the next adventure. Most terrier breeds, however, were bred to hunt and work alone and so many are not very patient or friendly with other dogs. Getting back out into a world of excitement — and other dogs — could easily push these tendencies to the limit. Keep your terriers on a lead for a while when you are around other dogs, and ease them back into being social. In the meantime, give them plenty of terrier-centric activities in the garden. Consider building a digging pit in which you can hide treats and toys, or use enrichment toys to keep their smart brains and bodies occupied.
The original job description of a hound was a dog who would follow either a scent or their prey for miles without being distracted by anything going on around them. This means that if your sight hound sees a squirrel or your scent hound finds an amazing sniff, you can easily be forgotten in the thrill of the chase. For most of these dogs, recall is at best a bit of a multiple-choice question — and after a year of not being around squirrels or scents, this is going to be multiplied.
Don’t under-estimate the lure of a squirrel!
Even if your hound had a reasonable recall before the pandemic, do not expect him to still have one! If this is your first summer out and about, don’t think that the perfect recall you have at home is going to be duplicated in the great outdoors!
Practise recall in the garden first, and use a long line attached to a harness. This will take a bit of practice if you haven’t done it before and so starting in the garden, where you can safely untie your legs without embarrassment while you work it out, will be helpful! When you do go out and about, start in quiet areas and keep using your long line until you are confident that you are in a secure area with no distractions and your recall is as good as it can be. Have great treats with you and reward your dog every single time he looks at you rather than looking for squirrels or hunting for great smells.