Training Tips


Irene's training Tips for The Lowchen Club of NSW Newsletter. Nov., 2008, p. 3.

You all know I attempt to do Obedience Trialling with my little Lowchen lady - and so I have been asked to include something about obedience in our newsletter.  As I am new to the sport of obedience training I am reluctant to be telling people what to do with their dogs but I shall try to make one constructive suggestion per newsletter re the relationship between a dog and it's handler - and so just really offer a training tip.  This time I shall try to explain the importance of "heel".

HEEL is a position for a dog to be in relation to you.  It is on your left side at your leg.  Your dog may sit at heel, walk at heel, run at heel, stand at heel, drop at heel, wait at heel, stay at heel, work at heel or come to heel.  Heel is the most important position for a dog to know. Initially your dog may be assisted to become familiar with the heel position with guidance - using the lure of a treat and may later be introduced to a collar and lead.  Heel is the position where the dog is entitled to feel most secure.   It follows that no unpleasantness should ever befall a dog at heel.   It is the position the dog should like to be in.  It is there that your dog believes itself to be safe.  It is there that the dog is rewarded for being in relation to the handler.   A dog will certainly welcome a smalll soft food treat as reward for being or working at heel and with this inducement will learn more rapidly where heel is - and it's importance to a canine's career and safety.  Are you wondering why the reward needs to be "a small soft food treat" - so the dog can eat it quickly, is not distracted from working by having to deal with a hard chewy meal, and so you may weight watch in the interest of your companion animal.  Eventually your dog may become so familiar with the heel position that he can heel free and work at your left near your leg without need  for a collar and lead.  Then you can both proudly strut your stuff together. 

There are several aspects about heeling to be considered.  "Heel" is, also, a verbal command from handler to dog to inform a stationary dog they are about to step it out together.  A hand signal may be introduced to accompany the verbal command to "heel".  In every Obedience Ring each dog and its handler is required to execute a heeling pattern.   The patterns have varying degrees of difficulty to cater for beginners ranging through to proficient working partners.   In the Conformation Rings forward of the heel position and to the front of the handler is the preferred position for dogs showing off to their best advantage. Happy heeling in all rings until next time.



 "Loving the Lead" .

Irene's training Tips for The Lowchen Club of NSW Newsletter. March 2009, p. 4

A teacher in secondary school was determined to impress on our unscientific teenage minds that, "To every action there is an equal and opposite reaction".  I have seen that scientific fact in the actions of well-put-together dogs who were being shown to their disadvantage.  Beautiful dogs were being tugged into imbalance by rigid tight leads.  The essential mantra for lead work is, "loose lead, loose lead, loose lead".  I must confess to finding lead work in the Obedience ring much easier for me to manage than in the show ring.  I do an involuntary tighten-up for conformation - nevertheless I know I am not doing my dog injustice.

A loose lead in either ring is a great asset.  Relax the lead - you relax the dog - and you relax yourself.  Now a loose lead is not a given.  It is never a gift or a bit of good luck.  Having a dog on a loose lead is a learned behaviour for both dog and handler.  It is achieved.  To attain a loose-lead relationship requires regular practice together with generous praise and ample rewards when progress is achieved.  Decide in which proximity to yourself you want your dog to work - slightly forward of you for the showring - or at heel for obedience work - and work together to achieve it.  Let your dog know where you want him to be.  Make it a rewarding place for him to be - with a treat in your fingers for him to access if he is in the right spot - as sporadic inducement.

Practise regularly together.  Only practice will make perfect.  There is greater gain to be made from five minutes everyday rather than from half an hour once a week.  Loose lead work is a relationship between the dog and the handler.  It is team work - so work together diligently to become that team.  We have all heard old hands at the game advising that "nervousness goes down the lead to the dog".  There is no doubt about it.   It does.  (If you work in both rings you may use different collars and "invest" time in teaching different commands to "cue" your dog differently depending on which ring you are in [If you are so inclined]).  In either discipline taut leads = tension (for both dog and handler). Relax the lead so you can relax the dog.  Relax the dog so you may be more relaxed.  Remenber (for us) the friends it is most enjoyable to spend time with are those we can relax with - and it is the same for our dogs.  Given a loose lead a dog can exercise a balanced gait to his/her best/better advantage for us.  Let your dog learn to love the lead as well as the person on the end of it.  May your lead become your conduit of confidence between you and your dog.  Remember you are your dog's emotional anchor. Irene Bilney.



“'Leave'  Well Alone – and Live".

Irene's training Tips for The Lowchen Club of NSW Newsletter. [not published]


Our local park is sectioned into distinct zones.  Each zone has its users.  Users zealously enforce their rights.  Interlopers defiantly ignore the social constructs.  Ours is an off-lead park with a central oval, a surrounding bike path, a children's playground and a BBQ area with picnic tables and benches.  Dogs are not welcome on the oval, the bike path, in the playground, or around the BBQ areas – my dogs and I can comply with those restrictions readily enough.


In our local park these are cherished “zones “ - each populated by devotees and detractors – and I am both – depending on the part of the park I am visiting.  In reality if dogs venture onto the oval during a “match/game” a fine may be exacted from the owner – I just can't afford such delinquent expenses.  Bikes and dogs don't mix so it makes sense to keep my fore-footed family away from the cyclists. I have no qualms with the playground equipment being a dedicated kid zone – where dogs keep out.  Dogs are denied closer access than 30 metres to the eating areas.  My chief agony is caused by the users of the BBQ parts of the park.


To ignore the aroma of cooking flesh is a big ask of a dog – but I do ask it – in fact expect – and demand – and train for it.  In this part of the park I sometimes employ those two magic words “come” and “heel”.  You may have become familiar with the use of these words in previous newsletters. When you are walking the dog you may even automatically carry pockets of the ready rewards our dogs love to work for – knowing we will generously dispense  doggy delights in response to their spontaneous obedience. Maybe you just automatically do this already - maybe you are still to develop this habit – but hopefully you will learn to do so - as a learning incentive – for the love of your dog.


In the BBQ area of our park “heel” and “come” commands do not  suffice – because they aren't enough to keep the dogs out of trouble.  Regrettably the dog's arsenal of words is incomplete for dealing with the behaviour of some of the picnickers in the BBQ part of the park.  The picknicking people I like least are  those who exhibit disregard for me and my dogs.  They mean well and persist in wanting “to feed the doggie” - enticing any dog with offerings of food – often with the most undesirable tidbits – cooked chop bones or roasted chicken on the bone, bread, cakes, or even sweets.  I cannot dispel that sort of aberrant behaviour – I can only train my dog to withstand such well-meaning, ignorant generosity.  The magic word is “leave”.  In the BBQ areas of our local park my dogs learn to “leave” food which I don't want them to have. They , also learn to “leave” off behaving in a manner I deem to not be in their best interests – accepting food from strangers.


Try starting to train your dog to “leave” at the dog's meal time.  When serving your dog's dinner – “sit” your dog – “stay” your dog for a short period – telling your dog to “leave” the meal (only for a moment or two at first) – physically and verbally reassure your dog – and give praise to your dog for doing what you ask – ultimately reward your dog by giving permission to your dog to eat.  By working at this over time – (and it takes time) – and by gradually extending the “leave” time you are ensuring a safer life style for your dog in relationship to her/his environment and averting the stranger danger which exists for dogs.


In one of the obedience rings “food refusal” is an optional activity.  It is a very formally constructed trial of literally putting temptation under the dog's nose.  The dog is tempted with three different (and often enticing) offerings of food – which are to be resisted by the dog – in order to repeatedly gain passable marks for this exercise towards a Utility Dog title.  It is not an activity which my “No Nickers Nellie” C.D.X. and I do not elect to do in out training and trialling towards a U.D. - but it is a skill and a legitimate dimension in a dog sport.  It's a long hard haul for a dog to master the exactitude demanded for that ring – and hats off to the persistent handlers and insightful trainers who succeed in persuading their dogs to perform with the precision required to “leave” at U.D. level.  It still remains for a Lowchen to break through that U.D. glass ceiling in Australia.


While a U.D. suffixed to your dog's name is a prestigious plus I believe there are more crucial motives for teaching your dog to “leave”.   To “leave” chocolate or any of the others dietary  no-nos


for doggies is an investment in your dog's gastronomic best interests.  If your dog will “leave” an object which may endanger your pet pal – like litter around public rubbish receptacles (with lingering food fragrances), a “salmonellared” sausage, another dog's meal or treat, or the ultimate threat – a bait – that is a huge bonus in learned of behaviour.  There are animals, too, which provide real reasons for your dog to master the “leave” habit .  It may only be that pesky pup in the group line-up that you'd prefer left to itself.  It could be a clawing cat but it may, in reality, be a creature with actual life-threatening capacity – that heavy-weight aggro animal which descends from any number of the bigger canine breeds – or more sinister still a snake or a spider.  “Leave” becomes your insurance policy against other people feeding your dog without your permission – an essential rule of thumb for dogowners who must monitor the eating habits of a pet smitten with allergies or suffering from pancreatitis.   Do you love your dog sufficiently to take the time to work with your canine companion to give ample opportunity for your furred friend to learn to “leave” well alone – and live its doggie life to the fullest?   If you can manage to teach your dog to “leave” you are increasing its safety and ultimate well-being.  If your dog learns to respond to your command/request/suggestion to “leave” - that leaving may one day save your dog's life.


'll take my leave now and let you read the rest of this newsletter. Cheers for the remainder of 2009 Irene 06-02-09.


Contact Details

Irene Bilney
Richmond 3121, VIC, Australia
Phone : 03 94281201
Email : [email protected]