I was in Dawsonville last Monday with a new Home Dog Training client and his six-month-old Golden Retriever named Charlie. We focused our training on counter surfing, jumping, lack of focus, pulling on the leash, and charging the door. After several hours, Charlie was completely under control and my client understood exactly what he needed to do in order to maintain Charlie’s obedient behavior. He was very happy with the results and had one more question before I left for the day.
He had a three-year-old son who wasn’t there that day. His son and Charlie really liked each other. He wanted to be sure that he was doing everything possible to have them continue to have a great relationship and be “best friends forever”. He went on to tell me that some of his friends are afraid of dogs because of incidents that took place when they were young with either a family dog or a stray on the street. He just wanted to do the right thing for Charlie and his young son…
I first provided him with the “universal observation” that all young boys and puppies naturally gravitate towards each other in a playful and loving way. They are two very similar creatures. Both are full of energy, want to play and run, and trust just about everything and everyone. The goal is to build on these qualities in such a way that his son and Charlie remain aligned with these natural tendencies as they both mature over time. This will focus around enhancing their sense of bonding, endearing friendship, mutual respect, and understanding of rules and boundaries.
Note to all my readers, I want to clearly state that you should never leave small children and dogs alone. It is critical that you stay in control of the situation no matter how well you may believe they are getting along. Just one quick nip or paw swipe can leave scars and fear.
Now, let’s continue my discussion with my client, his young son, and their puppy…
The first thing that needs to take place is to have his son and his puppy mutually respect each other. This will allow them to easily establish a natural bond of friendship and focused understanding. I have found that the best way to establish this is through the “walking exercise”. To be clear, they don’t have to go on long walks, short walks will suffice. The goal is to have them doing something together where both need to provide coordinated input.
To start this process, Charlie needs to understand the concept of “walkies”. This does not begin with my client’s three-year-old son; it starts with my client. He needs to have Charlie calmly walk by his side while providing him with respectful focus. I strongly recommend that he walk Charlie with a harness that hooks in the front (i.e. Easy Walk Harness), standard collar, and six-foot leash. The leash should be attached to both the harness and collar.
My client will start out by walking Charlie in the house and then proceeding to the back yard. While walking, Charlie should be focused on my client, not pulling on the leash, or having his nose in the ground constantly “sniffing for stuff”. He must be on a loose leash and continually focused on my client waiting for direction. He should be meeting these “walking goals” for several weeks before there can be a “handoff to his son”.
Once Charlie is well behaved, obedient, and focused while walking, it is time to take the next step in the “Charlie and his son relationship process”. Charlie should be wearing his harness and collar. Instead of the six-foot leash, I want my client to attach a twenty-foot training lead to both the collar and harness. The twenty-foot-training lead will help with some safety issues we will get to shortly.
We are going to start this process inside. Charlie will be with my client in the room with his collar, harness, and twenty-foot training lead attached. Next, have a family member bring the son into the room and up to Charlie. The son should now calmly pet Charlie for several minutes to allow them to peacefully greet each other and create a stable environment.
I then told my client that another family member should now approach his son and Charlie with a “short leash” (I suggest a leash that is three to four feet long.) His son should slowly attach the short leash to the harness and collar. (Both the twenty-foot training lead and short leash are now attached to Charlie. The reason I suggest the shorter leash is because it is going to be for his young son. I don’t want a lot of “extra leash” dragging on the ground and possibly tripping him.)
His son should be holding the short leash and he should be slightly behind his son holding (as much as needed of) the twenty-foot training lead. He is behind his son with the training lead to help in the correction process, if needed.
Start to have the young son walk Charlie. He can start by saying “Let’s go”, give the leash a slight tug, and move off in one direction. If Charlie starts to misbehave in any way, the young son should give the leash a slight tug. If needed, my client can also give the leash a slight tug. Charlie should feel the tug and look back at my client’s son. No matter who corrected Charlie with the tug of the leash, Charlie perceives that it came from the son.
The “walk” should be more of “a wander about” than a “perfect walk”. The goal of this exercise is to have Charlie understand that he is with my client’s son and for my client’s son to confidently feel that he can control Charlie. Again, this activity is creating confidence and establishing a respectful bond between Charlie and my client’s young son.
My client should allow his son to walk with Charlie in any direction the son desires. He should only intervene if he needs to enhance his son’s correction/direction process (tugging on the leash) if Charlie is not paying attention. Again, he is following his son while holding the twenty-foot training lead. When he gives the correction tug, Charlie will believe it is coming from his son.
Through this entire process, my client should be telling his son what a great job he is doing and how he is such a great dog owner. He should encourage his son to stop from time to time, pet Charlie and praise him with a high pitched “Good Doggie”.
My client, Charlie, and his son should practice the walkies exercise several times a day in short intervals of about five to ten minutes each.
This is just one exercise that my client can perform to build up the lasting bond between his child and their puppy. Other exercises such as “Come”, “Sit”, and “Stay” can also be performed along with the “Walkies” exercise. We all remember that idealistic image of the little boy; fishing poll in hand and his dog by his side, walking down a dirt road to their favorite fishing spot. This is what we are trying to accomplish here.
Please call or text us at (770) 718-7704 if you need any dog training help. You can also email us at [email protected]. We are blessed to have been your local dog training experts for over eighteen years. We have trained over 6,000 wonderful dogs and great families and are ready to help you.