A few days ago we were over in Canton working with a new Home Dog Training client and his two-year-old Labrador Retriever named Betty. The main problems that he needed to be resolved were dog socialization and food aggression. It turned out that the “food aggression” was really “begging at the table”. We took care of that in no time.
He had arranged for his neighbor to bring over his Boynton Spaniel so we could observe the “socialization issue” in order to fix it. It quickly became apparent that Betty “just wanted to play”. My client wasn’t giving her the opportunity to play with his neighbor’s dog and for them “just to be playful dogs”. After about thirty minutes of socialization exercises, we let them loose and they “played like dogs love to play”. My client was excited with the results and grateful to learn that Betty was “just a happy dog”.
It was that moment when my client’s young son came running through the family room and out to the pool. “I believe that I have one more dog training problem that I hope you can help me with! It would be great if Betty could be in the pool when the family was in the pool. The problem is she gets so crazy and we have no way of controlling her. What can we do to have a great pool time with the family and include Betty as well?”
Robin and I have often found that our most effective dog training tips come directly from our own experiences as dog owners. Two of our dogs simply love the pool. On top of that, these two dogs are naturally hyper and always going “one hundred miles an hour”.
For Robin and myself to have a “survivable” pool time, we needed to establish a “manageable association” that we could then transfer to the pool. This is something that we initially create and maintain while away from the pool and then transfer to the pool. You could think of this concept in the sense of “calm there”, “calm here”. Our goal was to create a situation where we could be in the pool and our dogs could calmly be around and in the pool.
Both of our dogs love to play fetch, so we decided to control the “fetch process” with our dogs in such a way that “fetch” was a calm and respectful time where they were required to provide us with dutiful focus and total obedience. Once this was accomplished, we would transfer the “fetch activity” to the pool. Since we had established that “Fetch” required a disposition of “cool, calm, and collected”, once we had transferred “Fetch” to the pool area, they could continue to remain “cool, calm, and collected”.
We started to practice the exercise while we were in the same vicinity of the pool. The goal of the activity was to manage how they returned the fetch toy to us. They had to be calm, and they had to drop the fetch toy at our feet. On top of that, they had to sit at our feet and provide us with respectful focus. They could not move unless we released them, or we threw the fetch toy for them again.
Once we had mastered the fetch game and they were calm when they brought the fetch toy to us, we would be ready to move on “to the pool”!
Since being in the water heightened our dogs’ excitement, it was critical that we proceeded slowly and directly. We started the “pool process” by standing in the pool on the first step in the shallow end. Our dogs were still out of the pool. We would then begin the fetch game from there. During this phase of our process, we were still throwing the fetch toy to a point away from the pool.
We would work on the exercise until our dogs could calmly retrieve the fetch toy, drop it at the edge of the pool, and then calmly wait for us to toss the fetch toy again. This was the first step in keeping them calm while we were in the pool.
We continued to practice the fetch game while we were on the first step for the next several days until our dogs were completely calm and focused on us while we were in the pool (but only on the first step of the shallow end). After a few days, we began to “ramp up the process” to create a more “real world situation” of “I am in the pool, and you are around the pool and calm”.
Over the next several days, we would repeat the fetch game with our dogs, but we would slowly step lower and lower into the pool. We would try and remain as close to the side of the pool as possible. While performing this exercise, we were very mindful of our dogs’ nature.
If we saw any heightened adrenaline or lack of focus, we would stop the exercise. We would wait for about ten to fifteen minutes to “allow things to settle down”. We would then continue the fetch exercise, but we would “back up a bit” and start on a higher step or farther into the shallow end. From our dogs’ point of view, this gave us a more dominant stance. We continued this for a few days until we could be anywhere in the pool, threw the fetch toy for our dogs, and they would calmly return it to the side of the pool.
We were now ready to change where we were throwing the fetch toy. Instead of throwing the fetch toy away from the pool, we started to throw the fetch toy in the pool.
We returned to the top step of the shallow end stairs. We also hooked leashes on our dogs in case we needed to help them out of the pool. We started by throwing the fetch toy about five feet from us in the water. We encouraged our dog’s to get the toy and calmly return it to us. We would have them get up on the shallow end step, drop the toy, and calmly sit.
We continued this process and slowly extended the distance we would throw the fetch toy. This continued until we could throw the fetch toy to the other end of the pool and they would calmly retrieve it. If, at any time, they started to “act up”, we would pause the exercise for ten to fifteen minutes and have them calmly remain out of the pool. We then started the process again, but decreased the “fetch distance”.
Once our dogs were calmly playing fetch with us in the pool, we began to add other family members into the pool. They would slowly become more animated but not become “overly crazy”. During this time, we continued playing Fetch with our dogs.
We had now achieved our goal. Our dogs were playing with us in the pool with our family members.
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 excellent families and are ready to help you.