“Virtual” Dog Training

Dog Training

As several countries, including the United Kingdom, gradually relax their “lockdown” restrictions (albeit with distinct differences across our constituent nations…), it is worth reflecting that although many businesses have sadly had to suspend or severely curtail their physical operations as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, a fair number [including us, here at The Dog House Rules www.thedoghouserules.co.uk ] have been able to continue in the “virtual” space.

Education and training is a key area of course, where there is already a vast range of material available online and providers focused on physical delivery have moved quickly to add to this. This includes “live” conferences in our own canine world for instance, offering wider access and additional features in the process.

Dog (and other animal…) training itself may not be an obvious candidate for “virtual” delivery, given the traditional view of how it has operated in-person, through classes or private sessions.

However, taking dog training online is not merely feasible, it actually has a number of benefits for the client, the dog and the trainer. Of course, there are various aspects to be considered, but we are likely to see an ongoing and sustained shift towards this mode of delivery.

“Virtually” the Same…

There are elements of dog training and behaviour services that clearly cannot be done online, such as training your dog for you through options like Day Training and/or “Walk & Train” (see note below) or that may be inappropriate for safety reasons, such as bite aggression directed towards the handler. Most of the time, however, we are in “coaching” mode, teaching the owner and potentially other family members how to train their dog and design their own training sessions, whether it is foundation behaviours, new “tricks” or even advanced skills. This is a great opportunity for those who are still furloughed, on reduced hours, looking after family or self-isolating and likely to be seeking new activities. Those newly working from home will have some extra time without their daily commute. Children can get actively involved and the dogs will love it too!

Although animals (it does not just apply to dogs…) do introduce a whole new set of variables, there is actually very little difference between the physical coaching process and the online version. When the trainer is not in the same space, the potential impact of this for the dog and the owner is removed. Another major advantage in the current context is that it is of course totally risk-free from the COVID-19 perspective. Despite those 5G stories, the virus cannot be transmitted electronically!

Having said that, along with the general considerations, there are a number of elements to be addressed for the client and the trainer:

  • Technology
  • Approach
  • Communication/Interaction
  • Preparations
  • Environment

[Note: It is possible within Government guidelines to do coaching in person outdoors and also training or walking your dog for you, with a proper risk assessment and all necessary precautions in place. We have COVID-19 Risk Awareness Certification. However, many people will understandably choose the absolutely safe “virtual” option.]

Dog Training

General Considerations

People may focus on the challenges or barriers in working online, such as the technology or thinking that the trainer actually needs to be there to observe the dog in action. However, similar considerations exist in other sectors and there are a number of distinct advantages. It drives best practice on the part of the trainer in various ways – the overall approach, profiling, observation and communication, as well as planning and logistics. A more normal, less stressful environment is maintained for the dog, avoiding “strangers” and other distractions (like someone else with treats!) and there are no additional safety concerns. The client may also be more comfortable without new people in the house. Of course, appropriate safeguards and precautions still need to be in place for an online presence. There is more flexible scheduling and the opportunity to help a much wider (potentially global…) population through a particular niche or specialism that may not be readily available to the client physically in the local area.

Technology

There is already a very high level of “engagement” with internet technology, in particular through smart phones with social media and communication applications. Another outcome of the COVID-19 pandemic is that with the severe restrictions on gatherings, people have turned to these online tools, including those who have never used them before. Services such as Facetime, Skype, Google Duo, WhatsApp and Zoom have seen a dramatic increase in usage as physical meetings become virtual ones. The business and professional world has been doing this for some considerable time of course, but even those who would normally shy away from such things are embracing video calling and sharing activities remotely with family and friends such as quizzes, games, singing, dancing and so on – the list is endless and limited only by imagination and creativity. So, the technology itself is much less of a barrier here and instruction in its use can be given directly and/or through widely available videos produced by the software organisations and by users themselves. If necessary, a regular phone call can be used initially to guide people. Quite often there will be youngsters around who are already experts!

We use Zoom (www.zoom.us ) for consultations and coaching, due to its reliability and simplicity for the client – it is free for them, they do not need an account and simply have to click on a link sent to their device. For the trainer, Zoom has additional features and flexibility as well as being scalable, to run classes and webinars for example. We add WhatsApp for follow-ups between sessions. With the recent Zoom upgrade, both are now fully encrypted and secure.

The other key elements are video and sound at both ends and the connectivity between client and trainer. For the client, a smart phone is usually fine and typically has a very high quality camera. It is often helpful to have more than one angle and a family will typically have other smart phones, a tablet or laptop that can be used for this. They simply log on to the session as another “participant” with the same link, just making sure that only one device is enabled for audio to avoid echo problems. It is also possible to connect a second camera to a laptop and switch between the two.

Zoom is very tolerant of internet connections and generally works well even at low speeds. A strong and consistent WiFi signal within the local environments is important though.

Everything can be recorded and a recap at the end can be “trimmed” and provided as an instant summary for the client.

The trainer may want to invest in a more professional set up for “live” and recorded demonstrations. Video is a very effective training mechanism and now an essential part of the “toolkit”. The sessions themselves would be recorded.

Approach

We employ only science-based principles with a positive approach and never condone any form of coercion or correction. Unfortunately, we do hear stories of trainers grabbing dogs from their owners and forcing them to do something or punishing them for not complying – an option that is removed online. If the owner themselves is asked to do this, there is no “pressure of presence” and they can simply and literally switch off!

Dog Training

Communication & Interaction

There may be a tendency to get “carried away” in an online session in particular and the welfare of the dog must always be paramount, along with the attention span of the owner!

Carefully structuring the sessions will help with this, incorporating frequent breaks and alternative activities for humans and animals alike.

The best approach is to break everything down into small steps, with clear and concise instructions. We use TAGteach (clicker training philosophy applied to humans: https://www.tagteach.com/). We explain the skill, why it is important, including extended practical uses in “real life” and then use the “WOOF” principle:

  • What you want
  • One thing at a time
  • Observable or Measurable
  • Five words or fewer

The initial session is likely to be an extended consultation, gathering information and exploration of options, including management. Coaching will probably then start without the dog, introducing the owner to the core principles and practice, demonstrated by the trainer using video, a toy dog, their own dog or even a “dog hand”, which they always have with them! In subsequent sessions, the first part would review progress, ideally supported with video taken by the owner. The actual training is kept very short, typically just a few minutes at a time, with reviews and adjustments in between. The owner can practice (with video) before the next online meeting. The second part can then be focused on a “show & tell”, followed by the next stage or something new, broken down into those small steps.

Again, the advantages are that the trainer cannot be tempted to “take over”, they have to explain and demonstrate everything very clearly and carefully and also there are no additional distractions for the dog!

Preparations

Being fully prepared is of course another essential aspect for both trainer and client, whatever form the interactions take. When working online, it is even more important to ensure that the client has everything they need readily to hand and the trainer has planned out the session carefully and in detail, including actions to be taken under particular circumstances – people and dogs are not necessarily predictable!

Connections are also not 100% reliable, so there needs to be a clear plan for this situation.

Items required by the client will depend on the exact method being used (for instance a clicker), but will typically include a treat bag/pouch and tasty treats, already cut into small pieces. Also appropriate are food puzzles, kong, toys, chews etc to keep the dog occupied whilst they are not actually engaged in training and a mat or bed for them to rest on (or in a crate if this has been appropriately trained), plus of course a plentiful supply of fresh water. For the trainer, as well as the plan for the session, a timer is essential – in “silent” mode to avoid disturbing the dog, who may be wondering where the noise has come from! It may be helpful for the client to use wireless earphones so that they can still hear the trainer clearly and have full movement without encumbrance.

Environment

A quiet, well-lit environment is important and distractions would be introduced gradually, so any other pets and children would ideally be in another area, unless they are to be directly involved in the session. It is also important that the dog has an “escape route” and safe place whenever they need it.

Having an appropriate space is also vital, so that both dog and owner can be in full view. This is both to observe the actions of owner and dog, but also to check the body language of the dog. The camera angle will affect this and as mentioned above, it is possible to have another device as an additional “participant” and a second camera connected to a laptop for instance can be used. This will only be needed for the “live” training in the second part of the session.

Summary

Whilst some training can only be carried out in the physical space and that may be the owner’s choice and preference, online training is here to stay.

There are a number of advantages for the dog in terms of lower stress, familiarity and fewer distractions. It is safer and encourages best practice on the part of the trainer.

Potential unfamiliarity with the online environment can be readily addressed and it is well worth considering for any owner.

Ask your trainer about their approach and ideally, to go through a checklist with you. This will ensure you are comfortable that they are fully prepared and have covered all of the key requirements.

Please feel to free to contact us if we can help of if you have any questions.

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Article supplied by: Stephen K Bell – The Dog House Rules

Must-See Places in the UK to Check Out With Your Pooch

With many dog owners considering their four-legged buddy as part of the family, a lot of establishments in the UK make it a priority to also make sure their patrons’ pets are well-provided with whatever they need. So if you’re making plans to roam around the country with your pet, you won’t have a hard time picking a destination that’s pet-friendly and accommodating. Below are just some of these places.

dog friendly

Lake Windermere
If you’re looking for a dog-friendly attraction where you can spend an entire day bonding with your four-legged companion, try visiting Lake Windermere in Cumbria. Lake Windermere is the largest lake in the Lake District National Park and is considered a UNESCO World Heritage site. With countless pubs, cafes, restaurants, and attractions to welcome you and your canine buddy, it’s a great place to spend quality time with your dog.

Lost Gardens of Heligan
Since its restoration in 1996, the Lost Gardens of Heligan in Cornwall has been open to the public as a tourist attraction. Idyllic and magical, the garden is a beautiful place to check out with your pooch. Aside from featuring Europe’s last remaining pineapple pit and a few rare livestock and wildlife, the garden is also home to two amazing sculptures, the Giant’s Head and the Mud Maid. Plus, management isn’t so strict when it comes to pets; all they ask is that you tell your dog to behave while on the premises.
Cotswold Wildlife Park
Cotswold Wildlife Park and Gardens is among the best zoos in England to spend the day with your dog. More than 260 animal species live in the park, and with over 160 acres of parkland to roam around, you can rest assured that your four-legged buddy would have a terrific time there.

The Cherub Inn
The Cherub Inn is easily one of England’s most dog-friendly and eye-catching pubs. A quaint 14th-century establishment, the pub is situated inside the town’s oldest building, still sporting the old ships’ timbers it uses as its frames and exhibiting a historic ambiance. The pub proves that many good things still come in small packages, and although it’s not as large as most other pubs in the country, it’s still one of the best bars in the UK where you can sip Dartmouth pride with your pooch.

The Dog House
But should you ever grace Scotland one day, have a glass of Scotch whiskey in the Dog House. Situated along Balloch Road and located at the foot of the majestic Loch Lomond, it’s the most awesome pub in Dunbartonshire. Not only will you drink in the stunning sceneries the county’s landscape has to offer, but you’ll also be able to drink their one-of-a-kind Loch Lomond Ale while in the pub. Meanwhile, the establishment also provides treats, water bowls, and dog doors for your canine buddy, keeping him content and happy while you sip your own drink in peace.

Old Swan & Minster Mill
There are also lots of canine-accommodating establishments in the UK where you can have a bite to eat and a place to go on a staycation. One of these is the Old Swan & Minster Mill restaurant. Located 15 miles from Oxford and 11 miles from Blenheim Palace, the inn is a favorite haunt for many dog owners. Combining contemporary design, luxurious comfort, and delicious menus with the rural and historic charm of the area, it’s a place you should include in your dog-friendly list.

The Beach Hut
Vibrant and lively, the Beach Hut restaurant of the Watergate Bay Hotel not only lets you and your dog enjoy the views and sounds of the nearby sea, but it will also serve you both with some of the best dishes you’ll ever taste. While there, you can snack on fries with rosemary salt, have one of their Cornish-beef-made burgers, or even try their fish and seafood dishes (these are freshly caught by local suppliers, by the way. Easy on the eyes yet still imaginative, the Beach Hut and its menu can bring you and your canine together in ways no other restaurants could.

Keep Your Canine in Mind While Planning
A getaway with your pooch is as much as a break for them as it is for you. By choosing dog-friendly destinations, you’ll be able to make better sure they’ll have fun on your holiday together.

Deinah Storm

Featured Image: pixabay.com

Author’s Bio:
Deinah Storm is a pet lover from the US that’s had cats and dogs all her life. When she’s not walking the dogs with her family, she spends time writing informational and interesting blogs about pets to share with pet lover communities.

Article supplied.

How much research do we do before adopting a dog?

Something which may surprise a lot of dog owners recently emerged in the news, as the results of a survey from Legal & General revealed that one in every three dog owners did little to no research before deciding on which breed of dog to adopt.

This may feel like a high number, but as some of us know it’s sometimes the dog who chooses the owner rather than the other way around.

adopting a dog?

Out of those surveyed who did their research before adopting, common considerations for settling on a specific breed was size at 43%, followed by temperament at 41% and 34% who considered their breed based on their lifestyle. 11% of people surveyed thought about how much adopting a dog would cost, and just 7% looking into the price of insurance policies.

Considering the numbers, it isn’t much of a shock that 14% of owners said that they had five or more visits to the vet in the past year. 45% of owners also revealed that at some point they have also had to pay a visit to an emergency vet, which can come with astronomical costs.

adopting a dog

Worryingly, 36% of owners revealed that they don’t have pet insurance, with 46% saying that there is no need for it. Thankfully, 48% of owners said that pet insurance is a life safer (and will surely be made up of those who had to visit the emergency vet!)

Sadly 6% of those surveyed said they were unsatisfied with their chosen breed, so to help lower this number Legal and General have released the Breed Selector, an tool which, instead of allowing you to choose the ideal dog for you, allows a dog to choose you as their ideal human.

It’s a fun tool that asks about you, your home and your lifestyle, and matches you with a breed which fits in with what you’re looking for.

adopting a dog

As we all know, owning a dog can be hard work, but it is also rewarding and can bring love and joy to our lives. Whilst research is important before deciding who we want to bring home, we can’t always decide who we fall in love with and want to join the family.

For more information on pet insurance from Legal and General, more information is available on their website.

Waggy Tails in Untouched Wales

It’s exhausting fetching sticks, being a loyal friend and companion, running after balls, day in day out! So Menai Holidays is offering your best doggy friend a FREE holiday! Now that is something to wag a tail about surely? And not only that but we can show you all the dog-friendly places where you and your best friend can go together.

  See our full range of Dog-Friendly Cottages here: https://www.menaiholidays.co.uk/cottages/types/dog-friendly-cottages/

However, it doesn’t stop there. Once your cottage is sorted we have your rest and play covered too. With our newly launched website not only can you find the perfect dog-friendly cottage but you can research and find …

Dog-friendly beaches https://www.menaiholidays.co.uk/explore/see-do/beaches/dog-friendly/

Dog-friendly cafes. https://www.menaiholidays.co.uk/explore/eat-drink/cafes/dog-friendly-cafes/

And… dog-friendly walks and attractions. https://www.menaiholidays.co.uk/explore/see-do/attractions/dog-friendly-attractions/

https://www.menaiholidays.co.uk/explore/see-do/walks/dog-friendly-walks/

So that wherever you go, your dog can come too! We look forward to seeing you and your furry friends very soon.

See our blogs on dog-friendly cafes in Anglesey, Snowdonia and the Llŷn and on dog-friendly beaches.

There is some small print to our “dogs go free” offer, so read on!

Bookings must be made between midnight 1st October & 31st October 2018 but you can stay between 1st October and 15th December 2018
The maximum we’ll pay towards dogs is £50. If there is a higher dog charge (staying for multiple weeks, or having more dogs than this amount covers) you’ll need to pay the difference.

Only one discount per customer
Dog owners can take full advantage of this offer by entering ‘WOOF18’ in the notes when making a booking online and hey presto, Menai Holidays will pay for the cost of up to two of your dogs to go with you for free, up to a maximum of £50.