D EAR OLD TRAINER: The first time we took Daisy, our 2-year-old bichon, to the dog park she raced up and down the fence with a dog for an hour. Now, the minute she gets to the park she races the fence whether the dog is there or not. Why does she do it?
Gwen, Santa Barbara
DEAR GWEN: Daisy is showing off. Bichons have a high opinion of their talents, and she wants you to see how fast she is. It’s a perfect opportunity for reverse training.
Reverse training – the act of seeing something your dog is already doing and applying a command to it – is a valuable tool for any trainer.
On your next trip to the park say, “Run the fence, Daisy,” as she takes off. When she gets back, pet her, praise her and tell her how proud you are of her. Do it every time you go.
Once she connects the command to the act – it won’t take long – take her to a different park or fence and give the command. This is a trick the two of you can enjoy wherever you are.
Every reader can learn from the this example. Daisy invented a trick she and Gwen can do together. All dogs do it, and they are good at it. Watch for ways your dog is talking to you and trying to train you. If it’s something you like, give it a name and add it to your daily routine.
DEAR OLD TRAINER: I took Roscoe, my 6-year-old beagle to the vet a month ago and he said Roscoe is way overweight. I feel bad to have let him get so fat, and I’m trying, but he hasn’t lost weight. I walk him three days a week for half a mile. I try to cut back on his feed, but he is so hungry he just sits and looks at me. How do I get him to lose weight?
Name Withheld, Merced
DEAR READER: It’s a matter of basic logic. Roscoe gains weight the same way a human does – if he takes in more calories than he burns, he stores it as fat.
To lose weight he has to do the reverse – eat less, exercise more.
Half a mile three days a week seems like a lot to you, but for a Beagle it’s the equivalent of a human walking to the kitchen and back.
Roscoe has to have more exercise, and there are lots of ways to do it. Take him to the dog park and let him run for an hour or so. Hire a dog walker to take him out every day. Increase the lengths of your walk until you cover several miles a day. Beagles are energetic, so if you give Roscoe a chance he will do the work.
At the same time, cut back the amount Roscoe eats. Feed him one half cup of food for every 15 pounds he weighs based on what he should weigh, not what he weighs now. Feed him once a day.
Exercise Roscoe every day, pet him instead of feed him when he begs for more food and he will be in shape in two months.