Training Blog 3 – Kayaking

It may sound obvious, but it’s fairly important that your dog actually enjoys being in water, before you attempt this exercise – it’s not going to work if Fluffy won’t get her paws wet! Some dogs enjoy this type of thing, others prefer to mooch around the dog park or curl up on the sofa.

Foster Dog Jack & Rosie-Lee

If your pup is new to swimming then a doggie life jacket is a good investment, to keep them afloat, just in case they fall in and / or get tired. They also have useful handles on the top, for lifting them out of the water.

Foster Dog Charlie modelling a doggo life jacket

If you choose not to use a doggie life jacket, they need to be wearing a strong, well-fitting harness for this exercise, (one they won’t slip out of) and you need sufficient strength to lift them into the boat, from the water, with one hand. So, the younger you teach them, and therefore the smaller they are, the better. Dick was 5 months old, tall and gangly when I first had the opportunity to introduce him to kayaking. As a result, my guns are huge (!)

Introducing ‘Pugs the Puggle’ as a young pup to the water

Before you begin, it’s important to allow the dog to have had his exercise first, so he’s pleasantly tired, has drained his excess energy, has eliminated (pooped and peed to the likes of you and me) is calm, keen, focused – and ready to learn something new.

This applies to all training with animals. Always cater to the needs of the animal first – then introduce new things. It’s important you are not in a rush, or stressed or determined to ‘make things work’. Dogs don’t know anything about time tables or schedules and won’t follow direction from a frustrated, stressed human. If you represent calm, balanced energy to your dog, he will trust you and follow you anywhere.

“Recall? Lady – I’m a BEAGLE!” Barney the Beaglier

Once the dog is comfortable playing in shallow water and has learned how to swim competently, I choose a hot, sunny day when it’s good to be in the water. You’ll need a still or calm stretch of water with little to no waves.

When introducing a new dog to kayaking or Stand Up Paddle boarding, I don’t train or teach putting them in (or on) the boat on dry land. They don’t like it, they don’t understand it, so I find it’s a waste of time.

Launch the kayak, get in the boat and paddle off slowly from the shallow water. The pup will naturally follow you and as the water gets deeper, their natural inclination is to get into the boat with you. You are their safe space and life is always good when they’re next to you.

Rosie knows how to stay dry…

Make sure you are paddling slowly enough to allow them to be running alongside, or swimming alongside you, looking at you beseechingly, because the water is getting deeper and colder – and they want to get in. Some dogs will hop into the boat themselves with no assistance, others will need help. This is where you come in, lift them up and pop them in, with some praise and reassurance. 

Decide where you want them to sit in the boat, then encourage them to stay put. The next trick is teaching them to keep their movements gentle, whilst in the boat. Having a dog charging around the kayak (or two dogs in my case), is never going to end in anything other than a dunking! 

Flying leap into the boat by Dick!

You can pop them in the ‘sit’ or ask them to ‘relax’ with a slow chest massage, to calm them down, if they’re excitable or nervous. You don’t need to actually paddle anywhere and the exercise doesn’t need to be long. Just five or ten minutes pootling about, some paddling and some floating is sufficient, then take the boat back in and invite them to hop out. 

Don’t panic if they fall in. Just scoop them up and prepare yourself for the inevitable dousing of water when they’re back in the boat and have a shake!

Rosie’s always falling in. She loves to perch right on the edge of the bow, checking the water ahead for glimpses of fish, diving sea birds or dolphins. This position works well in still water, but usually results in a salty bath for Rosie, when a wave comes along.  She’s old hat at this kayaking lark though, and calmly swims back to the boat to be lifted in, or heads to the shore if she’s had enough.

“Home James”

Port Lincoln is internationally renowned for its shark cage diving industry, so I don’t really want Rosie or Dick falling in to deep water around here. We stay shallow and close to the beach, so the dogs don’t have far to swim if they do fall in and decide to head for shore.

It’s amazing what you can discover when quietly paddling about in the kayak. The dogs and I have had hundreds of encounters with dolphin pods, seals / sea lions and sting rays over the years. Thankfully, no sharks yet.

Swimming is excellent exercise for dogs and the salty water is good for any cuts or grazes they have picked up.

Feel free to post comments and photos of your own dog / kayaking adventures below!

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Training Blog 2 – Searching

It’s been a busy week for Rosie and Dick.

Dick is now a six month old bouncing boy who has gone from cute, shy puppyhood, racing into cheeky adolescence at a rate of knots.

As with all growing pups, Dick’s teenage hormones have caused him to pick up some naughty habits. Washing that is left on the line too long, mysteriously ends up in the garden. Fruit trees are being nibbled in their pots and their soil dug out. Food left on the counter, is being investigated on hind legs. You get the picture!

There is nothing innocent about this mischievous pup

So. Time for more exercise to drain that excess energy, and some challenging training to keep that mischievous brain busy.

Dick has been doing some slow training progressions in recent weeks, with various exercises. He has learned to run alongside the mountain bike, which he loves and is great exercise for him. We keep these rides fairly short, because he’s still young and growing.

He’s also been encouraged to develop a bond with a certain ball. This ball has a hole through the middle. Perfect for squeezing smelly treats inside. As if the chasing of the ball was not incentive enough..

Dick has also been training to sit and wait for increasingly longer periods of time, whilst I walk away and do something else for a few minutes. It’s important that you go out of sight during this training and reward substantially upon success.

Dick has also been learning to play the ‘Find It’ game. Did you know that dogs learn faster from each other, than they do from us? Thanks to this concept, this has been fairly easy exercise for Dick, as Rosie is an old pro at this game. It plays perfectly to her scent hound DNA. And her excitement for the game has been picked up by Dick.

So far, it has been just tons of fun, finding treats stuffed into tree trunks, or grassy holes, or in the sand, or amongst the chairs at sports stadiums. Anywhere, really. The treats are hidden up high, and down low. The variation of hidey holes is important, so they really learn to use their nose, as opposed to their memory recall.

Find it!

Dick has been learning to climb different varieties of stairs, as dogs occasionally have issues with stair cases where they can see through the gaps between steps, or are spiral. He’s been trained to jump up onto picnic tables and ledges, investigate cramped spaces, or stand up on his hind legs to investigate high areas.

Exceptionally thorough search dog – makes me proud!
This dog has no issues with the ‘see through’ stairs!

The dogs are taught to sit and wait out of sight, behind a tree, a car, or around the corner, whilst I spend a few minutes hiding treats in the local vicinity. I then release them with the ‘Find It’ command.

Off they dash, noses to the ground, frantically sniffing, to beat each other to find all the hidden treats. Having a beagle as your competitor ups the ante somewhat – and the race is on!

‘Find It’
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Rosie & Dick’s Training Blog April 2019

Introduction to Dickon (Of House Tarly) I get a lot of questions about Dick’s name, so thought I’d start out by explaining how it came about on here – the start of our training blogs!

Dick’s name started out as a Game of Thrones reference. Remember Dickon Tarly, brother of Sam? Noble but a bit dim? That’s where Dick’s name came from. They share the same regal, yet vacant expression…don’t you think?

Dick was a surrendered camp pup. He was rescued by Jenny’s Angels, a charity in Port Augusta, SA. Dick was a timid pup who needed lots of TLC to encourage him out of his shell.

Dickon was covered in scars when he arrived. I suspect he was bullied by the bigger camp dogs. His difficult start in life has made him a bit of a trash can – he eats everything he finds!

Dick would not approach humans or dogs, at first. It’s taken 3 months of rehabilitation to draw out the social chap he is today. As you can see, he finds my car singing therapeutic. Naturally. Voice of an angel!

Introduction to Rosie-Lee (Of House Targaryen) Fortunately, bossy little Rosie was on hand to show Dickon how things are done. Rosie gets plenty of attention because people think she’s cute. They are mistaken. This beagle is smart. She is a master manipulator of the human race.

It wasn’t long before Dick was pushing in for his share of the attention and treats. It’s fascinating how quickly dogs learn from each other. I’ve also wondered if Dick has British heritage, with teeth like that.

Dick will occasionally shut down and roll submissively on his back – a throwback to his past. Usually when he’s caught doing something naughty! His adolescent years will be quite the challenge, if I’m never allowed to yell again..

In our next blog, we’ll discuss some basic training and fun games to start teaching your dog, which are slow progressions into more advanced training.

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