Monday, September 5, 2011
One Step at a Time
That was Luke's mantra throughout his journey across the country with Hudson and Murphy.
Meet Zeus. Zeus is my now 5 year old great pyr. Zeus is a pro at jumping onto the couch and launching his 100+ pounds thru the air onto our bed. He has never mastered the take-off into the cargo area of my SUV. I personally think he believes it is my duty as his mom to lift his fuzzybutt into the truck for every trip. I think he takes pleasure in my aching back--see that smile on his face in the photo???
We bought a ramp to ease my aching back. Zeus and our other dogs learned how to use it. And while a ramp is much different than steps or stairs onto a bed or counter surface for our kitty friends, the training technique is the same.
I should say that I am not a trainer, vet or animal behaviorist. I simply enjoy learning as much about animal behavior and training techniques as possible. I do consider myself a "pyr-expert" if there is such a thing--I live with 4.
Some pocket puppies need steps just to be able to snuggle with mom on the bed, but if your pooch is large enough to make the jump but is hesitant please make an appointment with your vet to rule out any health concerns first.
Next, stop at the grocery store and pick up that expensive cut of meat (and some patience if it's still on the shelf).
If you've based your training in clicker training than this will be easier. If you'd like to learn more about clicker trainer visit Karen Pryor's website.
The idea is to get your dog to get close to the steps and reward that behavior with a click & yummy treat (remember the steak you picked up at the market--it wasn't for you!). Next, click and reward for touching the step, even with a nose. Next, click and reward for a paw on the step, then two, then a back foot and so on. This may take a few days or many weeks depending on your dog. Always include lots of positive encouragement.
Once your dog makes it onto the bed, throw a paw-ty and let treats rain down from heaven. You'll dog will want to do that again!
Now that you've mastered up. Repeat the process but going down the steps.
For safety, never allow your dog to learn to jump off the side of the steps halfway up. As in agility, the dog must "complete" the steps by going all the way to the bottom. This will prevent falls and broken bones.
There are lift harnesses available to help medium or large dogs walk. If your dog is having mobility issues, I would recommend investing in one. It allows an owner to safely lift or help the dog stand without putting extra strain on the abdomen area.
I taught Zeus to use his ramp by first placing it in our hallway unfolded. We walked over and over it using yummy tuna brownies as lures. He learned it was a game and fun. We then secured it to the bed and with my husband's help lured him up the ramp with the tuna brownies. My husband was there to catch Zeus should he fall or decide to jump off halfway up. It took a few days but we preceded to securing the ramp to the back of the SUV and luring Zeus with brownies and mommy in the back of the truck, while dad made sure he was safely traveling up the ramp. Zeus learned quickly.
I'm usually in a hurry these days and it is easier to lift the big lug into the truck but it's nice to know he has the basics down and we can use the ramp when needed. Some day in the future he will need that ramp because he will become older and less mobile and so will I.