ESSENTIAL LIFE SKILLS FOR ALL SHELTIES
The following information has been assembled by a long-time MNSR foster home. She teaches obedience classes and competes in both obedience and agility with her own dogs.
The following skills are "good manners" for any dog to have - not only your Sheltie. And, heaven forbid that the unthinkable happen and your Sheltie does get lost, they should make your Sheltie easier to recapture. The training tips listed below are very quick and easy to do, and can make the difference between life and death for your dog.
- Name Recognition. Each Sheltie should have a positive name association. Often times a rescued Sheltie's name is changed for exactly that reason. You never know when a dog has been disciplined with its name. A quick and easy way to build a positive reaction from your Sheltie to its name is to play the “Name Game.” You can use treats or toys as motivators. For one full week, deliver a reward (treat or toy) each and every time you say the dog's name. Shelties new to a foster or adoptive home will quickly learn hearing it's name means nothing but good things.
- Coming When Called. In formal obedience, a dog coming on command is called a “Recall.” The dog should NEVER be called to you for discipline. (Such as, FLUFFY - YOU COME HERE RIGHT NOW YOU BAD DOG!) The command you choose for recall (Come, Here, etc.) should always be said in a happy tone, and a positive reward (treat or toy) should be used. If you've been playing the name game above, the recall will come naturally because it will be the dog's inclination to come to you when they hear their name. All new foster Shelties in my home play the “come get a treat” game. I keep a jar of goodies next to my patio door. Each and every time I call the dog in from the yard, I yell, “COME - TREATS!” By the second or third day the foster Sheltie is racing to the house on my command. At that point I phase out “Treats” and just use “Come” while continuing the rewards. Eventually I phase out the rewards so the dog will still come, but not necessarily get a treat each and every time. The recall is something that needs to have ongoing random reinforcement to be successful. If you abruptly stop rewarding (treating) for the dog coming, the dog will find better things to do. If you keep them guessing, will always come…just in case there is a treat.
- Respecting Entrances/Exits. Shelties should be taught to respect entrances and exits. It's pretty easy to teach the dog that it should not go through a door until we say it's okay and/or we go through first. I put a leash on the dog and hold them back while I walk through the doorway. (I use the command “wait.”) If the dog tries to race ahead of me, I shut the door and block their exit. Once I am through the doorway, I give the dog a release word (I use “okay”) and invite them to join me on the other side. Again, this game needs a lot of repetition and consistency. If you allow the dog to exit a doorway even once without being told it’s okay first, it will not receive the clear message that waiting for the okay is the only option available. It takes just a few seconds to make the dog wait, and the time investment is well worth risking a dog bolting out of an open door.
- Collar Desensitization. Trainers call this the “collar game.” You start off by giving a food reward each time the dog’s neck/collar is touched. You start off slow – just touching the neck, then collar, and gradually build toward actually reaching quickly and tugging on the collar a little. Shelties can be pretty hand shy and we need to teach them a person reaching toward them is not something to be feared.
- Crate Training. Shelties by nature are typically reserved and shy, and enjoy having a private place to retreat to when things get a little too hectic. Contrary to public belief, crating a dog is not mean or cruel. Most dogs like being in their crates and associate the confined space and smell of their crate with safety. If your dog has been crate trained, that will give you another way of capturing the dog if lost. Most crate trained dogs will hide in their crates when stressed, so the crate can be easily transferred to an area where the dog was spotted. By adding a piece of clothing with your scent, the dog will find its crate and most likely remain in it because it will feel safe and secure.