Dog School Week 5

General Rules
At this point in training you should be making an effort to work the dog away from home at least twice a week so that you can “proof” the commands that you have so diligently taught.

Review previous week’s rules on fading the lure, fading food reinforcers, using real-life rewards, and providing your dog with adequate company, exercise and problem-solving games.

Neutering & Spaying

There are a number of factors to consider in the decision to have your dog neutered or spayed.
Often, we think of pet overpopulation as a reason to behave responsibly in this way. Certainly the millions of dogs killed yearly in the United States (and elsewhere) are a powerful argument for considering any breeding very, very carefully indeed.
Only dogs who can really be a benefit to their breed should be allowed to reproduce.  These dogs are healthy: Health checked free of inheritable problems like PRA, cardiomyopathy, hip and elbow dysplasia, deafness, etc., and are also temperamentally sound, and physically excellent examples of their breed.  Ideally the dog will have demonstrated his excellence by completing his Championship in the Conformation ring, and perhaps by completing obedience and/or working titles as well.
Additionally, these dogs should come from parents, grandparents and great-grandparents, who have also are great examples of the breed — healthy and with excellent temperament.  Generally, it will require years of experience in a breed before a dog owner knows enough about the breed and its problems to be able to formulate and act on a plan for the breed’s future by producing a litter.  The breeder, in addition to expertise and tremendous patience, should also have time, space and money.  People who do a conscientious job of breeding almost always lose money on their dogs.

If the thought of the responsibility, money, physical labor and possible heartbreak involved in producing a litter put you off, and you decide not to breed your dog, CONGRATULATIONS!  You will have performed a valuable service for animal welfare.

What about not breeding, but not neutering or spaying? This is a slightly more complicated questions:
There seem to be clear benefits to spaying, for most females: Female dogs usually come into heat twice a year for about 3 weeks each time.  This is messy and inconvenient for dog and owner.  Female dogs may try to escape, and male dogs may try to break in, and get into fights with their rival males.  More importantly, unspayed females have a dramatically higher incidence of mammary cancer than spayed females.  They are also subject to pyometra, and uterine and ovarian cancer, all of which may be fatal.

The picture is less clear for males: Some unneutered male dogs may display nuisance problems such as escaping, house soiling, aggression towards people, dog fighting (or being the innocent victim of other male’s attacks), crotch sniffing, mounting, and general frustration and distractibility.   If so, (assuming that these issues seem to be connected to testosterone, and not just training or management) then do discuss neutering with your veterinarian.
On the negative side, neutering male dogs if done before maturity, may increase the risk of osteosarcoma (bone cancer) by a factor of 3.8; this is a common cancer in medium/large and larger breeds and has a poor prognosis.
May increase the risk of cardiac hemangiosarcoma by a factor of 1.6; this is a common cancer and major cause of death in some breeds
May triple the risk of hypothyroidism
May increase the risk of geriatric cognitive impairment
May triple the risk of obesity, and with it many of the associated health problems
May quadruple the small risk (<0.6%) of prostate cancer
May double the small risk (<1%) of urinary tract cancers
May increase the risk of orthopedic disorders
May increase the risk of adverse reactions to vaccinations
Neutering does decrease the incidence of benign prostatic hyperplasia, and perianal adenomas.

Note that new research is being done all the time, so the risk/reward picture changes over time. Also, an observed correlation between neutering and increased risk of disease does not necessarily indicate causation. (Neutering may not directly increase the risk  — there may be other, external factors not yet identified.)

For the responsible owner, perhaps the best choice is to discuss neutering or spaying your dog with your veterinarian, considering your life style and goals for the dog, and the dog’s health and well being. Together you can decide whether and when to proceed.

New Behaviors

  • Practice loose-leash-walking in figure 8s around distractions.
  • Practice sit or down stays with realistic distractions.
    • Rehearse in new areas, and/or around new people and dogs.
    • Can you walk around, sit down and stand up while the dogs stays?
    • Will he stay while you carry on a conversation?
    • Can you open and close the front door while he holds his stay? (Be careful–use a leash initially in practice if your front yard is not fenced.)
    • Can he stay as you sit at the dinner table and eat a graham cracker?
  • Practice the “back-away” come on the long line .
    • Remember, say the Come command only once, then make it happen, and make it worth the dog’s while.
    • This is a modification of last week’s Run Away Come. You will again let the dog move away from you, freely exploring, but safely on a line, but this week, instead of calling him and running away as if you were playing tag. some of the time you will instead keep facing him, but take 3 big steps backward.
    • Mix in some Run Aways, though, to keep him interested.

Practice Go-to-Place

Capture & shape the behavior
· Drop the mat or bed (that you will use as the target ) to the floor in front of the dog. He will at least look or sniff, and may well walk onto the mat.
· Click any interaction with the mat, but rather than hand the treat to your dog, toss it to one side, ensuring that when he returns to you to see if anything else interesting may happen, since you are still standing in front of the mat, he will (coincidentally) approach the mat, perhaps even step onto it, and earn another click/treat toss.
· After a few repeats he will be starting to notice the pattern. You will get pickier, perhaps clicking only the motion that brings all four feet onto the mat…
· then moving a little (12 inches or so) away from the center of the mat, so he has to work harder to choose getting on the mat.
· At this point, I generally either cue or wait for the dog to offer a sit or down on the mat before clicking.
· Gradually increase your distance from the mat.
· Vary the direction from which you send the dog.
· Practice starting off with your dog in a stay at a distance from you (rather than at your side) when you send him to Place.
· Give the cue when you are seated.
· Gradually increase the duration of his “Down”.
· Gradually add real life distractions. (Open doors, walk around, have a conversation… then bounce a ball, get creative…)


Questions? Send Penny an email penny @ (remove the spaces)