Meeker's "Rules Of the Road"

01 Nov 2006Steve Schwarz

On the days when I don’t work at home I have a dog walker come by and give Meeker 30 minutes of exercise around midday. He is a young and energetic dog and I hate the idea of him at home for up to 10 hours without many outlets for his energy. My original dog walker recently hired a new assistant and I realized I should put together a little write up of the rules Meeker lives by so he would have a consistent set of expectations from me and his dog walkers.

When I first showed this to some knowledgable dog trainers they gave me quite a few horror stories about dog walkers: group walks, walks on Flexis, not controlling dog’s access to other dogs, children, etc. and even promoting unsafe behaviors. They strongly recommended I just have the dog walker let Meeker out into the backyard and supervise him for the half hour and then bring him inside. That would be safest for Meeker and not give, even well meaning, dog walkers an opportunity to “untrain” or even endanger him. I guess I’m fortunate with my current dog walker.

I should also mention that my neighborhood is a very quiet suburban one with pretty much no car, person or dog traffic, especially at midday. So a lot of the scenarios I mention in my instructions are unlikely to be experienced by the dog walker. I just wanted to outline my approaches in case they really wanted to follow my wishes.

Here is what I plan on giving to his future caretakers:

Meeker is young, energetic, and impulsive. So right now I have all my efforts focused on exercising him and giving him skills to help him maintain his self control. I don’t ask that you actively train him, I just ask that you try to support the training I’m doing.

My philosophy for Meeker is pretty much Nothing In Life Is Free (NILIF), so he has to do something for me before he gets what he wants. For example, before he goes through any door or gate or out of his crate he should offer an automatic sit. If he breaks his sit please close the door/gate and ask him to sit (if he doesn’t automatically). Repeat as often as necessary. If he won’t stay seated you can leave him for a few moments and try again. I have no problem with you trying periodically for the entire half hour, if he won’t stay seated then he doesn’t go outside, etc.

In general I always precede him through any door/gate and he should only move on his release word of “OK” not on my motion. Again, if he gets up, close the door/gate and start over (expect the sit, prompt if necessary, etc.).

If you wish you can request Meeker perform any of his other behaviors in addition to the sit and he should do them and still not self release himself. Right now he knows sit, down (down to sit and sit to down), front, finish, shake, paw and heel.

Meeker should never be off leash outside of the yard. He has a strong interest in chasing squirrels and rabbits. That is another reason why I usually precede him outside; to see if any are sitting around in the backyard. If necessary please shoo them away before letting Meeker outside, I really don’t want to reinforce his chasing of small animals.

In the backyard along the fence is a small garbage can, please have Meeker potty in that area. If you tell him to “go potty” he’ll run over there and do his thing.

Five minutes of ball playing in the yard before his walk is fine, just something to burn off a little energy. If possible move him around the yard as you play to spread the lawn destruction around.

Please keep him off the agility equipment if it is set up. If he does climb on something just tell him to get off it and otherwise ignore the equipment, he won’t run into it if he is playing ball.

I would prefer that Meeker not meet any other dogs, people or children while you are walking him. I would prefer to manage his introductions to dogs, people and children personally. He hasn’t shown any problems in these areas but I’d rather not put you or him into that position.

Meeker gets very excited when seeing any of the following: skateboards, noisy trucks, and motorcycles. I usually ask him to sit at the side of the road or up a driveway when I see one coming and reward him with cookies when he makes eye contact. It is alright for him to split his interest between you and the object, but he should still look back to you periodically. He will usually do so without prompting unless he is highly aroused in which case you can prompt him. Another option is to move him away from the object of interest. Surprisingly he is usually responsive to verbal commands even if he is too excited to look at you.

Dogs barking at him and/or fence chasing as he goes by also arouse him. I usually ask him to “heel” (I use the same command for either side) and he will do so. I reward him in the heel position as we move away when he makes eye contact. Again you can just take him away in the opposite direction.

Please don’t let Meeker pull on leash if possible. He is pretty good on leash, sometimes a “don’t pull” or an irritating “jingling” of the leash (not a yank) will stop him. Since squirrels and rabbits are abundant in the neighborhood, he’ll try to stalk up on them and sometimes pull. If he does you can give him a “Meeker, this way” and turn off in another direction and he’ll follow.

If he is wet or muddy when you bring him inside it is easiest to put a towel down on the floor before he enters (there should be towels on the top of his crate). When you release him from his sit outside ask him to “go to your rug” and he’ll lie down on the towel. If you ask him to “show me your belly” he’ll roll on his back to make it easier to dry him off. Sometimes when he is excited he will struggle a little when you wipe his feet, if you offer him a cookie he’ll let you do anything without a fuss. He’ll also stand in place and let you wipe him down if you’d prefer to do that.

If he needs water there is a Brita pitcher in the refrigerator. Refill the pitcher from the small tap at the side of the sink, it skips the water softener.

I leave a stuffed Kong in the freezer drawer that you can give him when you leave.

Of course please call me if you have any questions or concerns.

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