How to Train a Mountain Dog - German Shepherd Dog Forums
 
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post #1 of 9 (permalink) Old 08-16-2009, 10:12 AM Thread Starter
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How to Train a Mountain Dog

This post is really about how to get your dog in a canoe for the first time and actually enjoy itself, but I'd like to hear everyone's thoughts on training a dog to be your hiking/camping/biking/boating companion. We're going camping with some friends at the end of the month, and in mid-September and we want it to be as fun as possibly for Elsa...and us! We know the the mid-September camping trip is going to involve a lot of canoeing, so we want to make sure it does smoothly!

We don't trust Elsa off-leash just yet. Her recall is pretty darn good, but she is obsessed with other dogs and seems to loose her listening ability if they are around. So for biking, I tried it with the 6' leash and just used the heel command to get her to stay at my side. Obviously that works for street-biking but when we get on trails I'm not sure how we'll manage that.

Yesterday we went hiking and decided to try "pseudo" off-leash. We had her on the 30' training leash, and if she trotted ahead of us more than about 15' or so we'd tell her "wait" and correct with the leash. On the 3rd try of "wait" she didn't need the leash correction anymore and would just stop, turn around, and wait to go until we were closer. I think she gets the point, but she's smart enough to know the leash was really on, so I'm not sure how she would do without it.

My DH and I are SUPER active (although we've gotten a lid lazy the last couple months with the wedding, family in town, etc) and we're very excited to have her fully integrated into our outdoors family, we just want to make sure we're going about it the right way!

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- Elsa - "Da Pookins"
- Medo - "The Beast From The East"
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post #2 of 9 (permalink) Old 08-16-2009, 10:28 AM
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Re: How to Train a Mountain Dog

How does Elsa react to being on unstable surfaces? Like, has she ever been on an agility teeter-totter or a child's merry go ground etc? The Canoe can feel a little weird to them because it's so wobbly. I prefer to have the dog lying down in the middle of the boat. Anything else and now I'm feeling weird because the boat is wobbly! I don't know why it feels so different when a dog walks around in a canoe than when a person moves, but it does, so I like Grace to lie still. I know there are other folks on here who canoe and kayak with their dogs and they may have other tips. For us the most important commands were down and sit stays.

As far as camping - Grace loves that and we've never had any problems. Are you car camping or backpacking? I've found that backpacking is a great way to get the dog used to sleeping in the tent because hopefully at the end of a day hiking, the dog is tired. Grace learned to sleep in a tent when we were staying in Montana for the summer. After a day running back and forth between the hikers at high elevation, she was actually quite willing to lie down and snooze at the foot of the tent. Here again, down/stay was helpful. If you're car camping, you have the options of using one of those soft sided crates or something for her. It makes me nervous not to be able to see exactly where my dog is, so I want them in the tent with me, but I know a couple people on here have used them for outings and found them quite successful.

If she's not reliable on leash, you'll definitely want some way to tether her at the campsite so she's not running off when you need both hands to do other things.


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post #3 of 9 (permalink) Old 08-16-2009, 11:11 AM
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Re: How to Train a Mountain Dog

Do you have access to a canoe? If so, I'd start with getting her used to climbing in and out with it on LAND. Then get her in it, have her settle and then GENTLY start rocking it.

Once she is fine with it on land I'd try it in some shallow water.

As for the hiking and being off-leash - teach her the CHECK IN command. That's what I use when my dogs are somewhere off-leash. They come back close enough to me for me to take their collar if I need to and then are released with an OK.

It's not a formal COME, I don't expect them to be in a certain position. Just get close to me.

I train this by going out in my yard with a pocket full of treats and the dog. Let them wander off and do their thing then yell CHECK IN and wait for them to come to me. If they don't start moving towards me I show them the treats. Once they are close to me I take hold of their collar, give them a treat and praise and tell them OK and let them go.

Lots of practice in the yard and then hit a local trail with the 30 foot leash. Do the same thing - CHECK IN, take hold of the collar and reward.

Then you can put in a 30' LIGHT line. I use a very thin cotton line - just something I can grab if necessary. Repeat the training.

You want the dog to he HAPPY to return to you.
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post #4 of 9 (permalink) Old 08-16-2009, 12:09 PM
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Re: How to Train a Mountain Dog

These are all great suggestions. I love that command "check in" I think I will begin using it. I assume she doesnt have a fear of the water? We started all our dogs out on a calm lake. with a really good chew toy, to help them settle. Then we gradually moved to rivers. The only hiccup we have ever had in canoeing is when there was a really bad drought and the dogs hated the continous bumps in the low water.

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post #5 of 9 (permalink) Old 08-16-2009, 01:07 PM
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Re: How to Train a Mountain Dog

get a life vest for Elsa. start working with her now regarding the canoe. take some hikes. whatever it is you're going to be doing
while hiking intoduce her to it now.
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post #6 of 9 (permalink) Old 08-16-2009, 01:16 PM
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Re: How to Train a Mountain Dog

I took my Golden Ginger everywhere with me, including biking, hiking, and boating as well as "rock climbing" (not REAL rock climbing but hiking where you are mostly clambering up large rocks) among other things... I never actually trainer her specifically to do those activities but the general training I did with her in obedience and agility prepared her very well for them.

During her obedience training I worked a lot on rock-solid 'stays' and recalls under distractions (including in strange environments/surfaces) which was very useful for those type of outdoor activities. "Leave it" is also very useful. I did off-leash training using a light long line and then graduating to off leash. When off leash she would stay within about 15 feet of me at all times and would 'check in' without being asked (come back and touch my hand) with me often. This was something that came naturally to her but which I also reinforced in her training (for example by praising or rewarding her any time she would 'check in'.)

The agility training was also very useful for out outdoor activities. It got her comfortable with her footing on different surfaces including those that may be moving or unsteady. She also learned many useful commands like for jumping up or over things, walking along an object, crawling under, and it provided more obedience practice. We did UKC agility which includes obstacles like the 'sway plank' and bridge (moving bridges) and the crawl tunnel.


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post #7 of 9 (permalink) Old 08-16-2009, 01:39 PM
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Re: How to Train a Mountain Dog

I played hide and seek with my dogs... when they'd range ahead of me I'd give a short whistle (like the other suggestion for a "check in") which meant they were to turn and see where I was... generally I did this before they went around a bend in the trail and would move out of sight... If they failed to stop I'd leave the trail and hide... then give a recall whistle (whistles are clearer and travel thru the woods better than calling found) and wait... they'd come barreling down the trail to find me, and get quite upset that I'd vanished... at that point they had to seek until they found me... lots of praise, a tumble on the ground and we'd resume our walk. 100% positive interaction... I found that they quickly learned to respond to the 1st whistle, and would turn and sit on the trail til I caught up. Or would return to me to "TOUCH" then range out again.
A variation of this game was to hike with someone and have them hold the dog while I went down the trail and hid out of sight... then have them as "WHERE'S JILL" and release the dog. I'd whistle and have them seek to find me. Very handy game if someone gets separated from the group...

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post #8 of 9 (permalink) Old 08-17-2009, 08:56 AM Thread Starter
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Re: How to Train a Mountain Dog

Wow, thanks guys! There are some great suggestions there!

We've only had elsa 3 weeks, so she really hasn't had a lot of opportunity to try too many new things yet. I'll have to take her to a kids playground to test her out on the merry go round and do some test runs in a canoe on ground.

I think her first "real" hike in her life was with us this weekend. She definitely was not the brightest at first (taking the hard routes to jump up and down rocks), but caught on quickly.

She isn't super confident trying to experiencing new things until we've shown her how to do it, or convinced her it won't hurt her. Slowly but surely!

J, mom to:
- Elsa - "Da Pookins"
- Medo - "The Beast From The East"
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post #9 of 9 (permalink) Old 08-17-2009, 10:59 AM
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Re: How to Train a Mountain Dog

If you have the resources, an e-collar used either on the page function or very low level stimulation can be a great safety net for her. If possible I would enlist the help of a trainer that will be focused on working with you and her at LOW LEVEL STIMULATION OR THE PAGE FUNCTION ONLY. They make waterproof models as well.

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