Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Training Tips: Labradors Underfoot

Labradors love their people and are often clingy and underfoot. Wanting to be with me where ever I am is one of the things I find endearing about my Labs, but I do not want them to trip me or inhibit my movement. This picture from a few years ago shows some of my dogs "helping" us put up a fence so we can keep them out of my garden (they raid the veggies!). As you can see, they decided it was their job to hold down the dirt dug for the post hole.

Labs need to learn not to get underfoot. Do it as a training lesson. Personally I am a clicker trainer, but there are many ways to teach anything. Here is one way: Using your calm, assertive energy walk toward him - into him if necessary - and tell him "move" (or whatever cue you want to use). As he moves praise and reward him with a treat. Repeat many times. Soon he will understand what "move" means and give you your space. You can teach him "get back" = back up, "away" = move away from the area, or whatever else you think of that might be handy. The more you words you teach him the better it will be for all of you.

I teach mine to stay "out of my zone" at the stove when I am cooking - they line up along the opposite side and that's fine - it's like an invisible line. I don't tell them they have to be there. It's not a "down, stay" - they are free to go do what ever they want. But, if they want to be near me when I am cooking they must stay out of my zone and most of them choose to lie as close as is permitted which is at the invisible edge. If someone drops a glass and they run in thinking to lick whatever spilled I stop them from getting near broken glass (or whatever) with my "away" cue. And they all learn "move" so I don't stumble over them. They also know to lie out of the way when I carry in groceries -- everyone gets a piece of carrot once I am finished. They are always with me, lie on my feet or on my lap and follow me everywhere (including to the bathroom), but they are not allowed to be dangerously underfoot.

Don't wait until your need these behaviors or your dog is tripping you. Teach them as a training lesson when you have time to focus. Give your dog your undivided attention for those few minutes and make sure he gives you his. Repetition is key to getting the cue word associated with the action. Doing it this way can make it a fun game for everyone and you have some very handy cues when you need them.

For more Lab inspirations visit my OtterTail Lab Art.
Happy Training!

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