Training Bella: part 1

When you get a rescue dog from the RSPCA they don’t tell you that she might freak out at ironing boards and lawnmowers. They don’t tell you that she tends to choke on biscuit treats or that she will love your existing dog so much that she tries to sleep on top of him. They don’t tell you that the dog has never seen a cow so when she does it must be barked at constantly. We live next to a field. A field full of cows.

They do tell you her age, her compatibility with other dogs and children, and provide you with a vet report and 6 weeks free insurance. They also tell you that you must take her to training lessons. So we started with a one to one with UK super trainer, Kimberly Cox.

Kimberly immediately assessed the cut of Bella’s jib. She is bright, loving and has good bite inhibition. Within two hours she had taught her to sit, leave, heel and come. But the most important lessons were for me. Critically staffies are prone to getting very stressed very quickly so have to be taught self control.  Making her wait for a treat is a good way to have her exercise this. I have to get her to sit for two minutes in front of the treat before she takes it. How many of us could do that? If you stick a malteser in front of me I couldn’t wait two minutes to eat it. Could you?

Interestingly she said that when dogs immediately defer to an alpha male (as Mikey our lab has done with my husband Norm since day 1 eroding my dog handling confidence) they are acting through fear and not self control. That explains why when he is totally distracted he won’t do what Norm says either! (I won’t lie. This makes me happy).

So now the hard work starts. She pulls on the lead so hard I am being dragged along the street so no more walks for the next couple of weeks. We will just be walking up and down the drive with treats until she earns her freedom. So neighbours when you see me doing circles up and down the road I haven’t gone mad – yet. I’m in training….





Author: Bernadette Ballantyne

Freelance journalist and former engineer writing for business magazines and blogging about working parent issues

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