Dear Old Trainer: I thought it was impossible to train Jake, my Lab mix, until I read your tips six months ago. Now he actually minds. I started with "sit" and "stay," but the easiest was "turn around." You had a name for that training method, but I forgot it. Can you explain it again?
-- Shaun, Reno, Nev.
A: It's called Indirect Training. You apply a command to an act that your dog already performs as part of the daily routine and let him learn it at his own speed.
Mark Knopfler wasn't talking about Indirect Training when he sang "That ain't working ..." in "Money For Nothing," but dog owners love it because it requires no work.
"Turn around," is the perfect example. When you turn for home on your daily walk, say "turn around," and walk in the other direction. Ignore your dog and let him figure it out on his own. No dog is going to be left behind, so they learn this one fast.
Here are two more for Jake to work on:
When you come to a cross street during your walk, give the command "hold" and a slight pull on the leash to bring Jake to a stop. Give the command "cross" as you resume your walk. Make no effort to train Jake, just give the commands and walk across the street. In a few days he will stop at the curb on the "hold" command and start walking when you say "cross."
Indirect Training works for every dog. Just give the command, then love on them and give them a "good boy" or "good girl" when they do it right. Add commands so you are always working on something new. Each time your dog learns a command, the bond between the two of you grows stronger.
Dear Old Trainer: I just rescued Bella, an Aussie/Golden mix. She's perfect except her coat is dull and brittle. You mentioned that you restored luster to the coats of your dogs. How do I improve Bella's coat?
-- Erin, Chowchilla
A: Stress and loneliness cause a dog's coat to deteriorate. When a dog moves to a loving home, the coat begins to restore itself overnight. Make sure Bella is confident and knows you are going to love her every day.
Grooming and exercise help. Give her a weekly bath -- you don't have to use a tub, just call her over to the hose and give the coat a good rinsing with clean water. Brush her often and exercise her every day.
Nutrition is the most important factor. I recommend a combination of one third brown rice, one third meat or chicken and one third high grade commercial kibble. Start with three-quarters cup food for each 15 pounds she weighs. Add a tablespoon of olive oil or bacon grease daily and one egg a week.
Add in leftovers as you wish, but keep the food volume-to-weight ratio the same. If she gains too much weight -- you want to be able to feel the ribs but not see them -- change the ratio to three-quarters cup per 20 pounds.
Bella's coat will look beautiful in a month.
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