“Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start”, sang Julie Andrews in ‘The Sound of Music’. Now, I’m not one to start a row with Dame Julie but the beginning isn’t always the best place to start when it comes to dog training. In fact, it’s often better to start right at the very end!
Let me explain. I was reading some posts on a Facebook group about dogs that would go up stairs but couldn’t come back down again. You see, the view from the top was probably pretty scary to those little fellas. I had the same situation with one of my dogs. We quickly got over this by starting at the finish line. I popped him onto the very bottom stair and produced a tasty piece of roast chicken. Well, he hopped off that stair and was rewarded with lots of praise and a delicious snacky. I then popped him onto the second stair and presented the chicken again, he ran down the two stairs, was praised and rewarded. We gradually moved to the top of the stairs, taking time to ensure he was totally confident before moving to the next step. If he wasn’t, we moved down a couple of stairs to make it easy again and built our way back up. Within no time he was hurtling up the stairs, and back down again, to be rewarded with the chicken.
This technique works with all sorts of other behaviours that we want to teach, such as playing fetch. Just start by rewarding your pooch for giving you the ball, before you even think about throwing it.
So, you see, apologies to Dame Julie but sometimes the very end is the very best place to start!