by Texas Homesteader
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We adopted our sweet mini-Schnauzer Bailey from a local no-kill shelter a year ago and we adore her. But oh she needed some obedience training! She didn’t sit/come/stay at all, she lunged & growled at the cows & chased the chickens. And oh my goodness any time the door was opened she skirted around our legs & busted outside, running as fast as she could for the highway with no turning back.
Now these are all bad behaviors that needed to be corrected, but out here on the ranch it’s super important to have immediate obedience from her. Life can be dangerous for her out here. For instance in the very recent past we’ve had to call her in from the back yard as a coyote was trotting toward the house. If not for her immediate unquestioning obedience she could have easily gotten nabbed. Or what about her curiosity about a copperhead snake? Or potentially rabid skunk? Immediate obedience from her is non negotiable out here. It’s a MUST.
Multi-Faceted Approach To Training
I’m happy to say she’s a very intelligent dog and her training has gone very, very well. It’s taken persistence, positive reinforcement and yes… a training collar.
Although we want to provide a high-quality loving environment for her here, RancherMan & I are the type that look at a cow as being a cow, a chicken as being a chicken & a dog as being a dog. I think the master/dog relationship is an important one for harmonious coexistence for all in our household.
But many people think of their pets as people and wouldn’t consider using a training collar on them. So please understand that I mean to offend no one in the writing of this post. I’m just sharing the success we’ve had using a combination of methods.
When we first brought Bailey home we realized that of course we were calling her by a different name than she was used to being addressed by her previous owner. So the first thing we had to do is teach her that when we said “Bailey” we were talking to her.
That was a pretty quick and easy lesson for her and in no time she was responding to her name.
Homemade Treats Are Training Tools
I then made up some homemade dog treats to use with her further obedience training. Since she’s predisposed to bladder stones we needed to make sure her treats were low in oxalate, so I made mine with carrots which I’ve read is a relatively low-oxalate food.
I cut those treats into ridiculously-small squares so that they could be used often without affecting her appetite. She absolutely loved them and would sit as long as we wanted for a taste of those treats!
We worked with her heavily from within the confines of the house, teaching her what sit, stay and come meant, rewarding her with praise & treats when she responded correctly. When we went outside she was always on a leash. And we made sure we had a pocket full of those treats every time we went out.
We worked with her every day, several times each day and we were consistent with our expectations. If it took her longer to sit than we wanted, we didn’t give up & say it was ok “this time“, we pressed her until she obeyed. Of course we praised her mightily when she obeyed, and we used stern unapproving tones when she did not.
Keeping Bailey Close
When we were outside for a longer duration of time we used a screw-in dog stake and made a very long lead. That way she could wander around outside with us nearby but still stay close.
Each day we’d work on teaching her the command “No” and to come, sit or stay – rewarding her with praise, scratches behind the ear & treats when she complied. Let me tell ya those puppy treats were flying out of the jar!
Sometimes More Help Is Needed
If we were out in the pasture checking on cows, hanging laundry, gardening or other chores, we wanted her to be with us, to be part of our lives. But the outside world had so many more distractions than her safe & secure inside world. That nose hit the ground to trail a rabbit or chase a grasshopper and her ears immediately turned off to our commands. As I mentioned before, it’s super important for her own safety that she be able to turn that nose off and those ears on when we call her.
So after much discussion & research we decided on this *Dog-Training Collar. We liked this model for several reasons – it has different types of correction including audible tone, vibration, and shock. And even within those three categories there were different levels of correction from a tiny 1% to a stronger 100% intensity.
UPDATE: RancherMan likes this newer designed *Dog-Training Collar because it has some improvements, including a smaller unit for the actual collar and rechargeable battery features. Be sure to check the collar size to fit your dog, and search for a linger-pronged unit if your dog has thicker fur. The prongs must touch the skin for the collar to be effective!
We both feel strongly that if you’re going to train an animal successfully and humanely you must stay consistent with your expectations from the animal. And you start with the lowest most passive level of correction and only move up the ladder if that doesn’t work.
So our go-to method was using a stern voice command and the word “NO”. If that didn’t work then we activated the training collar’s audible tone, then vibration. Only as a last resort would we activate the mildest shock. (yes, RancherMan tried the vibration and shock methods on his arm to get a feel for its intensity and was satisfied with those options for Bailey)
She actually reacted well to the audible tone option. So that’s pretty much the only training collar mode we needed to use. Each day she got more & more responsive to our commands and we rewarded her heartily for her trust in us.
Is Bailey Ready To Be Off Her Leash??
We knew that it was our desire to ultimately have her with us wherever we were. But we dared to wonder, “Could it be possible that we can have her out & around with us in the pasture without being on a leash?”
How wonderful it would be to stroll to the pond with a fishing pole in our hand and Bailey trotting alongside us. Could it be that we could actually train her to stay with us when we’re out roaming? We kept up our consistent training with our eye on making her leash free one day…
Oh my gosh the day we let her off the leash outside for the first time it was so stressful! There are no boundaries out here, even our back yard has only barbed wire between it and the paddock behind the house. So on the day we were going to experiment having her off the leash we took her out with us all day, letting her get very tired so she wouldn’t just dash away if our experiment failed.
Then as evening fell RancherMan & I sat on the back porch as we often do to enjoy the end of the day. We removed her leash and gave her a few reinforcing pats on the head & a scratch behind the ears. Then we leaned back into our porch rockers and watched her.
She didn’t really seem to understand that she was untethered at first. She just roamed around sniffing the ground for a bit. But each time we called her back to us she came running to us for a scratch behind the ears. WHEW!!
Bailey’s Happy And LOVES It Here!
We’ve taken her out with us every day from that point on. She usually runs just a little ahead of us and always stops & turns to see where we are and what direction we were going. Then she’ll change her direction to keep in step with ours. Oh my goodness I think we finally have a BINGO!
In the year that we’ve had her we’ve never stopped her training . We require her to respond to us correctly when we give her a command, and she typically does! Now we’re even able to open the door to let her go outside to do her business without worry of her running away. She knows her boundaries and she stays within the confines of the backyard even though she could easily slip under the barbed wire fence & run as she pleases.
So now we take her with us almost every time we go outside. She gets beyond excited when we ask her if she “wants to go”. It doesn’t matter where – to the mailbox, the chicken coop, or out in the pasture to check cows – she happily trots next to us as we stroll along. SUCCESS!!
Reinforcing The Training
We still have the training collar and we use it from time to time when we feel she needs a little reinforcement in her training. We never have to use the vibration or shock. The tone is all it takes to have her stop what she’s doing & come sit at our feet.
We couldn’t be happier – we have a smart, fun, amazing pet to love and she loves & trusts us in return. Sweet little Bailey has added much joy to our lives. And I know that she absolutely loves her life here on the ranch. What’s not to love?? She gets to romp and play during the day either accompanying RancherMan as he checks the cattle or me as I go about my chores. And at the end of a fun day at the ranch she’s happiest curled up in my lap.
Yep, this is the life…
Other Ranching Articles
- Successful Obedience Training For Our Ranch Dog
- What Working From Home REALLY Means (and what it DOESN’T)
- Ranching: A Good Life, But A HARD Life
- The Sad Side Of Ranching
- Temporary Cattle Stocking For Flexibility
- A Glimpse Into Our Texas Homestead
- Milking My First Cow – Using Fresh Milk
- Easily Separating Cream From Raw Milk
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