Helping Cockapoo’s in their hour of need
Whilst working on basic Positive Reinforcement Training (e.g. sit; down;) there are a few exercises that lead towards owning a Cockapoo with good manners. The aim of these exercises is to train your Cockapoo to either respond automatically following certain cues or to look towards you for ‘permission’ in any given situation. A clicker is invaluable for these exercises and can be obtained from any good pet shop or online.
Wait for release from vehicle
Think of a release word that you could use to indicate to your Cockapoo that you give permission or that the task is over. Many people use ‘ok’ for everything although you may prefer to use different words for different scenarios e.g. ‘finished’ or ‘go play’.
Getting out of your vehicle
Arriving at the park for a walk is an exciting time for a dog. Teach your Cockapoo to wait in your vehicle until you give him your release word. This may take time and patience but will pay dividends. A dog that automatically jumps out of the boot of a car as soon as it is opened may put himself in danger. If your Cockapoo is crated or uses a harness in your car, still get him to wait until you give the release word before he can get out.
Off Lead Play
When you unclip your Cockapoo’s lead try and keep his attention for 5 seconds before releasing him to go and play using your release word. A ‘sit’ and ‘watch’ may be appropriate for some dogs or simply a quick play with a toy for a puppy. You are teaching your Cockapoo that having a lead removed does not mean that they can immediately disappear over the horizon at 60 miles an hour!
Whilst on your off lead walk try and recall your Cockapoo a few times. Choose times when you are confident that he will return, click and treat him, put his lead back on and immediately feed him about 5 treats one after the other with lots of praise. You are teaching your Cockapoo that going back on the lead is a good thing. Then release him again to go and play.
Going through gates and doors
There is a school of thought that recommends always going through a door or gate before your dog. It’s all about respect rather than order. Sometimes it is not convenient to get through the front door before your Cockapoo and it would certainly be easier if they could close the porch door behind them!
If your Cockapoo enthusiastically pushes his nose through an opening door or gate there is a very simple and effective method to gain respect. As you slowly open your front door, if your Cockapoo pushes his nose through then close the door again. Your Cockapoo will soon move his nose out of the way. Repeat the action until your dog either steps back or looks at you. Click and treat this behaviour, give your release word and allow him to walk through. You are teaching your Cockapoo to wait for permission to enter your house. No more contorted bodies trying to get one step through the door ahead of your dog!
Basil pushes ahead through the gate
Basil looks up for permission
Basil and I walk through together
Settle stage 1
Settle stage 2
Imagine being able to leave your supper plate on a coffee table to answer the door without it being wolfed down in two seconds by your devoted companion!
Place a treat into the palm of your hand and close your fingers into a fist. Place your fist in front of your Cockapoo. He will investigate enthusiastically with his nose. Keep your fist closed and still until your puppy looks away. The second he looks away, click and open your fist giving your release word ‘ok’ or ‘take it’. If your dog takes the treat softly, praise him and allow him to take it. If your dog snaps at the treat with his teeth, close your hand around the treat again and repeat. Keep practising. Eventually your Cockapoo will sit and wait with a treat in your open hand, waiting for permission to take it.
Rufus tries to access the treat
Rufus looks up for permission
Good boy! The treat is released
The next stage is to put your Cockapoo on the lead. Place a pile of treats on the floor just out of reach and hold the lead in a fixed position. Your Cockapoo will obviously try and reach the treats but keep the lead fixed so as not to allow him to pull you towards the treats. When your Cockapoo looks at you, click this behaviour and give them a treat from the pile. Cockapoos are very clever dogs and it will not be long before they get the idea and look at you for their reward. With plenty of practise you will get to a stage when your Cockapoo will look to you for permission if they find dropped food on a walk.
Rufus tries to reach the treats
Rufus looks up for permission
Good boy! Treat is given
It is a good idea to get your Cockapoo to feel comfortable with you around their food bowl. I would never advocate removing their bowl mid meal or taking food out of their bowl. Imagine how you would feel having not eaten all day to be given a roast dinner and then to have it taken away after two mouthfuls? Food is a valuable resource for a dog and removing his food is probably more likely to encourage food aggression. Instead, sit by your dog whilst he is eating and add high value treats to his bowl. He will soon learn that your presence around his bowl is a beneficial thing.
The same technique can be used around his favourite toys. Try swapping toys for a more desirable toy or some treats. If the swapped toy is safe for your dog to have then return it to him. Your Cockapoo is learning that it is ok for you take something from him as he may get something better in return. In essence he is learning that it is good fun to share.