Ah Boys to Men – Dog Training with Porkchop

We got Porkchop in November 2019 when he was only 2.5 months old. Fresh from the pet shop and brainwashed by dramas, we thought that being a pet owner just meant welcoming a new member into your life. We were okay as long as he peed and pooped at the right places like your typical family member. Being a first time pawrent we were super clueless about the need for training until we met our first hurdle – excessive barking.

How it started

Sometime around February this year, Porkchop became territorial and barked at strangers, neighbours and anyone that walked past the door. He only stopped when the person walked away. Initially we were all trying to adapt to it. I mean it was just doggo doing their doggo duty right? When strangers came they just wanted to safeguard the family and alert the family of impending danger (which happens to be in the shape of a Grab deliveryman most of the time). The only issue was that as the days went by, the alert became louder, more frequent and disruptive.

It also didn’t help when we walked to his playpen to tell him to “quiet” whenever he borked. We thought we were doing the right thing. But in Porkchop’s eyes it meant, “Oh when I make a sound my favourite hoomans come.” Being a super attention seeker, this attention that we gave him led him to learn the negative behaviour and the excessive barking gradually became attention barking.

#ProTip: One of the ways to tackle attention barking is to simply not give it any attention. By ignoring it you are sending an opposite behaviour of “ If you make a sound, I will not come”. However it does take a lot of effort on the pawrent’s end and all family members will need to cooperate, be firm and consistent in order to make it effective.

Everything sounds bad so far right? So hoomum went to ask her best friend, Google for some tips. She also talked to a few other dog owners to understand their experience. After some research, we decided to try what we found on the Internet.

First Try – Teaching the “Speak” command

Okay so the logic was, if your dog keeps barking, you hold a treat up at his nose for a long time and not give it to him until he gets annoyed and starts to bark. When that happens, catch it and tag it with the “speak” command. Once he knows that speak = barking, he will start to learn to speak on command. When he masters this, you then teach him the “quiet” command. Sounds simple, but it was an utter failure for us. We spent 30 minutes teaching him to “speak” using reward based training (rewarding him treatos when he barks) and he ended up barking every time he sees treats…. *shakes head* Maybe we did something wrong with this method but we had to give up in the end and look for alternatives. This also shows that not everything you read on the Internet works.

Second Try – Obedience school

This was one of the methods that hoomum’s colleagues recommended. We then started our journey of researching for a good obedience school for Porkchop and enrolled in a 10 week obedience training course with a local renowned trainer. We learnt how to use leash correction and choke chain during the training and every negative behaviour revolved around pulling the choke chain in a sudden movement.

Practicing sit stay with the choke collar

So whenever Porkchop barked, we pulled the choke chain up and corrected him. It was pretty effective at the start since it was something new for him that he never encountered. The choke chain did provide some discomfort so he stopped when we corrected him and the barking became less frequent. We also worked on our heel work during school a lot and the training also helped to tackle the leash pulling problem that he had whenever he was out. (Yes he’s a boy with many behavioural issues. In our opinion this is not uncommon though)

Taken during one of our practices

Everything seemed pretty good until Porkchop started to get used to it. When he got used to the chokes, the barking came back. Not as bad as the beginning, but if we say we progressed significantly during the course, by the end of the course we felt like the progress had taken a huge step backwards.

Yepp, overall we still felt there was an improvement. We did reward him during this training time but to see our futile efforts going backwards instead of progressing made us feel quite disheartened. On top of that we had been diligently practicing his training every day after work for the whole time, even outside of classes so it was physically exhausting for us. Not to forget this was done when Porkchop was still a puppy. So the hyper energizer bunny became too much for us and we weren’t enjoying our time with him as much as we liked to.

#Protip: Obedience school is a good way to start and get your pets to learn good behaviour. However, make sure you do enough research (Google, talking to owners with similar breeds, forums etc) to decide on which school is right for your pet. each school uses different training methods which may or may not be suitable for the breed you have or the personality of your pet.

Third Try – E-collar training

Obedience school was lengthened due to the circuit breaker that happened halfway so by July we were super drained out. This was also the time where we started to follow tons of other cute local Corgos on Instagram and chanced upon our idols Lion and Bambi. We were amazed at how they were able to do down stay for a long time while their pawrents buy bubble tea or run errands somewhere nearby. Their heel was perfect and done off leash. It was like seeing our dream for Porkchop come true through them. We were amazed and didn’t know that pet dogs were capable of doing this.

After being wowed by their progress, we decided that we wanted to make our dream come true and contacted them for referral. We had a meeting with the trainer and got introduced to the e-collar for the first time. We got ourselves educated while we sent him off for a 2-week board and train programme. When we got him back, the results were impressive.

Previously, I would say we progressed 20% with the choke chain. With the e-collar training we had managed to progress to about 60-70%. While it’s still not perfect, we think that it is a much better tool to correct negative behaviour. It is easy to learn and the execution is much faster and immediate compared to leash correction. It is also much less reliant on the techniques and handling of the leash, which can vary drastically from owner to owner. We also used it to correct his barking and the situation has definitely improved. Of course, it’s still not perfect as training is a life long journey. But to see him improve tremendously these recent weeks has provided us with a great deal of motivation and satisfaction. Walks with him are now more enjoyable. Being able to stroll down the park with him right beside us without a leash and knowing that he won’t run away is the best feeling we have thus far.

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