BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO TRAINING YOUR LAPPHUND
The second thing you will notice about the Finnish Lapphund is how intelligent it is.* It’s a clever, energetic, independent dog who will need plenty of physical and mental stimulation to keep him happy and healthy. Your Lapphund will blossom with good training – and indeed these dogs need training. You have to show your Lapphund what is and is not acceptable behaviour, otherwise you can be sure your dog will decide those things for himself and you’re unlikely to agree with his decisions!
Before you even bring your puppy home, do some research into training and socialisation classes in your area. Your local vet may host puppy parties or advertise trainers and classes. Your local pet shop is another resource for finding classes. The Kennel Club (KC) maintains a list of dog clubs throughout the country and you can find out about those in your area.
Any dog of any age will benefit from a training regime and it’s never too late to start. It’s easier, though, to start with a Lapphund when it’s young, and the younger the better. Start as soon as your puppy settles into its new home. Training should not be something you only do in classes, but for greatest success it should be part of your everyday life with your Lapphund.
(*The first thing you notice is its good looks, of course!)
Your puppy will need to be socialised. Get out and about with your Lapphund straight away. Even if he has not yet had his inoculations, carry him everywhere. Up and down busy streets, through parks full of noisy, playing children, through busy carparks, markets, and shopping precincts – anywhere you are allowed. Every scary experience your puppy is gently introduced to at this young age will set him up for being confident and secure when he is older.
When introducing a dog to your family make sure everyone understand that your pet sees things different to you – make sure your children (and you) understand how to keep “safe and sound” with the new family member.
Socialisation not only means introducing your puppy to other people and dogs, but to potentially frightening situations too. Set up scenarios in your house – swoop down on your puppy from a great height (or so it seems to him), then play with him and stroke him to let him know not to be afraid. Pop open an umbrella next to him and praise him for being brave, make it a fun game. Wear a hat, big sunglasses, make yourself look strange to him. If you are a single person, make sure your puppy meets lots of people of the opposite sex. Make sure your puppy meets children. Each scary experience your new puppy “survives” will give him more and more confidence to bounce back from frightening situations as an adult.
Choose a method, and stick with it. Your training class will offer one method. If it works for you and your Lapphund, then keep it up. If you don’t like your trainer or the methods they use, find another class. You should be happy and comfortable with the methods used in your training class, and so should your dog.
Regardless of the training method you use, be sure to use hand signals as well as voice signals for every command you give. Dogs respond better when there is more than one way for knowing what you want them to do.
Be consistent with your dog. Don’t switch between different hand signals or voice commands for the same action. It will lead only to frustration for your dog and for you. Choose a one-word command and hand signal for a desired behaviour and stick to it. Your Lapphund wants to please you and he will do everything he can to make you happy. If he doesn’t seem to be catching on to a certain command, don’t blame him. Instead, consider whether you are being consistent with your command. Keep things straightforward and simple.
Use “high value” treats to rewards your Lapphund for obeying your commands. At first you should give a treat for every well-performed task. Try slices of frankfurter or sausage, small cubes of mature cheese, cooked chicken or liver. Or, if you can stomach it, raw liver! If you have to worry about your dog’s waistline, do a little training with a handful of his mealtime biscuits.
Training as a Way of Life
Make training an everyday part of your Lapphund’s life. It will improve your bond and make your dog more obedient in every area of his life. With a very young puppy, training sessions should be kept short – no more than 5 minutes at a time. Training should be fun, not a chore! But you should make sure you do a little training every day. As your puppy matures and his attention span improves, you can gradually build up the time you spend training. Always end your session on a high – get your Lapphund to do one final task that he does well – in the beginning this might be as simple as “sit” – and follow it with a treat and lots of praise.
Work obedience into everyday tasks. Make your Lapphund perform a task every time he wants something. He wants to play ball? Make him give it to you nicely. He wants his dinner? Make him perform a few basic moves such as sit, down, sit, wait. Never let him dive into his food bowl until you have given permission. He wants to go out? Make him wait politely by the door (not pulling on his lead) until you have stepped through the doorway first.
There are numerous good books on this topic. Read a few and try some of the techniques they recommend to see what works for you and your dog.
Ian Dunbar has written several books on training dogs. A good one for the beginner – and everyone else too – is Before and After Getting Your Puppy: The Positive Approach to Raising a Happy, Healthy, and Well-Behaved Dog . This book covers useful topics like bite inhibition, socialisation, puppy classes, car journeys, chewtoys, grooming and the all-important recall training.
The Culture Clash by Jean Donaldson offers good advice on why dogs do what they do.
Don’t Shoot the Dog!: The New Art of Teaching and Training and Clicker Training for Dogs by Karen Pryor give step by step instructions on how to master that famous training style, clicker training.
For reward-based training ideas, try Dogwise: The Natural Way to Train Your Dog by John Fisher.
If you’re interested in the famous Jan Fennell’s method, try her The Dog Listener and The Practical Dog Listener: The 30-day Path to a Lifelong Understanding of Your Dog.
A fun way of training your dog – and bonding with him – is to teach him some tricks. The renown heelwork-to-music guru Mary Ray, together with Justine Harding, has written a book full of great tricks and how to train your dog to do them: Dog Tricks: Fun and Games for Your Clever Canine.
Suzanne Clothier has a website called Flying Dog Press which is full of clear, sensible advice. Check out her story about why you need to train your dog and why your dog growls at other dogs.
Tips for Training Your Lapphund
- Be firm. You don’t have just any dog – you have a Finnish Lapphund! And that means you have a very bright, independent and free-thinking friend. You have to make it very clear what is acceptable behaviour and what is not. And then you have to make it clear again. And again, and again, and again. It’s not that your Lapphund doesn’t get it, it’s just that he has his own ideas and you might have to take some time to convince him that you’re the boss and you know best.
- Be fair. Don’t punish your dog unjustly. Train him carefully and he will reward you with good behaviour. Respect him and he will respect you. Reward him for good behaviour.
- Be consistent. Make your rules and stick to them. If you don’t want your dog on the sofa as an adult or when you have visitors, then don’t let him on the sofa when he’s an irresistible puppy and you want a quick cuddle. Don’t let him get away with unwanted behaviour at any time, not even once. If just once you reward him with an affectionate pat for jumping up, you will have a much harder time training him to keep all four paws on the ground in future.
- Be patient. Lapphunds are slow to mature and you might well have a boisterous puppy on your hands for two whole years. Like people, every dog has its own personality, and yours might have a bit more personality than others! Give it time, keep up with the training and don’t despair. Even that livewire will mature into a well-behaved, dependable – if cheeky! – family pet.
- Have fun. Your training will be a very slow, agonizing process indeed if you and your dog are not enjoying the process. Keep sessions short enough to maintain your dog’s concentration. Always start and finish with tasks your dog does well. He will enjoy getting it right (and getting his reward, of course) and his success will instill confidence.
When you’ve mastered the basics, you might get bitten by the training bug. Lapphunds are fantastic at all the doggie sports.
If you are interested in training your dog for agility check out www.agilitynet.co.uk.
For formal obedience classes that go beyond simply teaching your dog some manners and for obedience competitions check out www.obedienceuk.com.
For working trials information: www.workingtrials.co.uk.
Earn a qualification! The Kennel Club runs a Good Citizen Dog Scheme by which you and your dog can earn awards at levels Bronze, Silver and Gold. And it all starts with a very useful Puppy Foundation Course. Lots of Lapphunds have won these awards – yours can too.