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Elkhound Training & Communicating With Your Elkhound

Takoda - Full Grown Male Elkhound - Demonstrates Communication and Feedback With Handler Merv Carlson of Kamia Kennels

"Communication with your Elkhound is the key to training and enjoying your time with your dog "

All of us want that dog that listens, that pays attention to us, that responds to commands and respects what we say, yet has a mind of their own, a dog that can have fun with you and enjoy the time they have with you, and you with them. This is what an Elkhound can provide. You need to be able to respect them, listen to them, understand the communication skills they have and it will all work just like a charm, exactly the dog you always wanted will be yours, and it will do everything you always wanted, easy.

"Having some patience, giving your dog some credit to make choices, these take a little self control, however your dog will always do what you want, simply give them space to do it in." Merv Carlson - Kamia Kennels

In these video's I hope to share a few hours of my experiences with Takoda. I am not a dog trainer as such, however anyone who has a good dog that listens to commands is a "dog trainer". I prefer to think I haven't really trained him anything, I simply communicate with him, and him with me.

You will be able to see the communication between us, you will see the acknowledgement from Takoda when I speak, and also when he does give me the signs of doing things right I acknowledge him as well, it's a two way street. Your going to be able to watch a set of video's I made the other day, it was a stormy Sunday, but just the same, I took the video camera as I knew we could have a fun time. Anytime Takoda and I get out it's a good time, no matter the weather, and he doesn't mind any kind of cold at all.

So, to begin I will talk about what I would like to share in the first segment video: He is a mature male, yet runs around and has fun like a pup, this is a sure sign your dog is well fed, happy, and enjoys your company. You'll see Takoda moving in his element, snow drifts, some deeper snow, some area to roam, and you will be able to see how these dogs are so well suited to the Northern Regions from which they came. Takoda is a powerhouse, he is constantly burning around, he has a strong work ethic, he never just lazes along, he is moving.

In the first segment you will see his ability to range, yet he stays in sight and in communication range, coming and going on his own, at the start of the video he is allowed to explore on his own, and he returns on his own, I did not call him back, he is just cruising back and forth as he should. You'll see him at one point up on the drift, bark and have fun just like a pup, a really playful Male, you can tell he enjoys this, he spoke, so I spoke back, we are both having fun. You'll see him go to approach the road, I give a command "No", watch his ears, they just barely move, then he signals ever so slight he still would like to go that way, I say "No", he then signals affirmative with his ears and body language and it's not brought back up by him. Watch him close as he goes to the top of the drift after he has agreed that there is no need to proceed in that direction, when he doesn't signal to go but just looks, I give him credit, "Good Boy" he responds with his ears, and turns back to what we are doing. It's some give and take.

Keep and eye on him now when I suggest let's go, and give him the command " Go Ahead", he knows he can go, he gives me a second or so to begin, and then he proceeds, he is very polite, even though he has access to go. Watch him range out and check back with me, he likes to go out and return, then he finds a spot to dig in, I would normally never interrupt him in that, but for the video I chose that time to interrupt so you could see that taking him from something important was just as simple as not important. He hesitates not, and doesn't lack desire to "Come Here". I always praise him, and lot's of it.

Patience, trust in the command and the dog

Don't get hasty, do not get in the habit of over commanding, your dog will get tired of you, and your commands, give a command and let him finish it

I will try to illustrate the patience that is sometimes required with an Elkhound. They are intelligent, easy to train, just sometimes not so easy to work with in our fast paced, high speed lives. You will need some patience. Once you have your dog working with you, and your in work mode, then, command, and for the most part wait until they complete it, don't just keep commanding the same thing. You will see that Takoda is going to get a command from a distance, and it's hard to hear, but no matter, wind or not, he heard me. I gave the command "Come Here". Now for him, that's a standard command that he is to make his way back to me, and for the most part that is exactly what he did, however he had to make a couple stops. You can tell he is an air scent dog, running right by that small spot of marker he caught wind, spun around, and had to check it, then mark.

This is where the patience comes in. He is still under the command to return to me. There is no need for me to re-command. Many people would re-command if he deviated or stopped altogether. I feel you need to have patience. Unless the dog is clearly not following, then another command of the same is not warranted. Let him finish. As you can see, he knows the command is still valid, he resumes his trek back to me as soon as he could.

Again, once he completes the task, he is highly praised, he is pleased, I am pleased, we are both working together and having a good time.

Regarding Pups: commanding in a more rapid fashion with pups is entirely correct, as they need re-enforcement as to which activity is right, and they distract easily, but once they know a command, they know it.

Preparation begins as a pup for distance range and return, but once learned a dog knows and doesn't forget

Don't get caught with your dog off leash, never to return, prepare the pup to return, continue training to return through for a couple years

In this next segment your going to see him roam to the edge of his check in range, roughly the distance I can barely see him with a naked eye, in this case I have the zoom lens so I can zoom in and we can all see, and with the snow blowing and all it's a bit of a bizarre day, but no matter, we get to see what I think is clearly a dog communicating over distance. They can see us many times greater distance than us them, so they use body signals at distance to relay to us they are in contact.

In this video he is allowed to have range and he can go ahead, he goes right out to where he feels he should "Check In", he turns, stops looks right at me to see if I am going to signal, he rolls his ears back so that I can see he knows I see him, and he lets me know by this that he sees me, there is no signal so he can proceed. Which he does, clear out of sight. Now, my hand got cold so I stopped recording for a minute or so, and then in the next video you will see him coming back. What is interesting is that there was no command to return. His instinct is to return and check in, then he can proceed again.

This behaviour is instinctive in an Elkhound, so it's not hard to train, however you need to reinforce the instinctive behaviour to return as a pup and continue through with the same program and range until he is almost two. At two you can rest assured your dog has "learned" the range. He will indicate this to you, and demonstrate the behaviour easily.

Give Tons of Praise to a dog that is operating on his own, and following learned correct behaviours

Takoda is returning on his own accord, a check in time in his mind was warranted, so he returns and does just that. Praise for the dog is required anytime the dog is operating on his own, and following your lead as to range, check in, and so on.

Elkhounds operate without the handler for a great deal of the time, however they are always in "Contact" using distance cues if you watch for them, and if you can't see them they are under knowledge and instinct to return.

You enhance this instinctive behaviour from a pup, getting them to range out, and return, then range out further and return, and so on.

Tons of Praise for correct behaviours, and even more so for behaviour outside the range of the handler - in circumstances where the dog is operating on his own.

Two Types of Elkhounds, the Northern Swedish Type are not quite as stubborn, and in my opinion communicate easier

This last video shows a desire to communicate, and respond. Here he has some room to roam, and he has been up and around a fair bit already by this time, he will show a time where he more or less comes to a pause in his roaming, and he "Checks In", this is his way of saying, hey, how you doing? I take the opportunity, I give the command "Come Here", knowing full well that is exactly what he wanted, and actually expected as you can see with the response. This is when things are working good, it's a great day out when you can hike around and you and your dog are just getting along, having a good time, all is well, never mind the -25 and wind-chill extraordinaire.

You don't want to miss these cue's with your dog, these give you great insight into what your dog is doing, and is going to do. The Elkhound will use his ears a tremendous amount to relay information to you, and to respond that he has heard you, don't miss it, watch for it.

The Elkhound has a strong work ethic and desire to respond and please

This video shows the strong work ethic that Takoda exhibits, he is moving and powering through all the time, it's basically non stop with him, no matter the day, no matter the season. The other thing that this video illustrates is the desire the Elkhound possess instinctively to respond to the handler. They want to please, they want to interact on a regular basis, even though they are quite independent, they lack no desire to "Work With The Handler" as you can see when I give Takoda the command to "Come Here".

Note, I gave the command at the instant he "Checked In". He was looking for a signal, so I gave it. You always will have better response when you work with him, not against him. Watch closely for the clues your dog provides.

Elkhounds are stubborn and independent though, have patience

This video shows the stubborn independent side of the Elkhound, we are having a fun day, and Takoda has found a spot with a field mouse nest, the snow here is about 3 feet deep so he can dig all around and have a fun time. This shows the stubborn independent side of the Elkhound, he doesn't exactly "Respond Instantly" to my commands here, although he is getting ready to, and I am having fun, I understand the nature of the Breed, I need to exercise some patience, he eventually comes around.

It's that give and take you'll need to have with your Elkhound to have a really great time and allow your Elkhound some of his own space and allow him to have his independence around you that will make your time with your Elkhound more enjoyable.

Elkhound Training begins in the first few weeks

If you have watched any of the pup video's you see that "Come Here" training begins early at Kamia Kennels. We want the pups to associate the handler with all good things, and to enhance and begin to reward them immediately for coming over, and to make near us the best place in the world. We begin to have your pup understanding a phrase, "Come Here" as quickly as we can, and continue with it even as the weeks go by.

In this video you'll see a number of things, primarily that training more than one dog is just as easy as one, and that they know their name early on in life, thus the reason we like to get it.

Now, you'll witness that we need to do repetitive commands as a pup, different than adult dogs of course, so be sure to lessen and lessen the repetitive commands as the pup catches on and once he "Learns", he then knows, and you can say it and wait.

Also, always command the attention using The Name, then "Come Here", then big fun time and praise when they get to you. You will also see we rarely, if ever use treats to train, only praise, this makes it much easier to do all the time. Besides Elkhounds want to be near you, working with you, it's instinctive to them to want to do what you want, so you really don't need a treat as such to get them to work, a kind word and touch each time they do the right thing is all they ask.

Kona is a prime example of using his name to get his attention, then command "Come Here", then big fun time and praise for him. Take note of his demeanour when he gets there, and gets the praise, he is very happy and pleased with everything, his tail is just a going. You want your pups to "Always" have a great time when they come to you.

When it comes to using a name watch Bosco, he is a stubborn little rascal, yet he knows, he pays attention, and he tests me all the same, even at his young age, but he is a good boy, he follows through just great, and he knows he did the right thing, and we are sure to tell him.

Come Here training is repetition, and reward, combined with patience.

Takoda can pass this communication ability down

Takoda is an ancient northern strain of Elkhound, these types are not normally found in Canada, his type is not as stubborn as the Norwegian Type, they communicate very well. Takoda is able to pass this trait down. I have witnessed it in action with a number of his pups. Tora is able to do the exact same thing, she is a splitting image of him, perhaps yes, because we took him all the time to train her, so no doubt she was able to catch a lot of this from him, however Mela was the same. She came to stay for only a limited time as a young female under a year old, but there is no mistaking the trait and ability when it is shown. She clearly was able to do the same, she needed some refinement no problem, but the instinct, the skill was inherited.

A lot of the independent stubborn traits that are written about regarding Elkhounds are first and foremost because people miss the communication cue, it's brief as you can see, you need to be paying attention or you'll miss it. Secondly, people normally are hasty, they expect a dog to react like a remote controlled car, if it doesn't turn back toward you instantly they re-command and begin frustrating things. Third, the Norwegian is a bit more independent, and is more stubborn. Had I been shooting this video of Mia, we most likely would have been a little cooler on the return paths, oh yes, she follows commands just as well, however she takes her own time.

Having Takoda somewhere in the Genetic line creates what I feel is a tremendous Elkhound, this trait is just a blessing when you are out, off leash, just going to have a good time with your dog, it allows you that opportunity to relax and enjoy the time.