The following resources complement the Discussion Points covered in the Club's 6 Week Responsible Dog Ownership (RDO) Course.

Responsible Dog Ownership Attendance Certificate

It consists of quotes from and links to various sources, such as the Dogs NSW Obedience Instructors Manual (4th Edition 2012), upon which the RDO Course is based, NSW Government website pages, and 3rd party websites. 

All attempts have been made in good faith to credit quoted sources. Please contact the Club if you have any concerns about published material.

Week 1: Getting Dog's Attention; Loose Leash Walking; Sits & What Is Reward Based Training?

Week 2: Loose Leash Turns; Recall; Stand; Dog Body Language & Good Manners

Week 3: Drop/Down; Stays; Leave It; Dog Care & Health

Week 4: Stabilisation During Stays; Close Heeling; & Car Safety

Week 5: Running Recalls; Weaving; & NSW Companion Animals Act

Week 6: Revise Hand Signals; Change of Pace Heeling; Sit & Stand for Examination; Show Time; & Award Certificates

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What is Responsible Dog Ownership?

Dogs NSW in their Obedience Instructors Manual (2012) defines responsible dog ownership as having a dog which:

  • Walks on a loose lead when out for a walk showing confidence and control when meeting other dogs and people
  • Sits quietly beside you while being petted by a stranger
  • Stands still for grooming
  • Will stay briefly in a sit or down 
  • Waits until the lead is attached before getting out of the car
  • Comes back when called and allows a lead to be attached
  • Can remain quietly and patiently when separated from you for a short time.

The  NSW Government's Responsible Pet Ownership website page outlines the responsibilities that you as a dog owner have under the Companion Animals Act 1998. In addition to microchipping, registering your dog, updating your dog's details on the NSW Companion Animals Register, ensuring that your dog does not threaten or harm a person or animal and ensuring that your dog does not cause a nuisance, you have other responsibilities. These include:

  • Having a collar and tag on your dog when outside its own property
  • Taking all reasonable precautions to prevent your dog from escaping from the property on which it is being kept
  • Keeping your dog under the effective control of a competent person when in a public place. This means that it must be on a leash and under the control of someone capable of restraining it, ie. not a young child
  • Cleaning up after your dog in public
  • Keeping your dog outside of school grounds and childcare centres and 10 metres away from a children's play area.

Additionally, the NSW Government's Responsible Pet Ownership website page states that as dog owner you have animal welfare-related responsibilities, including to:

  • Provide your dog with an appropriate balanced diet and clean, cool water at all times
  • Ensure that your dog has adequate shelter suitable for all weather conditions
  • Ensure that your dog is well socialised, trained and exercised
  • Ensure your dog's in good health with regular veterinary check ups, worming, tick and flea treatments
  • If you are not going to breed from your dog, you are strongly encouraged to have it desexed to prevent unwanted litters
  • Make sure that your dog is looked after when you go away. If you are leaving your dog in a kennel, make sure that the kennel complies with the NSW Animal Welfare Code of Practice No 5 - Dogs and Cats in Animal Boarding Establishments.

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How Dogs Learn

Dogs NSW in their Obedience Instructors Manual (2012) states:

"Dogs learn by repetition of a pleasant experience, for example, the dog sits - it is given a reward.

Dogs learn best by positive reinforcement. This means teaching the dog to perform a response to get a reward. The reward must be very desirable.

Once dogs have learned a response, they remember longer if they are rewarded intermittently.

Behaviours which are not reinforced or rewarded gradually disappear. This is the way to change an unwanted behaviour - ignore it, while rewarding the behaviour you want."

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What is Reward Based Training? 

The RSPCA Australia website defines Reward Based Training as: 

"Training methods whereby the dog is set up to succeed and then rewarded for performing the ‘good’ behaviour (positive reinforcement).

Reward-based training is enjoyable for the dog and positively enhances the relationship between the dog and handler. Rewards may be in the form of a food treat, favourite chew toy, or verbal praise such as “good dog!” in a pleasant tone of voice, to be given when the dog performs the ‘good’ behaviour.

Reward-based training also involves generally ignoring any ‘unwanted’ behaviours. In this way, the dog is not rewarded for any unwanted behaviour. If dogs are not rewarded (i.e. receives no attention or treats) for a certain behaviour, then they tend to stop doing it.

Reward-based training is the most humane and effective way of training dogs and addressing any unwanted behaviours. Reward-based training does not involve aversive techniques, physical punishment or the assertion of dominance over the dog."

Furthermore, Dogs NSW in their Obedience Instructors Manual (2012) explain that:

"Positive motivational [or Reward Based] training is like putting money in the bank. Each time you reinforce and praise, money goes in. Each time you punish you take money out. If you consistently take money out, your dog won't work for you."

Food is one of the greatest motivators for most dogs. During the 6 week Responsible Dog Ownership Course, we:  

  • Use food as a lure to gain and teach behaviours, also as a motivator and reinforcer, and always given with praise
  • Talk about what foods to use - the higher the value the more willing your dog will be to work for you
  • Discuss the appropriate way to use food in training and the management of your dog's food intake to avoid over feeding. We recommend you do not feed your dog prior to training
  • Show the benefit of using a treat pouch when training with food.

The goal is to fade out the food lure, relying on visual and/or verbal cues and replacing treats with praise. This may take some time to achieve!

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Dog Body Language & Good Manners

To quote from Dogs NSW in their Obedience Instructors Manual (2012), "To understand the dog, we first have to understand how the dog perceives the world about him; what information he receives and, more importantly, how that information is received." 

The ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) provides an excellent online guide to Canine Body Language. In it the ASPCA comments:

"Dogs communicate with one another and with us using their own elegant, non-verbal language. They use facial expressions, ear and tail positions and overall body posture to signal their intentions. Breaking body language down one body part at a time can be helpful in building your observation and interpretation skills. It is vitally important to consider the whole body and the context though, in order to truly understand what a dog is communicating."

In addition to reading dog body language, teaching your dog "good manners" (through regular attendance of dog training classes and homework practise), and learning how to approach other dogs and handlers on a footpath and facilitate positive doggy greetings will help prevent potentially unpleasant incidents from occurring.

The Animal Humane Society has a good online article on Managing a leash-reactive dog that's also useful for non-reactive dogs. Remember, your dog may be happy and placid with other dogs, but that does not mean all other dogs are going to feel the same about your dog! And your dog may not feel the same with ALL dogs!

Lastly, you do have the right to move to another spot in class or ask another handler to restrain their dog if it's making you or your dog feel anxious. Don't wait for someone else to act first!

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Dog Care & Health

As Dogs NSW points out in their Obedience Instructors Manual (2012), "Dogs can't tell us when they are in pain, at least not directly, and sometimes in the busy schedule of most families it is easy to miss the subtle warnings."

Routine health care for your dog should include: 

  • Regular handling of the dog - becoming familiar with your dog’s body can help you find unusual lumps that may require a visit to the Vet
  • Understanding basic health issues for your dog - worming, fleas & ticks; dangerous foods, overheating & bloat; need for regular supply of clean, cold water; checking teeth, ears and eyes etc.
  • Grooming - bathing, brushing, cutting nails, cleaning ears etc.

The RSPCA NSW provides an excellent online resource on Dog Care, covering topics such as:

  • Housing
  • Identification
  • Nutrition
  • Veterinary Care
  • Bathing & Grooming
  • Breed Concerns
  • Training

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Car Safety

The RSPCA online knowledgebase on the question, Do I need to restrain my dog when travelling in my car? points out: "The laws regarding restraint of dogs in or on vehicles can vary between the states/territories."

In NSW there is some confusion, with earlier reports of changes to pet-related road rules asserting dogs do need to be restrained (SMH October 25, 2009) and other sources implying that a fine will only occur if the dog is sitting in the driver's lap or interfering with the driver's control of the vehicle ( Rules & Regulations for Car Travel With Your Dog webpage). 

In fact, under "General driving offences" on the NSW RMS Demerit point and offences lists webpage, there is no mention of the requirement to restrain an animal, only that it is an offence to "Drive motor vehicle with person or animal in lap." The fine and demerit points for this vary depending on whether the offence occurs in a school zone: $415-$519 fine, 3-4 demerit points (as of 1 July 2014).

As the RSPCA online knowledgebase points out on the question, Is it legal to have unrestrained dogs on ute trays or trucks?, "Section 7 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979 prohibits a person from carrying a dog on the open back of a vehicle unless the dog is restrained or enclosed in such a way as to prevent the dog falling from the vehicle."

And as comment on their Rules & Regulations for Car Travel With Your Dog webpage, "the RSPCA can also issue fines under the Act if an animal is injured because it was unrestrained." Owners could face up to six months' jail and fines of up to $5,500.

So, from a legal and commonsense point of view, follow the advice of the experts such as the RSPCA and restrain your dog when its travelling in a car, preferably in the rear seat/section.

There are many restraint options available, including harnesses and crates. Note: An NRMA test of popular pet harnesses in October 2013 revealed that a number of these are not effective in restraining pets in common low speed collisions.

Finally, in addition to restraining your dog when travelling in a car, you need to consider its safety when getting out of the car. Dogs NSW in their Obedience Instructors Manual (2012) recommend you:

  • Train the dog to wait in the car until its lead is attached
  • "Invite" the dog to exit the car in a controlled manner on-leash
  • Train the dog to sit and wait while you shut the door and lock the car.

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NSW Companion Animals Act

The NSW Government's Cat and Dogs webpage explains, "the Companion Animals Act 1998 and Companion Animals Regulation 2008 provide for the identification and registration of dogs, how they are managed and the duties and responsibilities of their owners in NSW."

An overview of the requirements of this Act is provided in the Club's Responsible Dog Ownership Course Resources webpage under the title, What is Responsible Dog Ownership?

The Australasian Legal Information Institute also provides a consolidated view of the NSW Companion Animals Act 1998.

As pointed out on the NSW Government's Cat and Dogs webpage, "Local Councils administer and enforce this legislation, as well as update registration information on the NSW Companion Animals Register."

Local Councils may also have their own rules and regulations on dogs and off-leash areas. The following is a list of dog-related webpages for Councils in the vicinity of the Club's Centennial Park grounds:

Note: Centennial Park also has its own rules and regulations for dogs as set out in their Dog Walking webpage

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Hand Signals for All Exercises

The hand signals for the following commands are taken from the Club's Instructors' Training Manual (1998) and Dogs NSW Obedience Instructors Manual (2012). Note: All signals (except for Recall and Send to Heel - see below) are done with a free hand - the leash must be transferred into the non-signalling hand:

  • Sit: The horizontal, open right hand lifts from the front of the dog up and over the back of its head. Note: The goal is for automatic sits whenever you stop when heeling your dog, without hand signals. You will progress towards this in the Club's advanced classes
  • Stand: The open left hand (fingers pointing to the ground) passes across the dog's face from right to left
  • Down: When in the heel position, the horizontal, open right hand drops down in a chopping action past the dog's face to the ground where the dog is to lie. When in front of the dog, the hand signal is done with the right hand facing palm down, in a pushing action in front of the dogs face towards the ground
  • Stay: The horizontal, open right hand moves towards the dog's eyes in a "closing the door" action, stopping approximately 15cm from the dog's face. When leaving your dog and standing in front of it, the Stay hand signal is done with the right hand held as per a traffic police stop hand signal
  • Recall: Call "Come" and extend your right and left arms in a "Y" above your head. Note: In beginner classes, always hold onto the leash with your left hand. In the Club's advanced classes you will progress to doing this exercise off-leash, with free hands
  • Finish Your Dog/Send to Heel: With the dog sitting in front of you and the lead in the right hand, command "Heel" and signal with the right hand to the right behind you, transferring the lead from the right to left hand behind your back as the dog circles you to the heel position beside your left leg. Note: In theClub's advanced classes you will progress to doing this exercise off-leash, with a free right hand signal.

Responsible Dog Ownership Attendance Certificate

These hand signals, together with automatic sits and other heeling and stability exercises, need to be mastered to pass the Club's Promotion Tests to progress to our further training classes (Classes 2 to 4)*, where you may choose to work towards competing in Dogs NSW Affiliated Obedience Trials.

*Progression to Foundation Class or Class 1 from the RDO Course is automatic upon recorded attendance of the 6-week course.

Finally, the RSPCA NSW also offers online Dog Training Video Tips that can complement and enhance the training you do in class and your practise at home.

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