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You worked long and hard for the swimming pool that now sits in your yard. It brings your kids, family and friends joy every year. What doesn’t bring joy though, is a pool full of dog hair or a pool cover with holes in. If there are holes in the pool cover, the heat gets out and not only do you have an expensive cover to replace, but you also have higher bills to keep the water warm. Once the cover is broken, dog hair, insects, leaves and any number of other things get in the pool too. Many covers are specially made to fit your individual pool and cost an arm and both legs!
Train him to keep well clear of it and you could save yourself this rather expensive problem. If you can train him to stay off the pool cover you can also train him to stay out of other areas too, from bedrooms to roads.
This type of training is often easier than people imagine it to be. The tricky part comes with reinforcing the boundary, but if you’re consistent your dog will soon get the message. You’ll need to physically show him where his freedom ends and use a variety of deterrence measures to reinforce the point. You’ll also use obedience commands so you can stop him in his tracks when his paws wander towards the cover.
If he’s a puppy, his bad habit should be relatively new and breaking it may take just a week. If he’s older and been causing trouble around your pool and on the cover for years, then expect to spend a few weeks training before you find success. Master this training though and you’ll never have that expensive pool cover bill to pay again. The obedience commands will also make it easier to teach him any number of other behaviors too.
Before you make the pool cover a no-entry zone, you’ll need a few things. Stock up on treats or his favorite food, they’ll play a crucial part in training. You’ll also need a water spray or citronella collar for one of the methods. Some fencing with a gate or bushes will also be required for a different method.
Set aside 15 minutes each day for training and make sure you have access to the pool cover in question. Once you’ve got all of that, it’s time to get to work!
The ‘Here’ Method
Get some treats ready
Take him to a quiet room and have a generous supply of tasty rewards in your pocket. You’re going to teach him to come straight to you when called, that way you can call him away whenever he steps on the pool cover. This will allow you to build a boundary using your voice.
Stand in front of him, take a step back and then issue a ‘here’ command. You can use any word you like. He’ll probably come straight to you, but if he doesn’t, hold out a treat to lure him over. You can also use words and gestures to encourage him over to you. As soon as he gets to you, give him the tasty treat and repeat.
Increase the distance
Practice this each day for 15 minutes, but gradually increase the distance between you both before you call him over. Keep practicing until you can call him to you even when you’re not in the same room. At this point you’ll have an effective means to call him away from any situation you do not like.
Apply it to the pool cover
Keep a consistent eye on him over the next week or two. Whenever you see him go near the pool cover, use the command to call him over. It’s important you catch him every time. With persistence, he’ll know that if he goes to close to the pool cover he’ll only get called away. Make sure you keep giving him treats when he does come away.
Stop with the treats
After a while, when he’s stopped going near the pool cover, you can stop doing regular ‘here’ training. At this point you can use your new command in any situation you see fit, and be quick to start using it again if he goes back to being tempted by the pool cover.
The Deterrence Method
Make the pool cover inaccessible
Fit a fence around the pool area, with a gate for access. That way anyone can easily get to the pool via the gate, but your dog will be kept firmly out. If you don’t want to opt for fences, then think about bushes or thick plants to keep him away.
Consider a deterrent collar
You can get remote controlled collars that spray water or unpleasant citronella near his face. Simply be on guard and hit the button every time you see him get close to the pool cover. He will quickly start associating the pool cover with nasty experiences and keep away.
If you see him getting close to the pool cover, call him away in a serious tone. Don’t terrify him, but make sure he knows you mean business. You can even go and get him to walk him away from the area.
After a while you will see him head over there, only to change his mind when he gets close. That’s a sign the previous steps are working. When you see him come away, give him a treat and lots of praise. This positive reinforcement will help him get the message.
It is vital you don’t have any lapse days during training. If he’s allowed to get on the pool cover even a couple of times, it will set your training back. You need to be vigilant and catch him every time. The more persistent you are, the quicker he will stop going on the pool cover.
The Enforcing Boundaries Method
Secure him to a leash
Every morning and evening, you are going to walk him around the yard and the pool cover. I know it may sound strange to tempt him over to the pool cover, but all will become clear. Make sure you have treats in your pocket.
Create an invisible line
Each time you walk him, follow a particular line where you don’t want him to cross. If you do this twice a day it will reinforce where his territory ends. Once he understands that the pool cover isn’t part of his territory he’ll naturally keep clear of it.
When you’re walking him around and he does step over the invisible line and towards the pool cover, firmly pull him back to you. Don’t hurt him, just give him a sharp jerk to let him know he’s crossed a line.
As you pull on the leash, show him you are unhappy by saying ‘NO’ loudly and clearly. Don’t terrify him, but make sure he can tell from your tone and body language that he’s done something wrong. If you do this each time he heads towards it, he’ll quickly associate the pool cover with an unhappy owner.
Lose the leash
After a week or two when you think he understands, try walking him around the pool cover again, but this time without the leash. If he steps over the invisible line, give the ‘NO’ command and bring him back over to you. Practice this each day until he finally wises up and doesn’t try his luck anymore.
By James Barra
Published: 10/24/2017, edited: 01/08/2021