When To Train Your Dog
Training can be a chore sometimes, for you and your dog, but it doesn’t have to be. In fact, if you or your dog are not in the mood then don’t train. You both need to be in the same headspace to learn.
You must be patient, calm and consistent with your training to get the best results. There is no point in trying to train when you or your dog is distracted or tired.
You will need to continue training your dog throughout their lives, they forget things when they are not practised. Be consistent!
You Don’t Have To Spend Hours Training.
Repetition is the mother of skill.
Repetitive, short training sessions of 1-3 mins, each exercise of 3-5, reps regularly will be an excellent way of ensuring your training is cemented in the brain.
Think about this
Boil the kettle and whilst you are waiting do 3-5 reps of something. If you have 3 cups per day that 3 different exercises you can train.
Recall training can be done throughout the day, you call your dog often, have some food and use your recall word.
Whilst you are sitting relaxing can you do a few repetitions of an exercise? A hand touch maybe, hold out your hand mark and reward for a nose bump. Thats training.
I will just randomly pick up a handful of treats and train something.
Don’t overthink it!
I always do a few reps of something whilst out walking, which breaks the walk up and builds our relationship and focus. The dogs love it.
Overdoing training will have an adverse effect on your dog.
Short bursts of 3-5 reps or 30 sec-3 minutes and then having a rest and reflection will induce latent learning. They will be able to absorb what they have learned.
This way when teaching a new exercise it should be done in a quiet environment with no distractions, as they understand what you want you can gradually add low-level distractions and then increase the level of the distractions as you increase the criteria of learning,
What Age Should I Start?
Start as soon as possible. If you have a good breeder they will have started off straight away!
Don’t ever stop, by working your dog’s brain you could delay the onset of cognitive issues as they grow older.
What Rewards Should I Use?
In my expereince food is usually the best reinforcer. However, in the absence of food, don’t underestimate the power of your voice, (verbal reinforcement) your touch (fuss, stroking etc) and toys can be great.
Soft and smelly treats work well as dogs use their nose. They dont have as many taste buds as we do.
Value and motivation will create a great learning experience. Find out what is valuable for your dog.
Use their food where possible, particularly when reinforcement is high and you are using a lot of food, but some dogs won’t find this exciting enough, particularly when distractions such as other dogs are around.
When in the presence of scent, people and other dogs you may have to up the value of the reward to motivate your dog to do what you want.
When your dog does not interact with training or you ask yourself
What is their motivation and do I have high enough value to offer them?
What is the environment? Are there too many distractions? You may need to lower the criteria and give them quiet space
Are they tired? In pain?
Are you giving off stress signals?
When dogs don’t want to engage, or they are tired you may see some displacement behaviours such as sneezing, turning away, scratching themselves or the ground, sniffing or acting like a fool.
If you see these give them some time and space.
It may seem daunting when you first start out but find what works for you. Teach the things that you want to progress and increase as they grow.
All you need for this is to be prepared by keeping some food in your pocket and capturing behaviours that you want
Do you want to focus? Capture a look, mark and reward it.
Do you want to improve lying down? Watch them and mark and reward them as you see their elbows dip
This type of training is valuable and doesn’t take any of your time. And it works!
Rehearse, rehearse rehearse.
Teach 1 exercise at once in small sessions, 3-5 reps. and rest
Don’t repeat your cues and don’t talk to your dog all the time and don’t tell them what to do.
Give them 1 cue, if they don’t do it look at why? Are they motivated? Tired? In pain?
Let your dog learn by positive association. How great is it when you achieve something on your own? They feel the same. This is where using your marker word is great. Mark and reward behaviours that you want.
Watch your hands. Dogs will visualise where the food is coming from and it’s usually your hands, this can hinder training as they can’t focus away from your hands, think about different food delivery, throw, place on the floor, and don’t keep food on your hands, use a food pouch.
As your dog gets older you can increase training, but still, consider that their brains need rest after each exercise.
You get loads of information when you invest in a program or training class. Take your time to read everything and think about the information in this book.
You will create a happy, content, well-rested and calm dog.