1. MAKE IT FUN
Training should be a fun and enjoyable experience for both you and your dog. Use anything fun to draw your dog in: food, toys, balls, sticks, tug, high-pitch voices! The key is getting your dog to want to do the behaviour you are asking of them, not trying to force your dog into a behaviour. If a dog makes the decision to do a behaviour of its own accord, they learn far quicker. Your job is to just reward them when they happen! Behaviours that get rewarded will be repeated!
2. USE WHAT MOTIVATES YOUR DOG
When teaching your dog, use what best motivates them. Whether it’s toys, treats, tons of attention, or using cartoon voices! The important thing is to do whatever you can to get your dog’s attention and keep it. You want to make training a positive environment so your dog will want to stick around and learn.
Our trainers use food rewards in our classes because most dogs are extremely motivated by food. A high-pitched, happy voice also works wonders to get their attention and keep them motivated. Other dogs, like our own Hurley, are very much toy motivated rather than food motivated and will work very hard for a chance to chase a tennis ball. Find out what works for your dog!
3. A SMALL CHANGE IS A BIG MOMENT
When teaching your dog a new behaviour, command, or trick, watch for slight changes in behaviour. Those small changes can be the first sign your dog is beginning to understand what you are trying to teach them. The signals can be as small as your dog’s ears becoming alert when they are usually relaxed or maybe a glance, lean or paw movement toward the object you want your dog to retrieve. If you pay close attention you can actually see your dog have thoughts! If you learn to pick up on those subtle signs, you can time your praise better and therefore more accurately encourage your dog’s good behaviour.
4. WORK HARD, PLAY HARD
Training should be fun, challenging, and rewarding – for both you and your dog. The energy and enthusiasm you put into your training session will affect your dog’s enthusiasm to want to learn. While it’s important to stay focused and energetic while training, unstructured play, sniff time and relaxation is just as necessary. Dogs, like people, need time to unwind.
5. WATCH FOR PATTERNS
As with any person who learns the ins-and-outs of their job, dogs can get lazy and fall into patterns. An important aspect of any training routine is to watch for those patterns and disrupt them. If you always tell your dog to sit before their evening meal, try getting them to lay down instead, or sit randomly while on their daily walk. If you have trained your dog to “find” their toy, try hiding it up high, under a rug or in a completely unexpected place! You want to keep your dog challenged and motivated to think through tasks. These Mentally stimulating challenges will keep your dog on their ‘toes’ and eager to learn what’s next.