So many people try to set hours aside for training, spending too much time on long classes or one to one training hoping this will solve the problems their having. (Yes one to one training isn’t the be all and end all of dog training! And yes I am going to give you other ideas to work on away from the dog trainer).
Putting too much work in, can reap the same results as putting in too little. A dog who is confused, unsure and doing it’s own thing.
If your doing intense training for more than 15 minutes stop! It’s too much for you and your dog.
Training for long periods of time, more often than not, end up being a hindrance to your over all goal. So many people think they have to implement some sort of training time into their day as a block, trying to teach a brand new behaviour in one go and get frustrated when things start right, then all go to pot. Then they decide to finish the session on a “Win” which is rewarding an easy behaviour. NO. You have basically just taught your dog to get frustrated and only focus on what it can do, not try to learn new things.
Training should be a fluid part of your day with your dog, practising intense training in short bursts during the day. Dog’s are context specific and can learn to do certain behaviour, only only certain places. Which is why many dogs are perfection at training classes and crap at home or on walks. Training at home or at the park is fine, but training can be all for nothing if your dog won’t listen when it counts, like in the car, at a cafe or other people’s houses.
If you want your dog to listen on walks, then they need to listen without distractions first, and then when there are distractions. It’s all building blocks to the main goal. Building up that concentration on you. Rewarding attention, and inviting it in short bursts will help out and about, it teaches your dog to interact with you any time, not just at the park or in the house, or when on a lead. So many owners attempt to force attention, when it should be something all dogs do naturally. Over training is a reason dogs loose focus on their owners and learning, as they get bored, just like us. If short training sessions are rewarded, and the attention is always on you then the attention is going to come to you, not the environment when out.
Training should be part of your day in short bursts, no more than a few minutes long.
- Washing the pots? Get that sit stay on track.
- Need to clean the car? Practice the settle in it.
- Neighbours walking their dog? Follow behind them practising focus training.
- Going to a friends house? Recall training in a strange house.
Add into your life what you want, but add it in non the less. What ever you want to work on or what ever opportunities appear use them.
Also don’t forget about what your dog wants from life, yes training can be fun but forcing it is not, and can lead to a dog trying to get away from you, or less learning. Do the training in the garden, and then let them play! Let them romp about and throw a toy, do something they love to do as well. Finished washing the dishes, blow some bubbles for them to chase as their reward for sit staying.
Even better after training get them to have a nap or sleep session (Especially important for puppies!)
The basic message is that you can and should be training everywhere, working on everything with your dog. In a fun and relaxed manner where you achieve your goals easily, rather than forcing yourself and your dog, and ended up failing. It is also a reminder that the excuse “I haven’t got time to train my dog” is a null point, you have time to be on facebook or read this, then you have time to train your dog. Too many people give me that excuse and I always call them on it. I work full time training, have 5 dogs plus what ever rescues in, plus a life and I have time for dog training, so why can’t you?
You might think, “Well Kathryn your training sessions with owners are always an hour or more long” …yes they are, but I’m not training your dog. I’m training you to train your dog, training you to find the things that make your dog tick and want to work with you. There is no point me doing the work, I’m exciting and new of course they will interact with me! It’s up to you to do the training, not me, I don’t own your dog or have to live with it, you do. So be the most exciting thing in your dogs life. If your dog is utterly overjoyed with guests or other dogs, so much so that your dead to them, you might have a little problem… learn to become the most exciting thing in your dogs life by teaching them new things, and how rewarding it is to interact with you.
Set your self a small challenge to get your dog to sit stay when your back is turned, and stay there while you boil the kettle or make a sandwich. Then tell me how hard it is, and how much training will be needed to get it. A few short sessions and you’ll have it, over do the training in one large chunk and it’ll all go pear shaped. Go on try it.
Set yourself achievable goals for training, and then set off to achieve them.
The bond between you and your dog will grow with the more successful training you have with them. Repetition of the wrong thing, or the same thing is about as interesting as it is for us, teach dogs new things and they will thank you for it.
Kathryn Jones FdSc AAB
A Clever Approach to Dog Training and Behaviour