So you have decided your dog needs some training…wonderful!! There really are very few dogs that don’t need at least minimal levels of training.
We find that clients are MUCH more successful when they give thought to what they want to teach their dog to, why it is important to them, what their goals are in training, how and when they will apply the skill. If you have gone through training with us you know we stress “NERDS” to help owners optimize their dog’s learning experience and set them up for success.
The following steps are an extension of our NERDS discussion. Before you launch into teaching your dog to do something, pause for a few moments to consider these steps. Write them down, along with your answers, if that will help you, your family, and your dog be even more successful and as a reference tool. For me personally, sometimes it helps for me to review what I am doing and why I am doing it to get into the right frame of mind for the task I am setting out to do.
- What do you want your dog to do?
- Envision your dog doing that skills successfully
- Picture you and your dog – you give the command, and your dog fully complies the skill or task, all the way through to you rewarding for a job well done and releasing your dog from the skill/task.
- What is the environment you want your dog to do the skill in?
- What are the typical distractions going on at that time?
- What is an acceptable response and what is not acceptable?
- How are you going to incorporate this skill/task into everyday life? Life with your dog is way more than a training session once or twice a day…take those skills and incorporate them into life.
- What equipment is needed to help you guide your dog to successfully completing the skill?
- Most likely a leash and collar so they don’t practice inappropriate responses and you have to catch them to try again
- A reward for your dog’s success…treat, food, toy, verbal praise, physical touch…whatever is important to your dog
- Props for your training session – distractors, platforms, doorways, cots/mats, whatever is part of your vision
- What are the individual baby steps that make up the skill or task? Break the skill/task down. This is where writing out your plan can be very helpful to ensure you communicate clearly with your dog and don’t skip steps.
- This is the step a lot of owners fail at…what is the appropriate reward? It does matter if you think it is something nice, it only matters how your dog perceives reward. A really tough task should be rewarded with a higher value reward than a simple task that is easy for your dog to catch onto and successfully complete. Save the good stuff for what is harder for your dog.
- Remember, if your dog isn’t yet successful, be patient. Take a step or two backward to ensure they can accomplish the incremental steps successfully, at least 90-95% of the tries, before moving to the next step of training or to the next level of distractions in training. You may have moved too quickly and are rushing to achieve your end goal without establishing a solid foundation.
Once you work through these pre-training steps, now…gather up your equipment, set up your training scenario, be it teaching the beginning steps or advancing to chaining the little incremental steps into a larger skill/task….and go have a great bonding experience training with your dog towards achieving your goals.