Are you finding it hard to conduct dog training? Whether it is a dog or a puppy, for them, the training is playtime. Dogs do not understand the difference between training and playtime. Therefore, if they sense any kind of pressure during the training process, they will feel distracted, and the training will turn into a nightmare. Therefore, dog experts and behaviorists always advise guardians to make the dog training process exciting and full of fun.
Are you feeling stuck in dog training?
Are you one of those dog guardians who is struggling with dog training? Do you want to make it fun for your pup? If yes, then keep reading all the way to the end for some amazing tips and tricks on how to make the dog training process fun and exciting for your pup.
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Why is it crucial to make the dog training process a fun one?
As I mentioned before, dog training is considered playtime by the dog. The dog does not know that he is undergoing training. If the dog is forced to do something he does not want to do, he may display unacceptable behavior. Therefore, it is crucial that the training process is fun not only for the dog but also for the guardian. Training is a way to strengthen the bond with your pup. If your pup feels forced or coerced to do something that he does not want to do, the process of establishing trust and love will become difficult.
Training not only helps with the strengthening of the bond between the guardian and the pup, but it also establishes the guardian as someone the dog looks up to for instructions. I’m not talking about gaining the alpha mentality here. Dogs respect those whom they have a bond with. The aim here is to get your dog to respect you as you respect your dog. Respect is earned. Your dog will not automatically respect you just because you have rescued him or you provide him regular food and water. You have to earn your dog’s respect. The best way to do this is by training. This is why it is crucial that the training must be fun and a happy experience for the dog. A happy experience allows your dog to associate you with happiness, thus establishing a positive feedback loop.
How to make the dog training process a fun one?
The best way to make the training fun for both you and your dog is to indulge in a lighthearted approach. Try seeing the world from the eyes of your dog. There is so much to experience. It is easy to get distracted as a puppy. Therefore, as a parent, it is your responsibility to exercise patience. Make sure that the training sessions are a lot of fun but instructive at the same time.
Making dog training fun
Here are certain tips for dog training that should make the training a fairly easy experience for both you and your dog.
Most dog experts will tell you that you must start training your dog the moment your dog enters the house. This is because when the dog is still in the puppyhood stages (around eight weeks of age), it is easy for your dog to learn. Their minds are malleable and can be shaped to your needs and requirements.
You must have heard of the saying, “you cannot teach an old dog any new tricks.” This is not true. Old dogs can learn new tricks. However, you have to exercise more time and patience in the training process. Whereas in the case of puppies, they are very quick learners and extremely food motivated. Therefore, training is a breeze.
The session length
Remember to keep the session short. It should not go beyond 20 minutes. Dogs, whether young or old, have a short attention span. Therefore, stop the training if your clock hits 20 minutes. Try to train at the same time every day as well if possible.
Only one dog training session should be conducted in a day. This does not mean that you cannot revise the command with your dog. If your dog already knows a command, randomly ask your dog to exhibit the command any time of the day. However, you should not train your dog more than one command at a time.
If you are training your dog in a new command, remember to practice the command at random times in the day as well as every day. Consistency is the key to good dog training. If it seems that your dog is not responding to the command, go back to the previous step of the training procedure and start again.
Focus on the environment
When you are training your dog a new command, the training should be done in a distraction-free environment or a minimal distraction environment. If you are starting the training process in a backyard where there are birds, bees, and multiple stimulations, your dog will find it hard to concentrate and focus on your training.
The moment you become a dog guardian, there is one word that takes up the most place in your vocabulary. It is the word ‘patience.’ Many guardians become frustrated when training their dogs. Your frustration will not help train your dog any easier. You have to exercise patience and allow your dog to learn in his time. Rushing your dog through a training process will not only hamper the understanding of your dog. It may also hamper your relationship with your pup.
Train only when relaxed.
When you’re training your dog, it’s not only your dog who is using his brain. You are also using yours. Therefore, if you’re feeling frustrated, sad, or angry, do not train your dog. Train your dog only when you feel happy, excited, or at peace.
Dogs are experts at sensing emotions. Whether puppies or older dogs, they can figure out if you are in a frustrated mood. Your mood may also get transferred to your dog. Thus, if you are frustrated, your dog will also feel frustrated and may act distracted. This won’t help the training process. Thus, if you are feeling frustrated, angry, or sad, do not conduct the training itself. Do not teach your dog any new commands. However, you can revise the commands that your dog already knows for a period of 20 minutes so that you do not let the time go waste.
What if the dog training process is not working?
If, despite all your attempts, your dog is showing signs of running off and trying to play on his own, check the following:
Are the treats good enough?
If you use low-quality treats, your dog will be tempted to run away and not pay attention to the training process. You may purchase high-quality treats, but they should also appeal to the pallet of your dog. If your dog does not find the treat appealing, why should he work for it? As I said before, check the situation out from the eyes of your dog.
If your dog is not responding to the treat you are currently using, use the treat that your dog loves. You can substitute the treat for boiled chicken. This is one treat that is bound to work with almost all dogs. If your dog has ever shown a preference for any kind of food item that is dog friendly, use that for training. This is specifically important for guardians who have picky eaters.
You are not using food to train.
Dogs need motivation. This motivation cannot be supplied by saying “good boy” or “good girl.” If you are using praises to train your dog, you will fail. Dogs are very smart creatures. They will not work if they realize that they are only going to be praised as positive reinforcement. If you want your dog to respond quickly and to be completely involved in the training process, you must use dog treats. Yummy dog treats not only make it exciting for the dog, but it also makes the dog want to participate and learn new commands. This is because when learning, the dog is also getting treats that he loves.
Wean off the treats
A lot of guardians are worried that the dog will be dependent on the food and will not respond once the food is removed from the training process. This is, however, not true. Once your dog starts to respond to the command, reduce the frequency of offering treats to your dog. For example, suppose you have trained your dog to SIT. You ask your dog to sit, your dog sits, and you offer him a treat. When you reach the point where you are sure that your dog will sit the moment he hears SIT, it’s time to start weaning the treat from the exercise.
Now, you ask your dog to sit, but you give the treat every alternate time. This way, the dog will not realize that the treat is being removed from the picture since he will get treats in every alternate attempt. Eventually, the command SIT will become a part of your dog’s muscle memory. It will not matter whether you offer a treat or not to your dog to follow the instruction. However, muscle memory takes a while to develop. You will have to keep up the practice for at least a period of two to three months for your dog to get well versed in it. After a few months, treat or not treat, your dog will sit when you ask him to SIT. However, it is a good idea to wean the treat off slowly from the training process.
Are you using negative reinforcement methods?
Using negative reinforcement methods is a big NO when it comes to dog training. Whether you are training a young puppy or a senior dog, never use negative reinforcement methods like shock callers, choke collars, hitting the dog with a newspaper, etc. Not only does negative reinforcement not help with the dog training process, but it can also have a severe impact on the psychology of your dog. Your dog may develop aggression issues or become fearsome of the training process itself.
If you are using negative or aversive dog training methods, it is time that you throw them out into the garbage. Switch to positive reinforcement methods. Positive reinforcement methods may take a bit longer to work. However, it will not hamper the bond you share with your dog. If your dog is your family, positive reinforcement is the only way to go.
Are there a ton of distractions around?
Suppose you train your puppy in the backyard. Your backyard has squirrels, chipmunks, birds, rodents, etcetera. Your dog is bound to be distracted. It’s not his fault that he wants to sniff the flowers and chase the birds. He is in an environment that offers too many distractions. Under such conditions, you should stop the training process and take your dog inside to continue with the dog training.
One rule of thumb in dog training is that the training should never be conducted in a busy or distracting environment. If you are teaching your dog a new trick, teach it indoors first. Even when teaching in the house, use a location that offers the least number of distractions. This way, your dog’s entire attention will be focused on you. Once your dog is adept at the specific command that you are teaching, you can take your dog to different locations and test out the command.
Remember to take along some amazing treats that your dog cannot resist. This will help prevent your dog from getting distracted. Furthermore, remember to teach your dog the recall command before you let him loose in the dog park. The recall command will come in handy when your dog goes away, and you have to call him back.
Whether you’re using clicker training or any other form of dog training method, remember certain points. You must never train your dog when feeling distracted, never use any aversive dog training methods or start the training in an environment that is already full of distractions.
Besides this, you must exercise a ton of patience, look at the world through your puppy’s eyes, and finally try to figure out the root cause as to why your puppy is not understanding or following a command proficiently.
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How has your dog training experience been? How did you train your pup? Is there any strategy that can make training more fun that I may have missed? Please mention them in the comment section below. Your comments may be helpful to another dog guardian. If you have any queries about dog training, care, psychology, or dog breeds, you can also ask me during my live sessions. I host co-working live sessions on Twitch every day from 10:00 AM to 7:00 PM IST. Alternatively, you can also reach me on any of my social media channels. I will be happy to help.
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