General Training Philosophy
POOCHABILITY DOG TRAINING By Laurie Burnam
It’s never too young to start training!
Every breed has certain general characteristics in attitude, work ethic, bidability etc. Then within each breed there may be subtle differences in personality traits. Get to know what your dog wants or needs and help him or her to achieve the goals you are setting out to master. But do have fun in the process; after all, the journey is just as important as the final results. Play, play, play with your dog, make training fun and don’t sweat the small stuff.
I love Aussies, as they usually want to please, learn quite easily and make training such a joy. But with any breed start out as soon as their little brains can focus for any length of time, usually at 3 months old. Don’t just limit your training to the basics of sit, down, heel etc. but add the more fun exercises found in the upper obedience, rally and agility classes. With every situation talk to you dog, tell him or her what you are doing at every juncture. They will soon have an enormous understanding of vocabulary, which helps in any situation, not just the competition ring. At this age they are like sponges and want to learn. Soon enough they will go into their adolescence stage and “forget they know you” but the foundation is planted and they all come back around.
The first step is to get them to pay attention to you. Get a handful of treats, sit in front of the dog on the ground, say, “watch” or their name “Fido” pointing to your face, and then when they do look, offer them a treat. Do this over and over for many days until one day; while they are glancing away, they will respond to that word “watch” by looking back at you. Give the biggest praise you can imagine. Now you can begin focused training but remember you have to be more fun than the outside elements.
Start training in a quiet, familiar place using baby steps. Just like children learn ABC’s, small words, simple sentences, then bigger words, longer sentences, so too should your dog’s training. If the dog is having difficulty grasping what you are asking, you now have steps to go back to for help. Dog’s love being right, so when times get tough, lessen their load.
Dogs live in a visual and audio world, humans more of a verbal world but they have adapted to our way quite easily. Therefore use small words for every task you require of them for better communication. If you do multiple sports this can be challenging to come up with words that won’t conflict with another venue’s use. But mostly they help more than hinder. I carry on such conversations with my dogs but they truly understand what is being asked of them.
Just like us going to work and getting a paycheck, so too should our dogs be rewarded for the things we are asking of them. Find out what turns your dog on and use it to let them know they were right. Some like food, others toys and some just the tone of your voice and a gentle pat will do. Once you go to a new location or more distracting one, remember to go back a few steps or use higher value treats/toys to help them stay focused. Make training fun, be goofy, intersperse toys with real training equipment; after all, the dog doesn’t know the difference from a dumbbell and a Frisbee. Dogs play rough with each other so you need to incorporate body pats, goosing, using your animated voice to get them to play with you while learning. You don’t want to be Ferris Bueler’s math teacher, boring, boring, boring.