Increase your skills as a Dog Trainer.....Be Interesting, Be Generous, Be Variable !
Teaching your dog the more difficult obedience exercises requires lots of practice and repetitions. Teaching your dog to come to you around other dogs at the park, for instance, or to walk on a leash without pulling are among the more difficult exercises to teach your dog. One way to make this training go more smoothly and a way for you to accomplish more each session is to be interesting, variable and generous with the rewards you use. There is no rule that says that rewards have to come in the form of just food, or that the food used has to be one or two different choices. The best way to tackle big training projects is to use lots of different rewards that the dog does not expect. The more varied the better. Dogs love the unexpected and as a result will pick up what you are trying to teach them with more enthusiasm and will retain it more permanently. Some trainers wear fishing vests, aprons or several different pouches and put different kinds of treats and toys in each pocket. Some trainers may hide rewards all around the training area they are working in and make the rewards "appear" out of the blue. Nothing is more exciting to a dog than to have their favorite toys, treat or game appear out of nowhere at just the right moment. The best way to start is to sit down and make a list of all your dogs favorite things , toys, food, games. When it comes to food think unique, remember the more novel a treat is to your dog the more rewarding it will be. If your dog loves dry dog cookies but gets them every day for nothing, how will that make him excited about coming to you when a park full of dogs awaits him. So yes, we're talking about show stopping food, games and toys- something that will make you the more exciting alternative !
Some ideas for different kinds of food to try might be: cheese, chicken, freeze dried liver, left over ham, steak, turkey, tortellini (frozen !), microwave hot dogs, goldfish crackers, etc. You can mix this in with more mundane food rewards like cheerios, dry dog food, jerky treats, pupperoni, charlee bear treats, dry cereal or over the counter dog treats. You could put 2-3 of these different kinds of treats in separate pouches or containers or make a trail mix so that the dog never knows what's coming. Some ideas for non-food rewards include an ear scratch, belly rub, butt rub, hi praise voice, game of fetch, tug, hide and seek, stuffed animals, buster cube, roll a treat ball, running loose for 20 seconds, game of chase, Frisbee, stick, etc. With non-food rewards keep the reward session to 5-10 seconds and then put the toy away or stop the contact and get right back to work. Remember to click or mark the behavior you are working on very clearly and then follow it with the reward. The click is what tells the dog what they are doing right. Remember to click or mark the behavior you are working on very clearly and then follow it with the reward. Remember also to plan out your training sessions so that you are progressing through the steps and are not stuck rewarding the same behavior over and over again. In order for you to accomplish your goal of a dog that comes when called or walks without pulling you need to break down each behavior into individual steps and progress from one step to the next. The purpose of variable reward is to keep your dog guessing and trying harder to please you. The result is usually that the dog may actually progress through the steps quicker or may skip whole steps as he begins to understand what you want him to do. The best dog trainers are interesting, variable and generous. Put this phrase on your refrigerator and read it every time you work your dog. Plan your session so you know what you are rewarding and you'll know if your dog makes a leap in understanding. Remember to work your dog on a regular basis, use really great rewards, be creative and most of all be generous. Happy Training !!