Dog Training – Small Steps Build Success

Allie in the snow - Yellow Lab

Here are three keys to dog training: keep training sessions short, focus on one thing at a time, and focus on small steps where you know your dog can be successful.

Keep training sessions short; the key here is to keep them short enough that you have your dogs full attention. Just like you or I, they learn best when you have their full attention. If you have gone 5 minutes and see that they are still with you and excited to learn, keep going, if not, stop.

One way you can stretch out your training sessions is to take a fun break part way through. In an energetic, but deliberate tone, tap your dog on the shoulder and give the “break” command to let them know that you are done with the training and they can have fun for a minute, then do something fun and energetic for one to three minutes. Do something the dog enjoys, not related to the training, but where you know what the dog’s response will be (The idea is that the dog will have fun and let off steam, but will be contained and you won’t have to chase it down or scold it for anything. Stay upbeat.) I will throw some retrieving dummies or tennis balls, run around the house, or some other upbeat activity. This activity seems to clear their head, keep them excited and help them continue with the training.

When you are training, focus on one thing at a time. It is important that you clearly understand what it is that you are trying to train. Decide on what the final product is that you want, break down the steps to get there and focus on one aspect at a time. For example, if you want your dog to come, circle you on the right side and sit at heel when you command “come”, you have to break it down into steps, focusing on one aspect at a time, then chaining them together to get the desired result. If you are working on having him circle and sit, don’t worry that the dog may not be sitting exactly parallel to you. Polish that after you have some of the other steps down.

Finally, you want to build success upon success in your training. Success promotes learning, while failure promotes more failure. All dogs want to please; I believe it is in their pack nature. If your dog fails at task, back up and shorten the task to ensure that the dog can succeed. Always end your training on a positive note.

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