Training is just a Game
Dog’s need to learn emotional self-control. Puppies don’t magically mature into patient and restrained adults. Many annoying dog behaviours are related to poor self-control.
Example: a dog that pulls on the lead because they cannot wait for you to keep up or busts through the door to be free. Don’t know how to wait, just want it NOW!
If you teach your dog how to control themselves in highly stimulating and exciting situations you not only have a well-mannered dog but also a less frustrated one.
I like to teach through games and many of the exercises we do in our Beginner sessions are games based that can be practiced on your everyday walks as well as in your home. Starting in your home and garden away from distractions helps to start building that muscle memory and anticipation of the game and reward before taking it ‘on the road’.
Games such as:
Wait for the Prize – This can be as simple as getting them to wait for you to put down their food bowl to waiting whilst you throw a toy before sending them to go pick it up.
Leave this, Have that! – start with a treat in your closed hand and tell them to ‘Leave’ wait for them to back off and then throw a different treat or reward away from you. Build up to having a treat or toy on the floor, telling them to leave and if they do, throw another treat or toy away from the distraction. Make sure they never get the distraction treat or toy.
Eye contact releases Oxytocin in both you and your dog. It is the hormone for attachment, scientists call them ‘eye hugs’. So practice getting them to focus on you, remember to keep a connection by talking to them whilst you are asking them to focus on you and not what is going on around them. Use silly voices, have conversations and don’t feel self-conscious as you have your dog with you and not off getting into trouble.
Successful problem solving is a big confidence booster so let’s get those dog’s using their brains to solve things.
Hide and Seek – either you or members of the family or specific toys (name those toys i.e. bone, teddy, ball). For dogs that have the natural instinct to dig why not hide things in a ball or sand pit and give them an outlet for those instinct in a controlled manner.
Let’s Go Hunting – start simple by scattering a few treats on the ground or short grass and helping them find them and drop a few extra whilst helping. Once they have the idea of finding them you can make it more difficult by doing in long grass or even placing treats off the ground on stumps and low walls. Great for those dogs who like to scent.
Mental exercise is just as important as physical for a well-rounded dog. Playing games not only strengthens their brain but your bond.