If you’ve read any of our blogs or e-newsletters, you’ll know that we’re all about embracing the fact that dogs are dogs. We certainly want to ensure they can live harmoniously with their human family, but that doesn’t mean trying to change all of their innate behaviours. It means understanding them, channelling their energy in a positive way, learning with them and learning from them.
Let’s go back to basics and look at our top five training tips that will enhance your relationship with your dog and start to shift your thinking from ‘training sessions’ to a ‘learning lifestyle’.
- Dogs are more interested in your body language than the words you use so be aware of your body language throughout the day. How does your dog respond to your body language, not just when you’re communicating with them, but at all times? Be aware of your dog’s responses and how you can utilise your body language to communicate effectively with your dog.
- Every single interaction with your dog teaches them something. That doesn’t just mean the intentional interactions, it also means the way you behave when your dog is near you. If your dog is displaying a behaviour you’re not too keen on, think about how it has been (potentially inadvertently) reinforced.
- Throw away the food bowl. I know I say this a lot, but it’s such a wasted opportunity for your dog. Incorporate scent games, find it games, challenges and puzzles for your dog to work for their food. They’ll have much more fun than just inhaling it from a bowl. They’re using their brain, problem solving and taking their time, utilising some of their abilities.
- Exercise, every day, is a MUST. It’s not just about burning off energy, it’s a way to bond with your dog. Being in new environments, around new people and animals as well as experiencing new sounds and sniffs is important for continual learning and acceptance of their surroundings. You can practice your cues, loose lead walking, focusing on you, recall and anything else that means you’re sharing the walk and not just facilitating it.
- Positive reinforcement isn’t just about feeding your dog treats! It’s about finding the things that motivate your dog and reinforcing the behaviours you’d like to see more of through a reward based system. By using the things your dog loves – toys, fuss, scent games, tennis balls, treats, going outside, running off lead, water… etc – you can show them that good things will happen when they display certain behaviours. When good things happen as a result of a behaviour, they’re much more likely to repeat it.
The most important thing to remember is that ‘training’ isn’t a 10-minutes-a-day job, it’s a lifestyle choice. Everything you do teaches your dog something!