The old saying “practice makes perfect” is particularly true when it comes to training your dog. If you want a well-trained dog, simply attending obedience classes once a week is not enough. A commitment to daily practice is key. At OffleashK9 Colorado, we recommend all our clients to work with their dog for at least 30 minutes a day.
In this article, we share trainer-approved tips for how to set yourself up for a successful practice session at home. Let’s get started!
Release Excess Energy
Just got home from work? Has your dog been alone for a long portion of the day? Wait. Don’t start the training session just yet. First, let your dog get a bit of energy release: a walk, run or a game of fetch. This will help your dog get into a calm state of mind and be able to focus on the training ahead.
Don’t attempt to practice obedience with your dog if you feel stressed or tired. It will end up a frustrating session for both of you.
Got children in the house? Someone busying around cleaning or cooking? Other dogs or pets? When you first start working with your dog at home, find a calm, quite space. Away from distracting noises, smells, or interruptions from other family members. At this stage, you want your dog to focus on you alone, nothing else.
Once your dog has mastered a command, we encourage you to introduce one distracting element at a time. Work up to where you can place your dog anywhere in the house – in the middle of every-day buzzling life. Once a command is mastered, the expectation should be for your dog to perform it regardless of what is happening around him.
Find Your Dog’s Motivation
There are usually three things that motivate a dog: Food, Praise, or Toys. Find out what motivates your dog and use that as a reward when your dog does a command for you. If your dog is motivated by more than one thing use a combination of each.
If your dog is food motivated, prepare a pouch with mixed treats: some kibble, low-fat mini-training treats, cut up cheese or hot dogs into ¼” cubes, or slice up a carrot. A dog can get bored with just a single treat. Changing up the reward will keep him engaged throughout the full 30 minute session.
During The Training Session
If your dog is working on multiple commands, start by practicing a command the dog already has mastered. This will build up your dog’s confidence. Keep it short. Practice the command just 10-15 times before taking a short break to cuddle.
Next, switch to a command your dog is currently learning. Make it fun and upbeat, reward at each little progress made. Keep an eye on your dog’s cues: is he starting to look away from you? Or slowing down and seemingly less willing to do what asked? That means it’s time to take a quick break or switch to a different command.
If your dog has already mastered multiple commands, ask for them in a sequence one after the other. For example: from “sit”, send your dog to “place”, then release and ask for “heel” as you walk around, stop for “extended down” and walk away from your dog and wait, then call him back with a “come”.
Most importantly, have fun while practicing with your dog at home! The bond you have with your dog will only grow stronger the more time you spend together. You will quickly notice progress if you practice obedience daily.
If you have any questions while practicing commands at home, call our office or text your trainer. We’ll happily help you – and your dog – through any specific challenges you have.