Some people view training as that “t” word, a boring part of having a dog that takes too much time and effort. If you share your life with a dog, training is a necessary part of their lives and your responsibility. Training is boring; oh how far from the truth that assumption is!
Why do people believe that training is boring? Usually the answer has to do with thinking it takes a lot of time and effort to train a dog. If you plan to compete in dog sports or have a search and rescue dog, then yes, training does take time every week. If you want your dog to be a well-mannered member of the family, training does not take as much time as you may think.
Have you noticed that network television has 4-5 minutes of commercials every commercial break? If you are watching a show as it airs, make use of those long commercial breaks. Place some yummy dog treats in a bowl near you and, when the commercials begin, practice behaviors with your dog. He will enjoy working with you, his response to your cues will become more reliable, and you will miss all the commercials. And who doesn’t enjoy a calm, relaxed dog lying at their feet while watching TV? You can teach your dog new behaviors, practice known behaviors, and reinforce a calm, relaxed down.
Opportunities arise throughout your day when you can ask your dog to perform a behavior. Is this training? Yes, and with a little practice, it becomes part of your daily routine. You can call your dog to “come” for meals and then reward them with their food. If you enjoy time sitting at the kitchen table browsing the web for your morning news, this is a perfect moment to practice sits and downs with your dog, rewarding them with a treat when they perform the behavior. And the list goes on and on.
Most dogs have at least one toy or activity that really excites them. This is what I like to call a motivator, similar to those yummy treats we so often use. One of my dogs loves his Cuz, a small 2-footed ball that squeaks. When the Cuz is brought out, he lights up. If I ask him to sit, he quickly does so because he has learned that sitting can start our game of fetch the Cuz. He loves to fetch the toy, and I now have the opportunity to use the game of fetch to reward him for performing behaviors I ask of him.
What toy or activity does your dog enjoy? Try using it during a training session. Granted, you will have to wait for the dog to fetch the ball, catch the Frisbee, or let go of the tug toy. Training will take a bit more time when using a toy or activity as your dog’s reward. You will be rewarded with a stronger relationship with your dog.
And you will both be rewarded with those good feelings of affection and warmth, that “ooey gooey” feeling, as Patricia McConnell describes it, due to increases in oxytocin. Let’s face it; don’t we all melt when our dogs look at us with open mouths, tongues lolling, and eyes soft and squinty? It is the picture of happiness.
So how can anyone say training is boring? A little time, some yummy treats, a favorite toy or activity, and life is good for both you and your dog!