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Commonsense Training Tips

14/03/2024 - Training Tips and Principles

They tell me a lot of what I do is commonsense!

I am never offended when someone says what we are doing is commonsense. I love it. It means what we have chatted about is simple more likely to happen.

I have never been a fan of a great long training plan, with loads of notes and stages. My philosophy is keep it simple to understand and easy to implement. The training that we do should be easy to learn and practice, and you should be able to use out and about with your dog. More than anything is about setting you up for success.

Here are my top EIGHT tips. Think about them in the context of your own individual goals.

1. Decide what you are trying to achieve BEFORE you start training.

When I first chat to clients, the main thing they want to talk about is what they don't like, what goes wrong, and what frustrates them. And that's okay, because it all helps in my understanding of their challenges. But there is a mind shift that needs to take place, otherwise you will always be saying no, and trying to stop behaviour. Rather than dwelling on what your dog does wrong, look at what you want your dog to do instead. It's actually quite hard for some people to do, but as soon as they work it out, then we have the start of a plan. For example, sit or keeping four feet on the floor when your dog greets someone is easier to train than ‘stopping jumping up’ which is what I usually hear first.

2. Keep training sessions short

In my experience, it is all too easy to go one with a session too long. You lose concentration and your dog loses concentration. Think about times in your life such as while you boil the kettle, or during a commercial break while watching TV and if out and about, do 3 minutes of training then have a break to play or for your dog to sniff.

3. Try not to repeat cues

If you are having to repeat a cue STOP and think about WHY your dog is finding it difficult to respond.

3. Splitting things down into smaller chunks can really help.

When someething seem difficult to achieve, can you break it down. For example, if you would like your dog to walk up a ramp into the back of your car, you could train the ramp flat away from the car, build up the height to the back of the car, then tran separately your sit or lay down cue on a mat that can also be transferred to the car.

4. Build up the difficulty of exercises at an appropriate level for the individual dog.

Build distractions, locations and distance. Break down the exercise and make it super clear to your dog.

5. If something goes wrong, try to understand why

Your training has stalled for a reason, so set things up better, often easier, next time.

6. Be Generous With What Your Dog Loves

This is not about 'making yourself more exciting', it's more about understanding your relationship with your dog, not skimping on that conversation, and tapping in to what your dog loves

7. Make sure your dog knows when they have done something right

And reinforce it with something that they love so it will happen again. Remember WHAT IS REINFORCED IS MORE LIKELY TO HAPPEN AGAIN. That principle can work for or against you!

8. Choose the right reinforcement for your dog and the situation

If your dog does well, reward with food, a toy, cuddles or even an environmental reward such as going to say hello to a person or another dog. Food as a reward gives you the opportunity for lots of repetitions, but be aware of balancing your dog’s diet. Toys can be really good fun, but you may get less repetitions as it takes longer to reward. Be careful your dog does not get too excited by the toy. Praise, play and any social interaction are great rewards for most dogs, but be sure your dog is happy with any physical touch. Watch if they shy away when your hand moves to different areas of their body, and be mindful of what they present to you to be touched e.g. bum scratch may be better than touching around their head.

So there you go ... it's all commonsense!

In dog training I see commonsense as a virtue.  It means that you will more likely do the things you need to do and apply your training approach in your day-to-day life with your dog.