Dog Training Session Tips

Teaching a puppy or dog to sit, down and stay is the easy part. Once your dog has learned the commands, youíll conduct training sessions in many locations with increasingly more difficult distractions. Here are 8 tips about dog training sessions.

Choose distraction-free areas for introducing new behaviors.
Dogs often get distracted by the location or environment. Itís best to introduce new behaviors at home, in a quiet area. This will enable your dog to focus on the task at hand.

Practice in many different locations.
Practice in many different locations and your dog will perform well in many different locations! Just be prepared to re-teach behaviors in new environments. Be patient. Donít be surprised if your dog fails to perform. Itís best to warm up with a few known behaviors.

As your dog becomes accustomed to the new location, start adding distractions. If your dog fails, the distraction was too great or the location is out of his league. Relocate and/or reduce the distractions so your dog can succeed.

Keep teaching sessions short and interesting.
If you ask your dog to repeat a learned behavior over and over is likely to reduce his or her motivation to perform. Practice 1-3 behaviors, 3 - 5 times each during a short teaching session.

The session length and number of behaviors you might practice during a session will vary. It depends on the relationships between the behaviors, the difficulty of the behaviors, age of the dog, et cetera. Older dogs can handle longer sessions than puppies.

Practice sessions with young puppies should be short, 60-240 seconds.

Your pup is learning, even when you are not teaching! Instead of scheduling a short training session, incorporate 60 second periods of obedience practice sessions throughout your day. Play a bit and then practice sit!

Incorporate creative rewards into your reward system.
Many dogs will work for the opportunity to interact with the environment. For example, the opportunity to chase squirrels can be the reward for sitting on command when squirrels are in the distance. Hereís how I do it.

I see squirrels in the distance. I tell Bentley, "Look, there are some squirrels", and I point to the squirrels. "Sit", I say. Bentley quickly sits. I sing out "atta boy, letís chase those squirrels." as I race off with him to chase the squirrels. If he doesnít sit, I calmly say, "Bye bye squirrel" and immediately remove his opportunity to chase. I lead him away from the squirrels.

After a failure, I instantly look for just the right opportunity and repeat the sequence, but this time Iím a bit farther away from the squirrels when I ask for the sit. If we fail on this second trial, I always make every possible adjustment so that we can succeed on the third trial. I have a contract with my dog and myself. "I will never set you up to fail three times in a row".

A cue to perform a favorite behavior can be a reward.
Bentley likes to spin, (or maybe he likes how I whoop and clap when he spins). Bentley loves to spin when cheered on. I often use the cue to spin as a reward. Spin is the behavior I taught him to perform when people come into my house. People might comment, "Say, whyís your dog spinning". I chuckle and reply, "Hey, heís not jumping up or trying to bolt out the door; now is he? His job is to spin when guests arrive!"

Cool down before ending a session.
During your short teaching sessions, respect the fact that learning a new task or raising the difficulty for a task (for example- practicing Ďstaysí with more distractions or increased duration) can be somewhat stressful for your dog. To give your dog a break, end each session with a couple of easy behaviors that your dog already knows.

End each session on a "win".
End the session when your dog has just succeeded. Your dog will remember the success. Next time you start a session, youíll have an enthusiastic student. If you push to the point of failure and then end the session, failures will increase; the studentís motivation will decrease. Always end each session on a "win" so your dog will remember the fun part!

Hold a play session after the session.
Your main goal is to teach your dog so make it tempting for him/her to WANT to succeed! Take your dog for a walk or play a quick round of fetch immediately after the session. Following this recipe will keep your dog relaxed about learning. He or she will anticipate the next session with joy.

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