TIP #1: HOW TO STAY MOTIVATED
You’ve done all the right things when it comes to training your dog, and so far, it’s gone well: He knows how to sit and stay and shake, and he’s pleasant and polite to be around. But suddenly, training feels like a burden - and your dog doesn’t seem like he’s enjoying it, either. Time to give up? Not at all! You just need to work on getting motivated again, and here are five common motivational strategies for getting you back on track.
Taking an all-or-nothing approach. It's unreasonable to expect your dog to be trained and problem behaviors to be resolved in a single training session or class. Training needs to be ongoing; it is best done in short sessions throughout the day, lasting between 30 seconds and 10 minutes and through everyday interactions with your dog. Training is both a process and a way of life — not just a three hour class one Saturday a month.
Forgetting to set goals. Training can begin to feel like a burden when you lose track of your goals. Having something you and your dog are working toward can help you stay motivated. Keeping that end goal in mind - and celebrating small successes along the way - can help keep your motivation high.
Offering the wrong reward. Sometimes dogs will give up, because the effort they’re putting in isn’t paying off. For instance, your dog may consistently sit at home in exchange for lavish praise. But at the dog park, with competing distractions like new smells and other dogs, just praise may not be enough to get your dog to sit and stay. It’s important that you find the right reward for each situation, one that makes it worthwhile for your dog to do what you’re asking him to do.
Sticking with what’s not working. There is no one-size-fits-all training approach. Dogs are individuals with differences in learning style and motivation - and so are dog owners! If your dog is not progressing, you may need to change your approach to training. Your dog may not respond to a clicker but may be a champ when you use a food lure. It’s also possible that a lack of progress could be caused by an underlying medical issue or condition. If you suspect that this is the case, consult with your veterinarian right away.
Losing sight of how far you’ve come. It can be easy to forget where you and your dog started - and hard to see the progress that’s been made. Video recordings, written progress notes or feedback from friends and family who spend time around your dog can be helpful tools in gaining perspective on your progress. Though you may feel like your dog still has a long way to go, I suspect that you will be pleasantly surprised when you look back at how far he’s
Keep in mind as well that if your dog is struggling to master a new behavior, it's OK to back up and work on something a little simpler. This can help boost his confidence - and yours - and may get you both motivated to give the more difficult thing one more try. Finally, it’s OK to take a short hiatus from training. We all need a break at times. Taking a break from training doesn’t mean letting your dog do whatever he wants - remember, training should be part of your everyday interactions with your pooch. But if you’re really feeling burned out, give yourself permission to skip formal training sessions for a few days. Use the time to renew your attitude, training plan and goals, so you can return to training with renewed vigor and energy. This will help you and your dog continue to succeed.
- excerpted from Losing Interest In Training Your Dog? Here's How To Stay Motivated by Mikkel Becker
TIP #2: REAL LIFE TRAINING
One of the mistakes we often make with our dogs is thinking that dogs see training classes in the same way that we often see being in school - in other words, that learning is reserved for the classroom! In truth, dogs (and people) are constantly learning every second of every day. To have a truly well-mannered dog, you need to reinforce the behaviors that you want during the course of your daily life.
Take your dog with you when you go shopping. There are many stores that allow dogs. Always cal first to make sure of their dog-friendly policies. Once you are in the store, you can practice walking nicely on leash, sitting politely for petting and no jumping, and even stays in the aisles or under your chair or table if you are sitting and having a cup of coffee.
Take your dog on car rides. Even if you have a quick errand to run, such as to the bank or to a drive thru restaurant for food, take your dog along! You can practice stays with the dog getting in and out of your car, and going out is always a good socialization opportunity for the dog.
Practice sitting politely when guests come over every time a friend or relative visits. Practice sit stays when the mailman drops off your daily mail, when the garbage collection truck comes by, and when the newspaper deliveryman drops off your paper.
Practice sit and down stays while you are watching TV, on the phone, cooking, eating dinner, working at home on your computer, or while your children are doing their homework. The dog learns to be quiet and relaxed during times that you are busy and need to work.
Practice stays when you go to pick your children up from school or from extracurricular activities. Arrive a few minutes early and take your dog out on leash and have them stay while watching the busy parking lot full of children. This is a highly distracting atmosphere for the dog and it’s great practice for stays, as well as walking nicely on leash.
Use the recall cue in your house in the course of your daily activities, such as when you want the dog to come to eat his or her dinner, or when your dog runs to the front door or a window to bark at a squirrel or the mailman.
Use all of your dog’s behaviors to earn him “what he wants.” Make getting anything that your dog desires a learning opportunity! If your dog wants to go out, he has to sit for his leash to be put on, or lay down at the door, or do a trick instead. Do the same when your dog wants his dinner, or to play or be petted or get attention. It doesn’t really matter what behavior you ask for, as long as you ask the dog to do “something” in exchange for a valuable “life” reward.
Jeff Dentler, CPDT-KA, FFCP, CTDI