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Make dog training fun?

Thursday March 31st, 2011

By Nicole Wilde

Question:

How do I get my dog to enjoy our training sessions?

answered by Nicole Wilde

Answer:

If you really think about it, training time is play time--training should be a fun experience for both you and your dog. Remember to keep your attitude light-hearted and consider this time together a part of the bonding experience. If your training sessions are fun as well as instructive, yet your dog still prefers to run off and play on his own, consider the following:

Are you using food treats to train? If the treats are interesting enough, your dog should drop all else and want to come train. Try upping the ante by replacing that dry cookie with something moist and tender. If you are not using food treats to train, consider it! It's a fast, easy way to teach new skills.

Once your dog understands a particular command and has had plenty of practice with it, you can gradually wean him off treats and reinforce his good behavior with other high-value rewards such as a meal, a walk, or a toss of a favorite toy.

Are you using positive reinforcement methods? If your dog enjoys training, he should appear happy at the first indication that a session is about to take place. If your dog perceives training time to be unpleasant--he receives physical corrections, for example--his "play time" behavior might be a result of stress.

Some dogs respond to fear by "fooling around" as a way to avoid confrontation. And keep in mind that dogs pick up on our emotional states, so if you are feeling tense or angry for any reason, skip the training session that day.

Is your dog distracted? If you're attempting to train in the back yard and your dog keeps running off to sniff the flowers or chase birds, there are too many distractions. Begin training indoors in a quiet area. If he still wanders off with little or no distractions present, leash your dog and continue training. Just make sure he's enjoying the session.

Nicole Wilde is a Los Angeles–based Certified Pet Dog Trainer specializing in behavior issues, and is the owner of Gentle Guidance Dog Training and the author of several books, including Help for Your Fearful Dog.

Read more about Nicole Wilde in the DogTime expert center...
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