Originally Published: September 17, 2018 8:46 p.m.
Whether we are gone all day or we are home most of the time but busy, our dogs are leading a rather boring existence. They are not out protecting our sheep or herding the cattle. While we are reading the paper or watching the news, they are napping.
Hopefully, we all get a couple of walks a day, but let’s face it, life is boring for our dogs. They cannot read a book, watch a movie or browse the internet for some mental stimulation.
How about a few minutes of training? A training session need last no more than 10 or 15 minutes, but it does provide some needed stimulation and gives our pups something to look forward to.
As I have said, I am totally in favor of treats for training, and so are my dogs. I use the loaf or roll, which I slice and then cut into little bites. The guys very eagerly watch me prepare these delightful tidbits and then they are eager for whatever tasks I ask of them. Charlee Bears are another great treat option. They are low calorie and are the perfect size — no preparation needed.
The No. 1 task to train is getting your dog’s attention. Hold a yummy treat in front of your face. When the dog focuses on your face, praise and treat. Then slowly begin moving the treat away from your face, baby steps at first. When the pup moves from looking at the treat to your face, quickly praise and treat. Eventually, you want to be able to hold the treat at arm’s length and have him quickly move his gaze from the treat to your face. When he responds correctly, put a word to it, such as “watch me!”
This cue comes in handy when you are out walking and your pup sees a squirrel of cat or you encounter another person walking their dog. When a distraction appears, ask your dog to sit and then ask him to “watch me.” It is handy to have hidden treats in your pocket for such occasions.
When I pull the treat box out of the fridge, my guys are heading for the training room. First we do our team calisthenics. Together they sit, down, (lie down) stand, sit, and then repeat. Then both circle around me and weave through my legs, jump through the hoop and weave around the cones. They love doing the spins and twists. Do all this with some jazzy music in the background. Great exercise for the body as well as the brain for both the trainees and trainer.
Lots of people teach fun tricks — shake hands, roll over, sit up and beg. The treat can be used as a lure to get them moving into the desired position. Be generous with the treats — and reward each step. As they get the idea of what you want from them, you can slowly reduce the luring treats.
If you have a dog that is inclined to pull on the leash, (don’t we all?) stop walking and say “no pull.” When he turns to look at you, say “good no pull,” praise and treat or give an ear rub. Begin walking again and when he is not pulling, say, “good no pull.”
When walking, be sure to allow the dog to do some sniffing. That is good stimulation for the brain. If you want a more vigorous workout, after some sniffing, move out in a nice fast pace and he will certainly want to stay with you.
Always praise in a happy voice when your pup does what you want him to do. This simple and fun training can set the stage for more serious exercises. But keep it fun!
Christy Powers is a freelance writer whose passion is studying and writing about pet health, nutrition and training. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.