Here’s five ways you can speed up your dog behaviour training without doing anything extra! Whatever you are doing with your dog, these ideas will get you there faster.
Make it easier
The first way you can speed up your dogs behaviour training is to find ways to make it easier for him. You know your dog best, but most dogs are better able to focus after moderate exercise, and before dinner. Or maybe you have more success in the morning, or after a nap. Go with whatever works best for your dog and focus your efforts when he’s most receptive!
You can also make things easier by increasing the value of the rewards. Most dogs respond best to a food reward, but not all. If your dog prefers his ball, then use that. If he’d prefer a “good boy” then go with that. Far too often we just do what everyone else is doing. But, every dog is different so it’s definitely worth experimenting.
And, if your dog does prefer a food reward, what kind? Not all dogs love the same thing so try commercial treats, squeezy cheese, veggie cubes, cheese, cooked meat, left over chips, dried meats, or you could be creative and make your own!
When you are consistent in your own behaviour, your dog will know what to expect from you. This makes it easier for him to know what you want, what will happen next and how to get what he wants.
To do this, first be clear in your mind what you are doing and how you are doing it. For example, if you are doing stop/start loose lead training. make sure to always stop the exact second the lead tightens. This way it will be obvious why you have stopped. If you take one extra step sometimes, and two or three, at other times, and none most of the time, it’ll take forever for your dog to figure out what is going wrong. Likewise, if you sometimes get him to sit before you start moving, but sometimes pause for a second, or two, and other times just go, he’ll be really confused about how to get moving.
So, make sure you hold the lead the same way, at the same length, and do the exact same thing, for every step. And also keep it going throughout the walk. If you get close to home and let the lead go long, you’ve introduced another grey area. Same if you let him wander as you approach the car, or in a place you are about to let him off lead. Instead, keep him close right right up until the last minute, then stop, before you do anything else.
Every time you add a new type of distraction, or go to a new place, you make learning harder for your dog. So, start training at home when it’s quiet and he’s at his most relaxed. Once he’s mastered his new skill or trick at home, you can start adding new distractions.
Distractions don’t have to be much! Almost anything can count, including; left over food, other dogs, new smells, kids playing, leaves blowing, loud bangs, litter, shop doors – I could go on all day! You know your dog best, so you may already have an idea of what distracts him the most.
Start simple, and train him alongside the least distracting items first. Then as he succeeds, add one at a time as he can do it no matter what is happening around him!
Break it down into manageable steps
If a process can be broken down into manageable steps, then do it. Take time to work on each element and once they have been mastered individually, put them back together again.
For example, if you are working on answering the door, break it down into: sitting on a spot or mat, ignoring new people, “watch me” command, desensitising the door bell, and being ignored for five minutes when anyone comes to visit. When he is good at all these things, you can put them together to have a dog sitting calmly at the door waiting for your command!
If you tried to do this all in one go, you’ll either overwhelm him, or yourself, or it’ll be too hard and you’ll quit!
Yep, I know I said we were trying to speed up your dogs behaviour training! So, this might feel counter productive. But, taking your time means you’ll get the maximum benefit out of each piece of training. When you take your time, your dog can take things in better too, so you’ll get there faster overall. Going slow also keeps him calm, which means he’ll be less likely to get things wrong in the first place – win-win!
Being realistic about how long things might take, and adding on a buffer, will help you take your time and be more consistent. When you rush things, you’re at risk of doing half a job, and you’ll be tempted to quit half way. You’re much more likely to see each piece of training through to the end if you set aside more than enough time.
Read How long should dog training take for a realistic idea of what you should expect!
How can I help you with your dogs behaviour training?
Private Dog Behaviour Consultations are currently available in the Dundee area and beyond. If you are looking for help solving your dogs behaviour and training problems, then please get in touch!