Lucy

Lucy

Physical Exercise

Dogs with pent up physical energy are far more challenging to handle and train than dogs that get plenty of physical exercise. Some breeds and mixes are “hard wired” to run as much as 25-35 miles per day!  Running, walking or hiking with your dog for an hour every day is optimal.  If you have physical or time limitations, consider a dog daycare that offers hikes, or get a Chuckit ball thrower so your dog will run and run and you don’t have to! These are just a couple of ideas that you may find helpful. Also, if your dog has trouble focusing during training or engages in a lot of “hyperactive” or overly exuberant behavior, he’s probably not getting enough exercise. Take him for a long walk, hike, run or game of fetch and try again. He’ll be calmer, more focused, and more cooperative after he has burned off some of that pent up energy.

 

 

Mental Stimulation

Bindi

Bindi

Your dog’s brain needs exercise as much as his body does. Dogs that are left alone with nothing to do will find something to do, and it’s usually along the lines of chewing, digging, nuisance barking, destroying your shoes, gloves, or whatever else is handy. To keep your dog mentally stimulated, give them treasure to hunt and puzzles to solve. For example, hide loaded Kong toys and dog biscuits in places they can access while you are gone, and give them some of their daily food ration in a “food ball” type of toy. My dog would rather roll her food ball around and eat one tiny piece of kibble at a time, even when there is the same kibble in her dish!

Creating an Economy

Your dog needs to know that you are The Source of All Good Things. Rather than free-feeding your dog so that his bowl is the source of food, feed him morning and evening, (puppies should eat 3x per day), ask him to sit and wait before eating, and remove the food after 10-15 minutes.  Also, if your dog wants something from you such as attention, a treat, affection, a walk, to go out, to come in, to play tug or fetch, etc., ask him to give you something first, such as “Sit”, “Watch Me”, “Down”, etc. This helps him understand that he can often get what he wants from you by offering behaviors and obeying commands. In this way, you create teachable moments throughout the day as you do the things you normally do with and for your dog.

 

Bindi, Fitz, Elsie & Raven

Bindi, Fitz, Elsie & Raven

Play and Affection

Humans tend to be work and goal oriented which can take the fun out of training.  Be sure to make time every day, not just for training, but for free play, and remember that dogs crave human attention and affection which makes them powerful reinforces. Make plenty of time for love and play.  Play time can be a great opportunity for informal training simply by capturing and reinforcing naturally occurring behaviors that are desirable.  For example, when playing fetch you can reinforce your dog for waiting before you throw the ball, you can reinforce your dog for returning to you and you can reinforce your dog for relinquishing the ball.  So even in play you have the opportunity to practice skills like "wait, recall, get it and drop it".  Done properly your dog will never know the difference between play and training because it will always be fun for him.