Ever have troublesome training sessions with your dog?  Here are some of my favorite tried and true tips for training success!

I prefer shorter training sessions...1. Short Sessions – Dogs are like small children and have short attention spans.  If a training session lasts too long they will probably get frustrated, distracted, or bored.  It is more effective to practice in several short sessions rather than 1 long session.

2. Exercise – A few years ago, my dog and I took a weekly agility class scheduled for right after I got off work.  As soon as I got home, we got in the car and drove to class; no time for exercise!  This was disastrous!  Every time it was our turn on the agility course, Wesley would run across all the equipment and take off across the yard with orange cones in his mouth and trying to chase the neighbor’s sheep!  How embarrassing (but funny)!  Lesson learned: a well exercised dog is a more focused dog and will be much easier to train!

3. Treats Give your dog something worth working for!  If there are treats involved, your dog will likely work a lot harder.  Don’t make your dog fat though.  Treats don’t have to be big or unhealthy.  My dogs really love apples, string cheese, and carrots.  There are lots of pet treats available that are made in small portions specifically intended to be used for training.  We especially like Zuke’s Mini Naturals.  Treats are most effective when you use a variety of high-value (meat) and low-value(Cheerios) treats at the same time – it keeps your dog interested and on his toes!

4. Don’t Repeat – Avoid repeating yourself over and over again.  Give one cue and wait for your dog’s response.  I hate to see people yelling at their dogs: “Sit! Sit! Sit! Sit! Sit!”  If you feel you need to say a command that  many times and your dog isn’t responding, it clearly isn’t working. Every time you say a command and get no response, that command means less and less to your dog.  After you have said “Sit” 30 times, your dog probably just ignores you or wonders why you’re yelling.  Take a step back.

Often a dog who does a trick perfectly in the privacy of your living room, won’t do it out in public.  It takes a lot of practice and focus for a dog to be able to perform under distractions in unfamiliar settings.  Be patient and keep practicing!  This leads us in to Tip #5.

Sorry, I'm a little distracted right now...5. Distractions – When teaching your dog something new, do it in a setting with few distractions and you will have better results.  Once your dog has mastered the task without distractions, gradually add distraction (people, cars, other dogs).  I sometimes take my dog to a back corner of a large parking lot to practice commands.  There are distractions, but they are not up close.  As he gets better and better at the command, move closer to the distractions.

6. Be patient and positive!– Don’t expect your dog to be rolling over and ringing bells all in one session.  Learning tricks takes time and usually involves lots of steps.  Any small accomplishment your dog makes is wonderful!  Let him know that!  Training should be fun and something that you and your dog look forward to.

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