Have you ever been frustrated with your dog before? If you said no, well we simply don’t believe you. When training your dog to obey under any circumstance it requires repetition after repetition, follow-through, consistency and keeping your cool while sometimes your dog isn’t cooperating to the best of their ability. Training your dog CAN be stressful, however it can be loads of fun too! For both you and your dog. So here are some sure-fire ways to have fun with the fundamentals of dog training.
What we consider as the fundamentals of dog training are: here (recall to handler), sit, down, place, heel and keen (release command). Everything else is an added bonus, and you should aim to go past the fundamentals, but the fundamentals are the key to all things great that will occur with the bond you share with your dog.
Let me take you back to childhood, oh the good ol’ days as they say – what did you do to entertain yourself? If you were anything like me then you were outside playing, climbing, and playing games like don’t touch the ground tag with friends. You know what is so great about having a dog? They love playing games similar to this which builds upon your fundamental place command. Dogs love to climb rocks, and other objects. The place command is a useful tool in every day life such as extended down/stay on their beds, but *yawn* that isn’t my idea of having fun with the fundamentals. What we love to do is extend on the place command while walking our dogs and we see a rock, covered green electrical box, residing wall, or anything that is a definite boundary and have our dogs jump up on them and hold position until released. Sometimes its a quick jump up and let’s go back to heeling or we will walk away reinstating the sit/stay or down/stay on whatever quirky object they are on until we release them. This spices up our walks and allows our dogs to break away from the typical walk routine.
Fun tricks such as the walk on the feet trick, in the arms, piggy-back, standing on a fire hydrant and skateboarding are all advanced place commands. Not only are these tricks fun to teach, exciting to show off to family and friends, they are also a way to mentally wear your dog out and have fun with the fundamentals.
The recall is such an important cue for your dog to learn. Safety in training is always the most important factor, but that doesn’t mean that you should be a boring lug hollering at your dog to be running at you like Lassie just because. YOU should be the most exciting person in the world to your dog, having fun by running away, running around with your dog and treating, playing tug, or just lots of praise is an active way to have fun with recalls! Play tag with your dog, sprint away from your dog and when they get to you give them lots of love. Laugh, sometimes get down on the ground with them, be an utter goofball. Your dog doesn’t judge you if you bring out your inner child, they actually relish in it.
Sit before you eat, sit before you go out the door, sit before your cross the street, and sit before you meet someone, are all fantastic habits to train your dog. Habits require some work in the beginning but remember, work can be fun! Most dogs are foodies, so have fun with making your dog sit for food. Play the “find-it” game with your dog and have them sit/stay until you release them to find food that you have hidden throughout the house. What a fun reward: for your dog to essentially play an Easter Egg Hunt with their kibble. Now this doesn’t have to be a nightly occurrence, but is a great game to play when it’s raining or you just want to see your dog use their natural scent finding abilities and work their brains as well.
Downs are a more practical way to have your dog hold a long stay. A down position in more relaxing, and continual practice inside your house and out will create a calmer more well-balanced dog. A fun way to use your down/stay? Taking your dog paddle boarding! Yes, life should be an adventure with your dog. Paddle boarding is a relaxing mild exercise that is a great bonding experience and training opportunity with your pooch. Have your dog in a down/stay in the center of the board while you balance and paddle the two of you down the river or wherever your board takes you. Reward your dog with praise and a swim if they like that sort of thing. The US National White Water Center welcomes dogs when you rent their paddle boards, it is our favorite place in Charlotte that is open to the public and their pups!
Lastly, Keen is the easiest to have fun with, well because keen = fun. When your dog is released with “keen” he/she can earn the freedom to eat their food, say hi to someone, meet another dog, have a field run, chase a frisbee, garner a cuddle session, take their treat…the rewards are endless and can differ every time your dog hears that word. Pretty exciting and fun right? Its like a constant winning lottery ticket that is worth different amounts of payoff every time.
So there you have it guys, let us all venture into 2017 with the mindset of having fun with the fundamentals of your dog training. It will strengthen the bond you share with your dog, continue to challenge you to be creative with your training and best of all, solidify your dog’s obedience and listening skills under any circumstance.
– Katrina Kensington