Happy New Year pet parents! Did you know that January is National Train Your Dog Month (before you read the title of this post)? What a great time to bond with your pup through enriching training games and activities. Whether harnessing indoor fun together or unleashing outdoor adventures with your BFF (Best Fur Friend), why not resolve to brush up on basic skills and even learn some new ones?
Wondering where to start? A logical place is a review of some fundamentals of force-free pet training. A pawsitive approach not only helps keep people and dogs safer, but also builds a stronger bond as you continue your lifelong training journey together.
When teaching a new skill, or refining an existing one, one of the most useful concepts to keep in mind is gradual change. Start simple and slowly build up from there to keep learning fun and engaging. As the skill difficulty increases, make adaptations in your expectations and/or the environment that will help your dog succeed. You can do this by adjusting the 3Ds – distance, duration and distractions. Understanding the 3Ds is key to upping your training game! For example, it often makes sense to introduce a new skill indoors, where distractions are lower and the environment is easier to manage.
Consistency, another important part of getting the most out of training with your dog, also often starts at home. Troubleshoot how you can get and keep all members of the household on the same page when it comes to indoor manners. Think about the cue words that are used. Is one person using the Down cue to indicate, “lie down” while another is using the same word to ask the dog to “get off me or off the couch?” Are there different rules that apply to your pup’s interactions with family members vs. guests visiting the home? You can see how these inconsistencies might lead to confusion for your dog and frustration for all involved. Harness the power of clear, consistent communication to help your dog remain fluent in everyday manners.
But what about more challenging real-life situations? We’ve all been there. Our brilliant, sweet pup, who has mastered cue after cue in training class and at home, seems to have forgotten everything when we’re out and about. Our pups aren’t being stubborn or forgetful; they just haven’t generalized their training yet. Generalizing is key to unleashing dog training success in any environment. Generalizing means taking a skill your dog has grasped in one area and helping him understand it in new contexts. Although incorporating this concept may involve reteaching a cue as though your dog has never heard the word before, don’t worry; it won’t take nearly as long to train a known behavior in a new context. Worth the effort, when you consider the many real-world applications, indoors and outdoors, of all the cues your best friend knows and can learn!
Hopefully, now, after reviewing the 3Ds and thinking about the roles of consistency and generalization in your training endeavors, you and your pup feel prepared to tackle outdoor adventures with confidence. You can start the year off on the right paw when you apply the above concepts to Recall, Loose Leash Walking and even Managing Leash Reactivity.
And don’t stop there. National Train Your Dog Month can inspire you beyond formal manners instruction. What other enriching activities are you planning to enjoy with your dog in the coming year? (Comment below!) Will you explore some DIY training adventures? Does your dog want to become a TransPaw Ambassadog? Haven’t thought that far ahead yet? We understand; life will happen. There won’t always be time for extensive training. That’s okay! Do the best you can. Often it’s the small steps that can make the biggest difference.
Here’s to unleashing training adventures and harnessing fun all year long!