Basics in dog training - building up a team
I have done dog training for about 14 years. I have trained in many different ways and found my way
to clicker training. During my journey I have learned that training techniques can help you to succeed in your goals but there are few fundamental skills that every dog team should learn before starting any sport training. Basic training is sometimes boring but gives you a rock solid base to built on. Basic skills I see important to learn in first year is socialization, calming down, impulse control, motivation and rewarding. All this basic work leads to a good solid relationship and gives basic tools to do anything the team wants.
First thing the puppy must learn is to be with its new family. This time should be peaceful time and time to relax from the stress that comes from separating from the mother and the siblings. Little by little the puppy can explore the outside and see new things but safely. It is important to observe the puppies character and see how much new things it can handle. This is time to teach the puppy recalls and walking on leash. Puppy should also meet safe adult dogs and other puppies of same age and size. Also taking the puppy to new environment is important so it learns different surfaces, smells, sound, traffic, meeting different dressed (man wearing a hat, big coat etc.) and moving people (wheelchair, babies, old) etc. All this need to be done in the puppies terms. Shyer puppy might handle few short visits to new places per weeks and more bold puppy can visit new places more often. You just need to watch your puppies reactions and how recovers from the stress.
Calming down is skill that can be the hardest teach at first but pays off in a long run. It means that you teach your dog a routine that leads to calm lying down. First you train this at home. First time might take 15-30 min if you have already a older puppy. Make sure you have something calm to do like watching a TV show. You can use a mat as spot to lying down so that you can take it with anywhere and it can be save spot for the dog in the future. You can have collar or harness to help the keep the dog close to you and then you start making long strokes from head to the end of hind leg. Remember you need calm down too. In this exercise you don't need treat the dog. Dog just need to learn calm down. At first time exercise end when the dogs has calmed down in lying down position. Dog will start calming down faster and faster as practice this routine. Then you can go and try this same routine in new more busier place. This can lead to longer calming down time but more work on it more faster it gets and the dogs learn to take it relax stage in anywhere. In longer run this helps reduce stress in new places and competition trips.
Motivation and rewards
Motivation can be from internal like hunger, thirst and reproductive needs or it could from outside smell, social interaction, car ( takes to forest run), ball (change for game). Every behavior have some kind of motivational drive. Every time you train and your dog does something out of the ordinary you should think what motivated to do it. Finding our the motivation to each behavior can be the key to solve it or route to find away to train for your liking. Behavior has always reason why it happens. Dogs don't have ability to be nasty or try to trick us. We just have see what motivates them to do it differently or have we have our training lead to the seen outcome.
In training we need different things to make the dog work for us. Usually we use rewards like toys, treat, social reward or environmental rewards ( like permission to play with other dogs). The most important thing is that THE DOG get choose what is rewarding and what is not. Playing can mean a lot things to different dogs. One might want to chase something or chew the toy or just do the tugging. In the end its the dog choice and as handler it is our job to find out which things our dogs like. Some dogs like treat but you give them in many ways to make it more interesting: like chasing treat hand, tossed treat, treat ball etc. You can also built up value to toys or treats with using the preferable reward to enhance to the other. Treating games can be built but always watch how you dog reacts and does it really feel that reward is rewarding. Some dog might like tugging but other might feel most rewarded when they can run around with toy in their mouth.
It is important to find things that your dog thinks is valuable. This gives you motivation tool to teach the dog to things you like. Different situations might need different rewards. At home your dog might work for a kibble and in the busy dog training arena you might need treat likes chicken heart to get as good as motivation to work with you. More games you teach more tools you have in the future. I try to teach my dog to play with anything from piece of grass to fallen leaf in the autumn. I want the any surroundings to be a change to play with me.
Impulse control is one the most important skills when it comes to dogs sports. The dog need to learn to give up from distractions and give the attention to the handler. Basic exercise is given up the treat. This is one the first trick I teach puppies when they been at the house for awhile. First you have treat in your hand and when the dog tries to get it you close hand as soon as the dog moves away from the treat hand you treat the dog with your other hand. This trick advances to a stage where the dog takes an eye contact to get the treat. Later on you can play with the open treat hand near the dog and it needs keep the eye contact to you. This is same thing you can do with food bowl. Dog need to sit and give eye contact before it gets cue to get the food. This kind of work helps the dog to built up self control.
Next game can be done with a toy. If dog tugs well, you can do impulse control game. You start with playing with the dog and then you stop playing and freeze your hands. At this point you wait that dogs lets go of the toy and takes default position. Then you move the toy a bit and if the dog hold its ground you give it release cue to start tugging again. First time you do can release the dog to play as soon as it gives up toy and then increase the distraction. Before you do this it good have done tugging games so that you dogs feel confident and has good drive to play with you. Remember to let the dog win the toy a lot to built up a strong playing mode with you. Some manuals say not let the dog win but that isn't right. Winning helps the dog built confidence and playing drive, also it gives the dog reason keep playing with you because it can win and feel awesome. Impulse control games are just part the game and gives playing some rules.
Here is video of Freya doing some impulse control play:
That my thoughts for today!!!