Dog lifestyle hot topic. Button pusher, argument starter. So we’re not going to approach the topic of dog training head-on because there are literally thousands of tips, tricks, philosophies, theories, and schools of thought out there about how to best train your dog!
What we are going to talk about is how you can set yourself – and your dog – up for success when it comes to dog training. What to do and how to ‘be’ when it comes to teaching your dog a new skill or working to eliminate a behaviour.
8 Highly Effective States Of Mind For Setting Yourself – And Your Dog – Up For Training Success
Exuding confidence (whether it’s real, or fake at first) helps relax everyone around you, including the dog. A relaxed, less agitated or anxious dog is more likely to absorb new material and enjoy the experience of a training session. Dogs are plain going to feel safer in the hands of a trainer who appears confident.
Run out of gas on the way home? Still have to call the plumber about that clogged pipe? Miss a car payment? Put that aside or postpone the training session until you can. A training session is the dog’s time, so leave your worries, stress, and concerns at the door. Dogs will sense if your head isn’t in the game or not in the moment – with them. Ever see those dogs tugging on the leash of their cell-phone-chatting owners? Bingo. Dogs won’t be on their game if they sense that you’re not on yours.
Keeping it simple, brief, and clear will always work best. Too much talking or gesturing can be confusing, overwhelming, and stressful to a dog. So clear your head and think about what you are going to do, how you’re going to approach it, and clearly lead the training session. Grab your props ahead of time. Be direct in your messaging; it sends the dog the message that you know what you’re doing and that you are serious about the task at hand. ‘Saying more with less’ leaves less room for you to get lost too.
Shoot for the stars, sure, but realize that teaching a dog a new skill or working to eliminate an engrained behaviour is going to take time, and work. Don’t set yourself – and your dog – up for failure by expecting too much the first time. You’ll walk away disappointed and frustrated and you won’t be very keen to try it again – nor will your dog.
Joy is contagious. Obviously you don’t want to over-excite your dog with too much enthusiasm (we run very close to this line with a Lab who’s always on the verge of becoming unhinged), but you have to be enjoying yourself and you have to be having fun! If you’re exuding joy, chances are your dog will catch it too, making a training session more fun for everybody. It also increases the likelihood that your dog will associate the training session with a positive experience, meaning they’ll want to come back for more.
Chances are not everything will go as planned. If it does, great, but you need to adapt if it doesn’t. Don’t be dead-set on training ABC today in nine and half minutes with no exceptions. You need to be able to read your dog’s mood, the pulse of the room (is it crowded with strangers?), the energy of the house (is it loud and busy or quiet and settled?), what the weather is doing outside, and adjust what you have planned to be in sync with the dog and the environment in front of you. Watch your dog’s eyes – are they focused or glazed over? Watch their body language – are they still or yawning and licking their mouth? Listen to their breathing – is it even or erratic? If you’re rushing or expecting too much or the dog is getting distracted or anxious, consider calling it a day rather than pushing through.
Keep going. Follow through. If you’re intent on teaching your dog a new skill or working to eliminate an unwanted behaviour, you’ll have to commit to it for it to work…and it might take several days or weeks (or longer!) to achieve your objective.
Great training can be kept simple. Great training has a paced, steady, calm, collected flow and energy to it. There is ease to the trainer’s body and to the dog’s. There is ease to the room. Dogs will be less anxious about what’s to come when the room is easy and everything is cool, collected, and set up for success.
Your turn – what mind hacks do you have for getting yourself and your dog ‘in the zone’ for a good training session? Hit us up with your suggestions!