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10 Ways to Improve Success in Training Sessions

Hello to all my Caspian Canine peeps! We are back with another blog. Today, we will talk about training sessions and how to get the most out of them!

Step 1 – Do a Mood Check!

Before you even think about grabbing your dog to do a training session, make sure you are emotionally ready. YOUR EMOTIONS TRAVEL STRAIGHT DOWN THE LEASH. If you have had a bad day, don’t work with your dog. No training is better than bad training. If you are frustrated or stressed, go for a walk, or relax for a bit before a training session. If you’re not feeling it, your dog won’t be feeling it either.

Step 2 – Be Prepared!

So, you have done a mood check, and you are ready to train? Think again. After you decide you are emotionally prepared to train, make sure you are physically prepared to train. The training session starts as soon as you get your dog. That being said, make sure you have everything you need, treats, toys, leash, collar, training tools, etc. If you are going outside, put outdoor clothes and shoes on first.

Along with making sure you are physically prepared, make sure you are mentally prepared. Do you know what you are going to work on? What are your goals? How are you and your dog going to achieve those goals? “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Make sure you are ready and have a plan!

Step 3 – Know What Motivates Your Dog!

Different dogs are motivated by lots of different things. I am sure you know at least one person who loves chocolate and one person who hates chocolate. It’s the same with dogs, some like one type of treat while others like another kind of treat. Some are more food motivated, and some are more motivated by toys.

While we are talking about motivators, usually dogs like more than one kind of treat, but they often have a level at which they like the treats. Some might be willing to work for kibble, but they are willing to die for cheese. Others may barely like the cheese but would do anything for some boiled chicken. Your dog’s motivators can also change. Some people get burnt out on a type of food after eating too much of it, and some dogs get tired of certain treats. So, when going into a training session, make sure you have several types of treats you know your dog loves.

Step 4 – Make Sure Your Dog is Ready!

So, we already talked about making sure you are prepared, and this may seem silly, but make sure your dog is ready too! Make sure they don’t need to potty or need any water. Also, back to motivators for a second, I try to plan training sessions either before or around meals. If your pup isn’t hungry, you may have a hard time motivating them, even if you have their favorite treat in the world.

If I have a dog that loves all kinds of food, I will use their meals as treats for their training sessions. This is more economical, and it is also a healthier choice for your dog. If your dog easily packs on the pounds, using kibble as treats will help keep them at a healthy weight. You would probably be surprised at how many dogs will work happily for their breakfast or dinner.

You may be thinking, “well, what do you do if your dog doesn’t like food?” I have an answer to that too! Dogs must eat at some point. So, if I have a dog I’m struggling to motivate, I may not use kibble because that isn’t motivating enough. But I will often delay their mealtimes a bit, so they are extra motivated to work for food.

Step 5 – Find a Low Distraction Area for Training!

When you first start training your dog, it is essential to find an area to train that will be distraction-free. Think back to when you were a child. How would it go if your teacher took you to a bench on a playground and told you to do a test? It probably wouldn’t have gone well if you were anything like my brothers. Now, let’s apply a similar scenario to you and your dog. If you were to go to the busiest dog park in your area and ask your dog that is freshly started in obedience to do a down-stay in the middle of it all, how would it go? Again, if your dog is anything like my brothers, it probably won’t go well. When planning where you’re going to have your training session, you must look at the area from the dog’s perspective. Use your five senses to do an area check. First, use your eyes to look for any distractions. This could be a toy or any fun-looking objects like paper towel rolls. Things like squirrels or passing cars can also be a distraction if you are outside. Use your ears after you have used your eyes to become aware of or remove any distractions, use your ears!

What can you hear? Are there dogs barking? Is the radio playing? Or maybe the dishwasher is running. If there are no distractions as far as the ears go, you can move on to the sense of smell. This may seem silly, but I am serious! Obviously, you can’t remove all odors, but take a good whiff and become aware of them. If there are any controllable, remove them. If there are any uncontrollable, and there will be, take note and either move your training session or be extra forgiving of your dog. These last two will be complicated but still significant after looking at the sight, hearing, and smelling distractions. Look at taste and touch. See if there is anything that your dog will find distracting. Maybe a fan is causing a draft in the room? Are there any treat crumbs on the floor? Does your dog have experience with the type of flooring in the room? Maybe it is slick or carpeted? Obviously, you can’t control all or most of these, but it is still essential to take a detailed note.

So, this was a very meticulous section but also a necessary section. As I have already said, you cannot control many of these. However, this exercise is more for you to understand why your dog is distributing their focus the way they are. Your dog will need a very low distraction training area at the beginning of your training journey. But as your dog begins to advance, you can purposely add distractions to training sessions. This will start to proof and generalize your dog’s vocabulary and obedience in any and every situation and scenario.

Step 6 – Keep it Short and Sweet!

Now that we have covered distractions, let’s talk about training session time management. As the subtitle says, keep it short and sweet! Training sessions don’t have to be a long-drawn-out event that most people make them out to be. Clients often ask me, “how long do you work with your dogs?”. For me, there is not a simple answer. I try and do one to two five-minute sessions a day, five times a week, or every other day for my personal dogs. However, I do not have deadlines with those dogs. I typically do closer to three or four five-minute sessions five times a week or every other day for my board and train dogs. Clear as mud? Long story short, it depends on how quickly you want results and how long your dog is willing to engage with you. In conclusion, most dogs learn best from short, sweet, and often.

Step 7 – Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable!

One of my favorite memories from school was when we all got in a big circle and placed a puppy in the middle. The goal was to get the puppy to come to you. With a circle of twenty-plus people, you had to do two things: one, bring you A-game baby voice, and two, don’t be afraid to use your A-game baby voice. My class and I had to get comfortable with being uncomfortable real quick to win the game. That being said, GET COMFORTABLE BEING UNCOMFORTABLE! Dogs are attracted to noise, movement, and the unpredictable. Don’t be afraid to be extra silly when working with your dog. I will repeat it, GET COMFORTABLE BEING UNCOMFORTABLE!

Step 8 – Be Realistic!

You all know that one dad from tee-ball or little league that was the coach every year, yet their child hated the sport. Don’t be a daddy-baller when working with your dog. Dog training is a journey, not a destination. Set realistic goals based on your dog’s level of training. Suppose your dog has practiced a recall once on-leash, don’t expect to be able to recall your dog off-leash in a dog park while a squirrel is running across a play yard! And don’t be mad at them if they don’t do the recall! I know this probably seems obvious and maybe a little silly, but you would be surprised by the number of people that put these expectations on their dogs. Do your dog and yourself a favor, and don’t be like the daddy-baller who sets unrealistic expectations and goals.

Step 9 – Be Challenging!

So, I just told you to be realistic, so now I’m going to do the opposite and ask you to be challenging! Even though you don’t want to burn your dog out by being unrealistic, you also don’t want to burn your dog out by being too easy on them. Back to getting comfortable with being uncomfortable, you want to be just interesting enough to keep your dog engaged. You can do this by building frustration through little challenges. If your dog can consistently hold a down-stay for two minutes, change it up now and again by having them hold the down stay for two and a half minutes. Make the challenges small enough that they are achievable. After all, you do want your dog to succeed!

Step 10 – Have Fun!

Ok, guys, so our last step is a combination of doing a mood check and getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. Making sure you and your dog are having fun is a crucial component to having a successful training session. I have met countless clients who struggle with training sessions because they drag them out and make them long and boring. Because of this, training sessions take upward of an hour, no one has fun, everyone struggles, and then they wait another two months to try and work with their dog again. So, make your training sessions fun! Make them enjoyable! If you are not having fun, your dog is not having fun! I started with this, and I will end with this no training is better than bad training. Sometimes making training sessions fun can be a struggle, but it is more important than most people realize.

In conclusion, to have a successful training session, follow these ten steps! If you are having trouble, do not worry. It is entirely normal to have problems in your dog training journey. Just stay consistent, and you will make it through! Thank you for reading! I will be back soon! Until then, happy training!

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