Many people think of dog training as a bit of a “set and forget” thing, and that when your dog has got to grips with a few basic commands, you’re all done.
However, dogs can and do learn for the entire duration of their lives and many owners continue to train their dogs and teach the new skills (and refresh old ones) right into their dog’s old age.
There are many benefits to this for both dog and owner, but it can be hard to keep up the momentum after a while; and so this article will share six ways to keep yourself engaged and keep the momentum going long term when you’re training your adult dog. Read on to learn more.
If you don’t enjoy training your dog and don’t have fun doing it, you’re not going to look forwards to the sessions and might even come to dread them, a bit like those days when you commit to checking and clearing up poop from the garden that you’ve neglected during the work week!
Additionally, if you’re not having fun and enjoying yourself, it is harder to engage; having fun actually helps concentration, for both you and your dog. It is important to understand that fun and excitement are somewhat different, and a dog will find it harder to concentrate if they reach a certain point of excitement.
But you should proactively look for ways to make training fun and ensure that you and your dog have a good time and enjoy yourselves, and make your training sessions entertaining and positive.
Training a dog either for the first time, for new or higher-level skills, or to refresh things they are getting a little lax on requires a certain degree of repetition. This is true for learning anything, as if you don’t hear or do something a certain amount of times it won’t stick in your memory, and the same is the case for dogs.
However, training that simply involves repeating the same commands every time, going through the same routines, and not progressing or teaching anything new (whether that be a new skill or a new response) isn’t really training.
Training a dog is a learning process (for both of you, to an extent) and learning means developing a new skill or understanding. So training requires the integration of new things, like new commands and approaches, and this also helps to ensure that you keep things interesting for both you and your dog.
Trying new things keeps training interesting both during the sessions, and when you’re planning what you want to teach your dog next. It can also help you to explore what your dog is capable of.
One of the hardest things when it comes to training a dog is knowing when to stop in specific situations, such as identifying when an approach isn’t working or a skill is simply beyond the level of what your dog is actually capable of.
This is hard because some skills take a long time to teach and polish, and need regular work; like recall. On the other hand, some dogs will never achieve reliable recall; but their skills can be improved.
Continually working on a command your dog isn’t getting to grips with or showing signs of improvement or potential with is the fastest way to lose your momentum and bore and frustrate yourself and your dog too.
Learn to tell if or when your dog isn’t getting to grips with a command and doesn’t show any signs that they’re going to, and move on.
Making training social really helps to make it fun and engaging. There are some commands and types of training for which working with other dogs and owners will serve as a distraction and hamper your ability to progress; but in others, it can be both really helpful, and help to build engagement.
For instance, if you’re training for canine sports with a team, or helping other dogs to learn by observation.
Some commands are harder to teach than others and this means that you have to accept you’ll spend a long time over multiple short sessions working on the same things (albeit maybe in different ways) which if you’re not careful, can soon lead to boredom.
Also, keeping persevering with something is hard if you can’t see progress; and in some cases you might be making meaningful progress but slowly enough that you just can’t see it day to day.
Work in ways to identify and measure progress so that this serves as an incentive to keep going; like recording your sessions regularly and comparing them to each other over time.
Finally, training a dog is in a way a hobby, and there’s no reason why you can’t set yourself goals as part of the process too. For instance, training can be quite energetic if you plan it to be, and so can help you to develop your own fitness too.
Look at ways you can work in improvement for yourself as well as your dog, so that you both get the maximum possible out of your sessions.