You know what’s valuable to dogs? What dogs really, really love? Training sessions. If you’re doing it right, most dogs loooove training sessions. The toys come out, the treats come out, you show up ready for fun and action, the dog gets to exercise its brain and hopefully win a lot of treats. In fact for many dogs, the daily training session is one of the highlights of the entire day!
You can use your dogs love of training sessions for many things that will further reinforce your dogs obedience and manners. By controlling when, how, and why training sessions begin, end and continue, you will be giving your dog a lot of valuable information on how best to behave.
One thing that I sometimes see people doing is responding to the dogs bad behavior by beginning training. For example, the dog is barking at the window. If your first response is to jump up and quickly grab treats and a clicker to get the dog to do something else and stop barking -- that’s incorrect!
Another thing that I sometimes see is a dog wandering around looking bored. “I’d prefer something more interesting,” he’s perhaps thinking, looking around for something to do. He sees you relaxing on the sofa, and comes up and pesters you until you think, “He must be bored. Maybe we’ll practice our training for a while…” and you grab treats and a clicker. That’s incorrect too!
Keep control of your training sessions by starting them with the following process. The order of events in this process is *very* important, so follow the process exactly!
Dog is quiet and calm; you “catch them in the act” of being quiet or calm.
Cue “[Dog’s name], come!” or more informal cue such as “Want to practice?”
When dog gets up, heads toward you, *then* move into your training space and get out treats.
Begin training session.
If you can not do Step 1 because your dog is not being quiet or calm, then you need to let the dog know that pestering/barking/demanding is not going to get the treats out and the training started. You have a couple of options. One is to dramatically turn from your dog and do something that clearly does not involve the dog; I usually either start texting on my phone or get up and start washing dishes. When the dog finally begins to settle (or at least is quiet) I’ll let my attention and gaze drift back to it, giving it the idea that “quiet” is what draws me to it -- not barking. If the dog sees my attention and revs up to bark or jump again, then I’ll just go back to what I was doing. But if he remains quiet, I’ll go ahead and begin the training session.
We love dogs who love to be trained, and love training sessions! But it is no fun at all if your dog is demanding interaction from you, or if you feel like you have to respond to poor behavior choices by bringing out treats and training. Try this structure for training sessions instead, and things should start to settle down soon!
Now, if you did not intend to do a training session, and your dog is doing something you don’t want it to do (for example barking out the window), in the heat of the moment you have a few options -- if your dog is truly trying to alert you then it’s fine to go check it out, thank the dog for the alert but “it’s nothing,” and go back to your business. It might also be appropriate to ask your dog “Quiet” or “Stop” -- just be prepared to get up and supply consequences (usually a time-out or removing from the window) if he doesn’t comply. As you’re doing this, make a mental note to yourself to *later* see about setting up a training session where you can reward quiet looking out the window, or set up some distractions to go by and reward correct responses. Just don’t do it right now, in the heat of the moment, when the dog is already doing the wrong thing!