Training in the hot weather – no one likes to do it! I’ve always wondered what people who live in constantly hot locations – Arizona, Las Vegas etc – do about the hot weather when there’s dogs to be trained. Does everyone just rent air conditioned training buildings?
Luckily, Oregon is really only truly hot for a few weeks out of the year. Here’s some of the ways I’ve found to cope:
Train early! It really, really, really is worth it to get up an extra five or ten minutes early and do a very short training session, especially if you’re working on something that’s high energy like recalls or jumping. Most dogs feel most fresh in the morning.
Hot weather naturally slows dogs down; take advantage. This is not to mean that it’s ok to purposely overheat and exhaust your dog in the name of training, but if it’s not overly hot and is simply warm, you can actually use this as a stamina and control-builder for things like loose-leash walking and settle in public. Young dogs tend to overexert themselves early, usually during the first ten minutes of a walk. At some point they realize it’s hot and they’re getting tired, and they’ll slow. Eventually, they’ll learn to conserve their energy and start out a little slower. Again, I’m not suggesting that you purposely overheat or tire your dog just so he’ll learn to self-regulate. But I don’t have a problem with letting the natural environment teach your dog a lesson; even if you don’t do this intentionally many young dogs settle down quite a bit after their first hot summer.
Work on as much “inside” stuff as you can. Maybe you can even move some furniture around to give yourself a little more space. Here’s some good training exercises you can do in the house:
1) Recall games (come when called.) Dump several treats for your dog to eat while you sneak off and hide in a different room (make it easy at first – no hiding that’s too difficult.) Call your dog and when he runs to you and finds you, praise a lot and dump another small pile of treats so you can take off again. For most dogs, keep this to only 3-4 repetitions or the dog will start to get tired – it’s important that your dog is actually galloping, not just trotting or walking, during recall practice.
2) Food distraction work. In the kitchen! You can run through an obedience routine with food distractions hanging out on the counter, then on a table, then on the floor. You can “accidently” drop a loaf of bread during the sit-stay, then “forget” to pick it up for the come-when-called. A training buddy can sit around snacking as you heel by. You get the idea!
3) Indoor Parkour. If you’re a Parkour fan, and you don’t mind your dog up on furniture, you can exercise your creativity muscle and think of some Parkour exercises for your dog to do inside.
4) Distance work. Put your dog behind a baby gate or other barrier (you should still have visibility of your dog.) Standing right outside the gate, cue “sit” or “down” or “stand.” Reward and then try re-cueing from a slightly farther back location. Work up to being able to stand all the way across the room and cueing position changes.
5) Work on your own training skills. One of the best ways to practice your own training skills is by training “throwaway” behaviors that you don’t really need your dog to know. (Usually tricks.) The world will not come to an end if you do not successfully train “Play dead” for example, but while you’re working on it you will be improving many of your own skills – skills at luring, adding duration to behavior, adding and modifying cues, etc.