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Tips To Keep Your Dog Engaged During Training Sessions

Updated: Oct 1, 2018

Training should be a fun and rewarding experience, and when done well it will help strengthen the bond between you and your best friend. By working together, you will develop a greater, deeper bond with your dog, learn to read your dog’s behaviors and moods, and learn to communicate with and understand each other. 

Here are six (6) valuable tips to keep your dog engaged during training sessions.

Tip 1 - Burn Excess Energy Before Beginning

If your dog seems unable to settle down or wants to run, pull or jump during a training session, you’re going to have a difficult time eliciting the wanted behaviors. Your dog needs to be calm and focused during your training sessions. If you’ve just arrived home, or if the dog has been kenneled all afternoon, the dog may be too excited to focus. Engage in some strenuous exercise first so that the dog isn’t too excitable when you begin your training session. A long walk or a rigorous play session before training can help to burn off some of that excess energy and leave your dog more able to focus on the task at hand.

Tip 2 - Figure Out What Motivates Your Dog

It’s important to know what motivates your dog and to find high-value rewards to get the most out of your training sessions. While many dogs are motivated by food, there are also many dogs out there that are not food-motivated. Some dogs are motivated by praise and affection, others are motivated by specific toys or games. If your dog’s favorite thing in the world is a game of fetch, you can train your dog to respond to commands to get you to throw the ball. The best thing to do is to find out what things your dog seems to enjoy the most and find a way to turn that activity into a training reward.

Tip 3 - Break Tasks Up into Easy Pieces

Each session should start with small and easy tasks to help your dog build confidence and gain focus during training sessions. Once your dog is consistently performing a task, you can add other steps to the process. For example, you can’t teach a dog to sit by the door before going outside if you haven’t taught the dog to sit. Make sure that any tasks you are training are broken up into the simplest steps and teach them individually before you combine them for more complex training activities.

Tip 4 - Be Patient

When training isn’t going as well as you wanted it to, it’s easy to become frustrated and agitated with your dog. If your frustration and agitation builds, the dog may become more anxious and unsure of how to please you. Remember to keep things simple and focused and try not to become angry or upset if the dog isn’t getting things quickly. If you find yourself getting upset or frustrated with your dog during a training session, it’s better to stop for a while rather than turning training into a negative experience for you or your dog.

Tip 5 - Keep Training Sessions Short

If the dog just isn’t catching on, continuing to try and force understanding will only lead to frustration on your part, and confusion or boredom for your dog. You might want to try returning to a more basic command if necessary to regain confidence or cut session length to avoid problems and frustration for both you and the dog. It’s better to have 2 short 10-minute sessions that have positive results than to struggle through 20 difficult minutes with no gains.

Tip 6 - Have Realistic Expectations

Effective training isn’t something that is done quickly, nor is it something that is ever truly finished. You’re not going to spend some time each day for two weeks training your dog and expect them to be perfectly behaved. Training is a process that you will build on regularly throughout your dog’s life, and your dog will have occasional problems with even the most consistent behaviors. You can use daily activities such as walks or greeting visitors calmly and politely as ways to consistently reinforce your dog’s training.

Effective training should give your dog the tools that he or she needs to navigate in the community, while building a strong relationship with you. We often expect dogs to set aside their natural instincts in favor of behaviors that we consider acceptable. It is important to make sure that both you and your dog understand your training goals and objectives. Keeping your dog actively engaged will help you make the most of your time during training sessions.

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