Summer is upon us! The kids are home and looking for things to do. Why not give them some fun training games to play with the dog. It’ll keep the kids busy and help your dog learn better behaviors.
The first thing your kids can start working on is the game of tug. This is one of our personal favorites. Playing tug with a dog can be a lot of fun, but you can also teach them through this simple game. Starting as a puppy, you can work on teaching a dog to drop it. As the puppy grows and learns (or if you have an adult dog), you can use this game to teach more impulse control. Making the dog wait or teaching him to leave it helps him to learn to hold back from his natural impulse. Then playing the game with him becomes the reward, and he enjoys the whole process.
Another fun game that can be done just about anywhere involves some basic behaviors you want to teach any dog. We call this the Dunbar sequence. Dr. Ian Dunbar, founder of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers, developed this sequence to help keep your dog mentally stimulated and therefore balance his energy in a short period of time. You can start this sequence just as a simple Sit exercise. Eventually you will teach your dog to Sit, Down, Sit, Stand, Down, Stand. So, this is a game that builds from one simple exercise.
You’ll want to randomly call your dog to you from any room or area to another room or area. Then ask him to work through the sequence. If he only knows Sit, get him to Sit, reward him, and then move to another place and do it again. Eventually as he learns all the other behaviors, you’ll start stringing them together. And your dog will do more for fewer rewards. This is fun for him, and it helps wean dogs off food rewards. Eventually your dog will love to play this game for praise or play with a favorite toy.
Another fun game is one that will direct a dog’s instinct to forage. You can do something as simple as hiding treats in different corners of the house and leading him around to find them. Hiding food under a towel is another simple way to get him to search for food. To make this more challenging, use a muffin tin and tennis balls to see if he can figure out how to get to his treats. With some groundwork and training, if your dog really loves these activities, you could work up to scent work classes. But as a starting point, most dogs will love to root around some simple obstacles in your house or yard to find yummy treats!
We are huge proponents of mental stimulation for dogs. Training your dog is one of the best ways to give your dog regular mental stimulation. This helps keep their energy levels balanced more than most pet owners realize. But what if you don’t always have time to work with Fido?
There are several solutions marketed to pet owners. But our product of choice is the Kong classic chew toy.
Kong classic chew toys can be a huge help when dealing with your dog’s problem behaviors. If you teach your dog to love this toy and use it the right way, it can help teach him to settle down calmly and quietly when you need him to. It can also help make a huge difference with problem behaviors when you must leave him alone. Problems like excessive barking, destructive chewing, digging, and escaping.
Here’s how it works. You will need to introduce the toy to your dog when he’s hungry. Put a little of his food in it and give it to him. It’s that easy to start. He will start to learn that good things come from this toy. But to keep him interested longer, you are going to start making it harder for him to get the food out. This is where the magic starts to happen.
Making the food more difficult to get out of the toy by soaking it, then soaking and freezing, or getting it to stick inside longer with peanut butter or some other tasty food holds your dog’s attention longer. The food inside is rewarding him as he gets it out. Because he must lay down, hold it and chew on it to get the food out, he is being rewarded for better, quieter, calmer behavior the whole time. The longer he must work at it, the more he ends up being rewarded for these behaviors. And you don’t have to do anything but prepare the toy and give it to him. After that you don’t even have to be there, and he’s being trained. Eventually you can even hide the toy before you leave so he must take time to search for it, which adds even more time to the mental stimulation he gets when you’re gone.
It is important to gradually get your dog to this point. You don’t want to make it too difficult too quickly, or he may lose interest in the toy. But once you teach him to love his Kong, it becomes a very useful training tool. Not only does it direct his energy into positive behaviors when you need to leave him alone, but is also a fun tool to actively teach other behaviors.
You can use the Kong toy to teach commands like off, take it, give it to me, fetch or find it. If you have a dog that barks when guests arrive or chews or eats things you would prefer he didn’t, you can teach him to take and hold his Kong toy in his mouth so he isn’t able to bark or chew other things.
Dogs love to chew. So use that natural instinct to your advantage! Teach him to love his Kong, and his behavior will change dramatically for the better.
Here are some great recipe ideas!
If you have a dog or you are getting a dog, you have probably thought about training at some point. What options do you have? What are the best options for you and your dog? There are some situations that require starting with private lessons. Most of these are extreme cases of shyness or any level of aggression that need specialized one-on-one attention. Private lessons can be great for the specific attention you and your dog get, usually at home. But overall, group classes are a great benefit to you and your dog, whether you start with privates and move into group or just go straight to group classes.
One of the biggest benefits of the group setting is that your dog will have a structured time and place to socialize. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you and your dog will show up to class and the dogs will run around and play together. Socialization starts way before play time. It takes time and discipline to prepare a dog for appropriate play.
It’s very important for dogs to learn appropriate manners and self-discipline. Many dogs become over stimulated in the presence of other dogs, especially when you have a variety of dogs at different energy levels. Group classes serve to help excitable and high energy dogs calm and focus, as well as build the confidence of mildly shy or timid dogs.
Excitable dogs start to understand the difference between the time to learn and the time to play. Building focus through exercises and games teaches them to ignore distractions, even other dogs. In turn, keeping the focus of excitable dogs helps the shy or timid dogs feel more comfortable. They don’t feel like they are being watched or pressured by a dog approaching them with lots of energy. So, they too learn to focus on the tasks and build confidence as they are able to perform basic obedience skills around others.
Group classes can sometimes be intimidating for owners. I have felt this personally. We tend to be our own worst critics, and we become self-conscious of our dog’s behavior. Everyone seems to be thinking that they brought the worst dog of the group, but we don’t realize that everyone is probably feeling the same way.
Group classes offer you a chance to ask questions of your trainer so you can prepare for issues that may arise in the future. They are also great to connect with other dog owners and relate on similar issues you both may be experiencing with your dog. Another class member may have already been through the same situation with his dog and could offer unique insight to help you.
Often this helps as motivation in the class, making the time together more fun as you cheer each other on for overcoming struggles. And you may just make some new friends - you and your dog. Maybe you will end up meeting outside of class for a puppy play date or just going for coffee!
Bringing your dog to group classes will also help make your everyday life with a dog more manageable. So that coffee date may not be as intimidating. By working together with your dog on new skills and commands you build a stronger bond, which translates into an overall more enjoyable relationship. It takes a real commitment of time and intentional focus to teach a dog to be responsive and reliable in behaviors, but the benefits of this far outweigh the inconveniences. When you invest that time and effort in to building an obedient dog, your life becomes so much more enjoyable. I truly believe that dogs just make life better. Who wouldn’t want to take their dog out with them as many places as possible? People love dogs! And who knows what kind of connections you might make.
We hope you and your family are safe and well! In the midst of the craziness we’re living through, we all know pets are an incredible benefit. Here are a few of those:
Every dog owner should know that training their pet is one of the most important parts of ownership. Besides basic needs of food, water, and going to the bathroom, your dog needs to be obedient and mentally and physically exercised regularly. And the great news is that meeting those needs for our dogs is hugely beneficial for us, too - especially in troubling, uncertain times!
We want to help. We’re offering a reduced rate for virtual training sessions! You can find more information on our website: www.redmountaindoodles.com.
We hope to hear from you soon, and please let us know how we can help!