[A] Motivatiors & Other Training Tips
Article copyright by: Karen Clark, Versailles Kennels UK

More Training Exercises

Now that the dog understands the basics of the exercise, it is time to make training even more fun. Perform the To & Fro and Hide & Seek (described below) exercises between meals with your dog’s favorite treats. Again, be sure the dog shows interest in the treat you’re using. Use minuscule pieces – this is a treat, not a meal. I suggest one quarter inch square pieces or smaller of chicken, cheese or liver. In other words, real food, not boring Milkbones. The better the reward, the quicker the dog learns and the longer the dog retains what has been learned.

A very simple, enjoyable training exercise is a back and forth recall. Two or more people should stand ten yards or so apart. One person calls the dog to come and instructs her to sit-stay until another of the human participants calls the dog to come. Practice this exercise in the house and yard. Most dogs love this exercise and in exuberant anticipation of the commands, may madly rush back and forth, like a deranged yo-yo. Either, do not let the dog break her sit-stay until she is called, or if the dog is not being asked to stay, then someone other than the person the dog is running towards, should do the calling. Only the person who calls the dog is allowed to give a treat. We don’t want Puppy to think that all he has to do is charge up to someone and they will automatically dispense food.

Hide and Seek Training

When the dog catches on to the game of To n Fro, then the human participants can begin to spread further apart turning the To & Fro recall into a game of Hide & Seek. Two or more people begin in the center room of the house. Each time after they have called the dog to come, they go further away from the place they started. As the game progresses, eventually one person will be in the master bedroom, the second person in the guest room and the third in the kitchen and so forth. The dog does not simply run up to the person calling, he has to find that person first. This game is an especially good reinforcer because not only does it appeal to many of the dog’s natural instincts, but it also associates the words “come here” with the owner with fun instead of dread.

Random Recalls and Other Training Motivators

There are times when we know the dog will come: when the owner says, “Do you want to go for a walk?” or “Ride in the car?” or “Where’s your ball?” Many dogs come running to the owner just upon hearing car keys jingle, or when the closet door where the leash is kept is opened, or the cupboard that holds the treats is opened. Periodically and randomly throughout the day, happily herald such events with the cheerful announcement “Come here.” For example: before giving any clues that a walk is being offered, call the dog to come. If she comes, hold out the leash and ask her to sit, put on the leash and go out for a walk. If she does not come, pick up the leash, waggle it around, put it away and ignore the dog. She will probably regard you suspiciously, perhaps thinking, “How come my owner picked up my leash and now we are not going for a walk?” The next “come here” usually produces an immediate response. With enough repetition your dog will think, “I don’t know what those words “Come here” mean, but whenever I hear them I better hustle over to the owner as quickly as possible because something terrific is going to happen.”

Distraction Training

Don’t let a fun activity such as running free and playing with other dogs become a distraction to training. Instead, use it as a reward. Show the dog that if she comes when called, she will receive plentiful praise, a food treat and then be allowed to resume her play session. Try to be a part of your dog’s good times, so that she learns it is not the end of the fun just because you tell her to come.When you first take the recall training exercises outside, practice in areas with the least amount of distractions. Begin with the dog on a long leash. It’s absolutely important that you are able to enforce your command should the dog refuse to obey. Don’t allow your dog to ignore you. If you call a couple of times and the dog ignores you, use the long leash to make the dog come. It will take many repetitions of “Come Here, go play” before the dog is convinced that its freedom is not going to end just because the owner has called. Gradually add more distractions only when the dog succeeds with minimal distractions. When you find you no longer have to enforce your command, then it is time to try the exercises off leash. If at anytime the dog regresses, then simply go back to square one and begin again. Don’t take the dog back to the park off leash again until you have done some retraining. In most cases, all it takes is for the dog to get away with disobeying once and the dog realizes that he can do it again and again.

It’s a good idea to practice all these exercises all the time anyway if you want to maintain the dogs level of obedience and prevent bad habits from reoccurring.

Another outcome of the above situation is that the now frustrated owner feels he needs to punish Puppy for not coming when called. Because the owner does not know how to punish the dog while it is running away, the owner punishes the dog when he eventually returns. The next time the dog will take even longer to come back because not only does it end the fun but it also now means outright punishment from the owner if he does comply.

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