by Steffi Trott
Steffi gives us tips of how to spend this time at home to bond closer to your dog with some training ideas
We have all been stuck at home for a while, and it’s been a bit since our dogs last went to training classes, played in the park with their canine friends or have gone to doggy daycare. It is not uncommon for their focus skills to regress a bit unless we practice regularly. Now it is especially important that you keep up all the good behavior your dog has learned so far, and keep on improving his focus and attention.
Take a little lunchbox and put some treats in there. You should let your dog watch you do this to make sure he knows where the goodies are. Then put the container at one side of your living room, walk your dog to the other side and ask him for an easy behavior (such as a Sit). You will be surprised at how difficult it can be for the dog to leave the cookies in one corner and come and focus on you in the other. If your dog keeps on running back to the box, don’t worry – you can simply move the cookie box further away, eg to the hallway, and ask your dog for the Sit again.
When he finally does it, praise and reward him a lot! This probably took a lot of effort on his part. Practice this regularly and soon your dog will be able to leave any cookie box at any distance!
Ball Of The Wall
Now do the same exercise again, but this time with your dog’s favorite toy. You can also put it in a box, or have a helper hold it (we just want to avoid that your dog can snatch it and run away). This can be even harder as many dogs find it much more difficult to focus in the presence of toys, and easier to focus in the presence of treats. If your dog is able to walk away from his toy and do an easy behavior such as a Sit or Lie Down for you at the other end of the room, reward him greatly – this is a sign of true focus!
You have probably been ordering things online like all of us, and have some cardboard boxes left over. These can provide endless focus fun for your dog! Ask your dog to sit and stay and hide a treat under one cardboard box. Let him find and enjoy it!
Now hide treats under two separate cardboard boxes. Can your dog sit and stay while you do that, and find both of them? How about three…four…five?
Every repetition will challenge his focus and attention span more and more, and also improve his patience in staying.
Find Your Crate
Your dog might be able to go to his crate when he stands right in front of it, but how about sending him to his crate when you stand a few feet away? If he can do that, give him a cookie in the crate and try again. This time, you can stand even further away. Over time dogs can become real experts at finding their crate. They can learn to do so from the other end of the room, from a different room, even from a different part of the house or the garage! Searching for his crate will tire your dog out quickly, as it requires a lot of focus and attention. This is also a fantastic, positive idea for crate training puppies.
(If you recently adopted, you should also make sure to socialize your puppy as much as possible, even during the lockdown – for example by exposing him to different sounds from YouTube, or dressing up in funny hats).
Steffi Trott is a professional dog trainer from
Albuquerque, NM. www.spiritdogtraining.com