Tips for making the most of your training time!

Fitting in time for training can be a challenge for many people so here are some tips to help you  get the most out of your training time.

Teach new skills in an area that is free of distractions so your dog can focus easily.

As your dog progresses, strengthen the training by adding one of “duration”, “distance” and “distractions.” “Duration” refers to the length of time a dog can stay in a sit or a down for example. “Distance” refers to the distance from the trainer at which a dog can do an exercise. “Distraction” refers to things that compete with us for the dog’s attention (like other dogs, farm animals, children, ball games).

Increase the difficulty of the training exercise by adding only one new criteria at a time.

For example, if we are introducing increasing the distance from the trainer at which the dog will sit on cue, avoid increasing the distractions or duration at the same time.

Use rewards in training!

Police and military dogs in the Netherlands are being trained with the trainers rewarding desired behaviors, and by teaching the dogs in small steps that build on one another. They have been training this way since 1996 and report that they have cut their training time down to one-eighth of the time it originally took and they have found that dogs trained this way handle new situations confidently as they are not afraid to try things (Prins, Haak, & Gerritsen, 2013).

Avoid “correcting” the dog.

Instead, set them up for success. A one-year study based on detailed surveys with owners of dogs revealed that using punishing techniques when training dogs tends to increase the aggression in the animals substantially.

Results showed that 43 percent of the dogs responded aggressively in response to being hit or kicked, 41 percent increased their aggression in response to a human growling at the dog, 38 percent responded aggressively to being forced to give up an item, 31 percent to an “alpha roll”, 30 percent responded aggressively to a stare down by a human, 29 responded with aggression to being forced into a “dominance down”, 26 percent responded with aggression to being grabbed by the scruff of the neck, and 20 percent responded aggressively to being sprayed with water and so on (Herron, Herron, Shofer, & Reisner, 2009).

Incorporate play into training sessions.

Play is often used as a reward in the training of working dogs who do detection, seeing eye or search and rescue work. We know that social interactions with familiar humans are highly rewarding for many dogs and that dogs whose owners play with them have been found to score higher in obedience tests than those whose owners do not play with them (Bradshaw, Pullen, & Rooney, 2015).

Play is associated with a reduction in the stress hormone “cortisol.” To get the most out of play, keep things positive as the benefits of play are reduced if the dog receives a verbal correction from the trainer. Dogs who have been trained with punishment-based methods are much less interactive during play than dogs who are trained with rewards (Bradshaw, Pullen, & Rooney, 2015).

Invest in the right equipment for your dog.

Comfortable and well fitting harnesses are widely available as are long lines. Manage the environment the dog is in so that you can prevent the dog from practicing behaviors you may be trying to change.

Don’t worry if you can’t train everyday.

One or two short training sessions a week can result in a well-trained dog. In fact, a study on beagles revealed that weekly training resulted in better learning performance than training five times a week, when performance is measured in the number of training sessions required to reach a certain training level (Meyer & Ladewig, 2008).

The Importance of Playing with your Dog

Play is often used as a reward in the training of working dogs who do detection, seeing eye or search and rescue work.  We know that social interactions with familiar humans are highly rewarding for many dogs and that dogs whose owners play with them have been found to score higher in obedience tests than those whose owners do not play with them  (Bradshaw, Pullen, & Rooney, 2015).
The owners of pet dogs can use play as a powerful reward in training. Play is associated with a reduction in the stress hormone “cortisol”. To get the most out of play, keep things positive. The benefits of play are reduced if the dog receives a verbal correction from the owner and dogs who have been trained with punishment-based methods are much less interactive during play than dogs who are trained with rewards (Bradshaw, Pullen, & Rooney, 2015).
Initiating play with many dogs is easy but some types of invitation are better than others. Studies on play between dogs and humans showed that when humans run toward or away from a dog, the human was effective at initiating play with their dog but when humans tapped the floor in a common method of attempting to initiate play, the dogs showed a much lower rate of responding playfully to the human behavior (Rooney, Bradshaw, & Robinson, 2001).
Studies have shown a correlation between playing games with physical contact between dogs and owners and lowered rates of separation-related behavior such as vocalizing in the absence of the owner or staying by the door the owner lefIMG_2950 copyt by (Rooney & Bradshaw, 2003). Physical contact should always be gentle.
Play  works as a reward because it is fun for the participants. Play is a cooperative pastime and MRI’s (magnetic resonance imaging) on humans show that the brain’s pleasure centers are activated when people cooperate with one another (Bekoff, 2007). Studies at Colorado State University revealed that oxytocin levels in women increased by 58% when women played with their dog (Hare & Woods, 2013). Oxytocin is an important hormone for women promoting mother-child bonding amongst other functions and has been referred to as the “cuddle” hormone.