Games And Exercises To Help Solve Dog Training Problems
Sometimes it’s the pup, and sometimes it’s the human that just doesn’t quite “get it” when it comes to dog training. The key is to keep on trying with your dog until you get the behaviors you would like from him or her.
Sometimes it helps to have little “games” or exercises to reinforce what you’re trying to teach, so here are a few ideas to help you successfully train your best friend.
I call these the “Let’s Go” games…
Game 1: Remember the game “red-light/green-light” from childhood? If the leash has slack in it, you have a green light to walk. If the leash is taut, you have a red light. Initially praise the dog when the leash has slack between you and him, as often as every 2 or 3 steps, then treat when successful. Gradually increase your number of steps between praise and treats.
If leash is taut, STOP. Wait for any head or body movement towards you or that slackens the leash. Praise that! Also praise for eye contact. Encourage your dog vocally (“Rover, this way, good puppy!” “Smooch! Smooch!”) to walk towards you. Do not use the cue “COME” while you backup to pay his treat.
Game 2: If you have a dog who is constantly hitting the red light, pick an arbitrary starting point that is clearly defined, such as a tree, then pick an arbitrary finish line, like a tree about 20 feet away. Start to walk and as long as you have a loose leash, click then treat. When the dog starts to pull, stop and back up all the way to the starting line. Repeat.
Game 2 Rules: You must back up all the way to the start line every time the leash goes tight. Do not turn around to walk to the start line.
Praise only when you are going forward after leaving the start line and the leash is loose.
Praise for as many incremental loose leash steps as you would like between the start and finish lines.
When you reach the finish line, “jackpot” the dog with lots of treats and praise! You can also treat yourself to something you really love, you deserve it! Well done, dog trainer!
Problem Solving For Getting Your Dog To HEEL…
Having your dog HEEL is your formal walk, with the dog beside you, just off your ankle or HEEL. Traditionally, the dog would HEEL on your left side, but you may have him on whichever side is most comfortable for you. The steps below are written for left-side heelers, please reverse the left and right if you wish to have your dog HEEL on your right. The dog will be taught to SIT automatically when you come to a stop. The dog is not allowed to forge ahead of you, nor should he lag behind. (Note: When teaching heeling, you will find it takes longer to get somewhere.) Practice this indoors and in a quiet environment, when you can focus on good heeling before going out to distracting places or trying to “HEEL” while making a deadline or destination. If you have to get somewhere quickly, use “LET’S GO” until your dog heels nicely.
Heeling: Getting Started
Start with the dog sitting beside you. Hood treats in your hand at your dog’s nose level. Show the dog the treats and take a step forward. You may wiggle the treats to get your dog to follow. As the dog steps beside you, praise, then deliver the treat at your heel, regardless of where the dog is when you get the treat out.It is important to try keep moving while you pay the treat. (This is actually harder than it sounds.)
Praise/treat for every step the dog takes in HEEL position, which in the beginning will feel like you are praising and treating every single step – which is what you want. If the dog isn’t in HEEL, you should change direction (right if ahead, left if behind). Gradually increase the ratio of steps to praise/treats to one for two steps, then three. Begin varying how many steps you take, with the dog in HEEL position, before you praise and pay. Sometimes 2 steps, 1 step, 4 steps, 3 steps, etc.
Heeling Problem Solving:
Forging: If the dog pulls, STOP and wait him out as in LET’S GO games above. When the dog gets ahead, make a right about turn (away from the dog if he is on your left; right side heelers, turn left). Pat your leg, encourage him with your voice (do NOT say HEEL) to lure him back to position. Praises then pay the treat when he arrives at your HEEL while you keep moving.
Lagging: IF the dog is behind you, make a ¼ turn to your left, towards the dog (right side heelers, please turn right). Pat your leg, encourage him with your voice (do NOT say HEEL) or lure him back to position. Praise then pay the treat at your HEEL while you keep moving.
As the dog gets better, make more natural turns (as opposed to “about face”) both right and left. The dog will learn to slow down on left turns to allow you to take the longer arc. He should also learn to speed up when he is on the outside of the right turn.
I have some more training problem solvers which I will share with you in future articles.
“Remember, if you do not make the conscious choice to be the Trainer…you are by default, the Trainee.”
As a dog trainer, I believe that the most effective method of dog training revolves around teaching your dog what you want them to do, how to behave, how to act in their environment, and what appropriate behaviors are, under given circumstances and situations.