Just like last week, please keep in mind there are many approaches to dog training and each pup is unique. What works with one dog may not work with another. That’s why it’s important to be familiar with and versed in many different approaches to the same problem. It’s a bit like having a library- you may not find what you need to write a thesis in just one book; you may need to pull several from the shelves to write a winning paper (and train a dog successfully).
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Energy Management (for dogs AND people)
Last week, we talked about how important it is for YOU, the pet parent, to be aware of your own actions, emotions, and energy levels prior to attempting to train your dog. Dogs learn by example (they don’t speak English). That means they are constantly watching you and taking cues on how they should behave based on what they see you doing. If they see you afraid and nervous around new people, chances are pretty good your dogs will do the same. Your dog’s primary language is body language, not spoken language. What you do is far more important than what you say.
You are the example every day for your dog.
Your energy transfers to your dog and your dog’s energy transfers back to you. It’s your job, as the human pack leader, to control that energy flow.
Speaking of human pack leader, it’s also important that your dog knows YOU are in charge. And that’s not being mean. It’s not you forcing your will upon your dog. It’s more of you placing yourself in a position of authority to protect and care for your dog. But you have to communicate that to your dog in a way he understands by acting as his pack leader.
When a dog “believes” he’s in charge, he can never rest. He’s always on watch, always keyed up, always responsible for his own safety (and sometimes he believes the safety of his entire environment and everyone in it). By communication that YOU are the pack leader, you are relieving him of this burden so he can be free to do dogggie things and be himself.
One of the best ways to communicate your leadership is by being consistent. No bending the rules because he’s being cute. No changing your mind from one day to the next because you’re too tired to enforce the rules you set up. No having one set of rules for home and another when out in public. Your dog needs the security of knowing what to expect EVERY DAY and what is expected OF HIM every day.
YOU Must Be Consistent!
Keep your attitude confident and be aware of what actions you are rewarding with attention (good and bad attention) and what you are communicating to your dog with your body language at all times.
It’s also vitally important to make sure you are aware of the tone of your voice. Your tone has to be free of frustration and anger or sadness from outside elements (life ,work etc). Make sure your tone matches how and what you are conveying to your dog in that moment.
Getting to Know Your Dog
When you’re ready to train, you’ll need to be able to manage your dog’s energy level in order to optimize his learning. A hyperactive dog may be easily distracted and too focused on running around to learn. A worn-out dog may not be interested in anything other than an afternoon nap. Finding a nice balance depends entirely on your individual dog. But the optimal level is different for every dog.
A high energy dog may be highly motivated by playtime, and you can use that to your advantage during training.
When my kids were small, we planned outings very carefully. We ventured out on shopping trips only after they had been fed, napped, and had all the appropriate entertainment gear loaded up. Plan a trip too early and they were too full of energy to sit still. Plan it too late and they were too tired and hungry to do anything but have meltdowns in the middle of the store.
Training a dog is a lot like planning a trip with toddlers. You have to know your dog’s energy levels and his primary motivation- If it’s food instead of playtime, you’ll want to train right before meals.
You’ll also need to be self-aware of your own energy levels and plan your training sessions when you have enough energy to focus on your dog without your own distractions. Put your phone away for 20 minutes, grab enough treats to last your session, and enjoy the time with your pup. This can be an amazing bonding experience for the two of you.
This week’s takeaway tips are:
- Be self-aware of your energy
- Be consistent
- Know your dog’s motivation and energy levels
- Be prepared for a training session