Dog training takes time, patience, and consistency but by no means does it have to be a boring and tedious task. There are many ways to train your dog while having fun.
If you choose to take your dog hiking you can practice some good manners and obedience while getting in a good workout and socializing your dog, all at the same time! Dogs that become good hikers have learned to tolerate many strangers and foreign dogs passing them in close quarters (which means that your dog shouldn’t show any signs of aggression if you plan to hike). Also, the Canine Good Citizen Test requires dogs to be able to pass through crowded areas without hesitation, making this a valuable skill if you would like to pursue this certification.
Dogs that hike can practice a casual walk while adapting to the pace of their owner, waiting for others to pass by in narrow areas, and good manners in the parking lot and resting areas. This is a good way to socialize younger dogs, as well. Consult your veterinarian before taking a young dog on a hike to be sure that your pup’s joints are formed enough to handle the terrain.
Agility is a fun and fast paced way to work your dog. There are quite a few trainers who compete and train others in agility and many workshops you can attend to learn more. Some equipment can also be made from materials such as pvc pipe found at places like Home Depot if you choose to set up some makeshift in your back yard.
Dogs that do agility practice very precise movement at their owner’s request, usually off leash (unless they are just beginning). These movements include a quick and solid down stay, racing over a suspended and narrow platform with a patient pause before getting off the ramp, weaving quickly between polls, and jumping over hurdles in a variety of patterns. As with hiking, be sure your veterinarian has approved your dog for this type of activity and consult a trainer about the proper height of jumps, and ways to train dogs to execute suspended equipment safely, etc. to protect your dog from injuries. It should be noted that agility will get you in shape as well!
Canine freestyle can be done competitively, or you can teach your dog fun dance moves at home for entertaining your friends and family. Freestyle is an intricate way of dancing with your dog in a choreographed routine to music. Youtube is filled with videos from canine freestyle competitions if you want to see something skillful and inspiring. Clicker training can help you train the intricate moves and cues used in freestyle routines, but it takes patience and creativity so take your time.
One of our favorite ways to practice formal obedience commands is through structured retrieval. It begins by having your dog in heel position at your left side, with a firm “stay” command you toss a toy ahead, pause for a moment while the toy lands (and be sure the dog has stayed in place), then release your dog with his/her release word. When the dog grabs the toy, call a happy “come” command and bring your dog into a sit, take the toy, and reset the dog into heel position.
This exercise teaches the dog more self-control while practicing a difficult “stay”, a fun “come”, and allowing a little time for play, too! Be sure that your dog is solid on these commands before introducing structure retrieval as you don’t want to set your dog up for anything short of beaming success and fun.
Relaxing with your dog can be a superb time to connect with your dog. Some dogs find it difficult to unwind and are constantly in motion, while others are just wishing we spent more time loving on them. Taking the time to sit with you dog and bond is therapeutic for you. It can also be a learning experience as you watch your dog’s expressions, body language, verbal and non-verbals, so that you can be more in tune with your dog’s thoughts and feelings. Being able to read your dog is one of the most effective ways for you to become a truly skillful dog owner.What fun ways have you found to train your dog?