The most important aspects in any relationship require each word in the title of this article. But, guess what? They are all synonyms for each other. So, no matter how you say it, it matters.
Dog's Eye View
This weekly column about dog training publishes on Fridays in the Steamboat Today. Read more columns here.
Animals in our care require a consistent routine. This includes food, water, access to safe areas and enrichment. They also need to know they can rely on us for these survival necessities. This includes being dependable.
We feed our pets every day. They need exercise every day. They need veterinary care on a regular basis. They need to know we are trustworthy.
Now, let’s look at training. As an example, I will use is my own experience in learning a Tai Chi form. I loved doing that. I went to class and practiced at home, and soon, I could fill in for the instructor when she couldn’t be there. I loved every aspect of doing Tai Chi. It was a peaceful, tranquil way to start or end a busy day.
The instructor moved away, the classes ended, my life got busy and I stopped doing it. Sound familiar? I filled that time with other activities that were deemed more important, and now, I can’t remember how to complete the movements.
No, this is not a case of true confessions or an attack on gray hair, rather a subtle comparison to what happens when we stop training with our dogs. The real point here is for us to stop and think about the learning process for both dogs and humans. My Tai Chi training was dependable for a time. Then, I thought I could just do it anytime I wanted. I knew the form. But as time went on, I lost that knowledge. Do you think this happens when we stop training with our dogs? You bet! The answer to this dilemma is called priority.
Make training with your dog a priority. This means it is important, and that makes it vital. Vitality makes it dynamic.
With the days becoming a bit longer and, on occasion, a bit warmer, make training with your dog important. A trip to the dog park exercises his body and releases or perpetuates his energy level. Training exercises his mind. Take him on a hike, but turn it into a fun way to practice calling him back to you. Start up close: Let him get out a few feet ahead, then call him back to you. As soon as he responds, praise him like crazy and reward him with a special treat. Then, tell him to go sniff again. Let him get a bit farther, to the end of the leash, and call him back again. Super reward coming back to you.
Repeat this process several times through the course of your walk. Let him know that paying attention to you is fun and worthwhile. This is how you build reliability. If you practice this on a regular basis, the behavior will become dependable. It makes coming to you another enjoyable part of the hike.
Soon, you will have trained your dog to check in to see if you are ready to call him again. That behavior is built through consistency. The training game becomes dynamic, self-motivated and fun. If you aren’t watching, you might not see that subtle check in look and miss a wonderful opportunity to acknowledge that oncoming dependable, reliable and consistent effort by your dog.
Ponder what other times in your day offer an opportunity for training fun with your dog.
We often say, “Training is for life. Undeniably, it is.
Laura Tyler is a certified professional dog trainer with more than years of experience. She has earned associate certification through the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants and is a certified Nose Work instructor through the National Association of Canine Scent Work. She owns Total Teamwork Training LLC in Northwest Colorado.