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5 Quick Dog Training Tips for Success



How to Train ANY dog: 5 Top Tips from a Dog Training Expert

Have you ever tried training your dog only to find them lacking focus, disengaged or just plain disinterested?

Charlotte Bryan is an Australian dog trainer and canine behaviourist with a particular interest in dog cognition and canine motivation

She has identified why some people have trouble training their dog whilst others may find it easier and she's shared her insights with us. "Again and again attention to this aspect of training changes what might be termed an “untrainable” dog, into one that is the envy of friends and followers. This is your dog’s level of engagement with you, the trainer.

You see, when your dog is engaged with you, they are: 

✔️ focused  and
✔️ ready to learn
and this makes training easier. Without engagement and focus, your training session may be difficult and frustrating.

Dog trainer and behaviourist Charlotte Bryan with her companion Frankie the Border Collie







I have a few tips here which will help you capture your dog’s attention and keep their focus during your training sessions, ultimately increasing their engagement and leading to a more enjoyable, productive and satisfying training session for both you and your pooch.

Tip #1: Train in a low distraction environment

The first thing I tell my clients is to start training their dog inside their house away from any and all distractions, then progress to more distracting environments.

1. Start in an enclosed room where there are no other pets or members of the household.

2. Then move your training into your backyard to accustom your dog to outdoor sounds.

3. Then finally practice on your daily walk or in your local park.

This makes a lot of sense. If you (the trainer) are the only interesting thing in the room then you are more likely to have your dog’s undivided attention. Once your dog is confident with a new trick or behaviour, only then gradually add in distractions in order to desensitise your dog to the increasing distraction around them. 

Then, move your training outdoors.

#Tip 2: Use high-value treats to increase focus and motivation

Not all treats are equal in value in your dog’s eyes (or stomach!). Dogs place more value on tastier treats or treats that they only get occasionally. Basically, there is a “treat value” scale for dogs which ranges from low-value treats to high-value treats.
  • Low-value treats are those that your dog gets quite often like kibble or liver treats.
  • High-value treats are those such as pieces of sausage for instance. These high-value treats are more motivating for your dog because they’re much tastier and are only rarely given!
In fact, having a high value treat that is only used for training so your dog associates the pleasure of that treat with your training sessions.

The higher the value of your treat, the more motivated and focused your pooch will be!
(
Photo: James Lacy on Unsplash)



But steer clear of cheese; whilst very tasty and dogs love it, cheese is just not good for your pooch! By rewarding your dog with higher value treats during training sessions, you will increase their focus as they will be more motivated to get the treat.

Tip# 3 – Keep training sessions short to avoid boredom and loss of focus

Photo: Baptist Standaert 
on Unsplash
Dogs’ attention spans last for only minutes
and the duration depends on the individual dog.


✔️ Puppies may only have an attention span of 1 to 2 minutes

✔️ Older dogs, more familiar with training, may have an attention span of up to 10 minutes or longer.

It is important to identify your individual dog’s attention span and not exceed it; the saying “quality over quantity” is definitely true in this situation.

Make sure you look out for the signs that your pooch’s attention span is nearing its limit, for instance your pooch:
  • becomes less interested in the treat
  • looks away more and more


It is also important to ensure that you are also only focusing on one trick or behaviour each session; dogs have one-track minds. Keeping to a single behaviour or trick makes it simple for your dog and also makes it clear what it is you are working on. 

It is much more effective to have multiple shorter training sessions throughout the day rather than one big one; frequent repetition will help reinforce the message and drive success.

Tip #4: Incorporate games & lots of rewards to make training fun

Make training FUN!
 

A fun training session is a lot more productive than a boring one. A training session filled with games and fun is much more effective in teaching a new trick or behaviour, than one without. 

Think of your dog like a young child, who may learn faster and remember things more easily when they are taught in a fun way.

No matter what you are teaching your dog, you should try to complete five repetitions of the trick or behaviour and then play a game of tug or do something fun with your pooch.


Tip #5: End all training Sessions on a positive note to keep your pooch looking forward to the next one

It is vital for you to end each training session on a positive note because it leaves your dog excited and wanting more. This is the most important tip I have, but is actually one of the most difficult to follow. It is easy to miss the optimal time to finish a training session, which is when your dog is successful and enjoying the session. 

It is tempting to keep training while your dog is doing well but you run the risk of ending the session when your dog is starting to get bored and easily distracted, thereby leaving them with a negative impression of the session. So once your dog has completed a couple of successful repetitions in a row, call it a day, give them a treat and have a game.

But what do you do if the session isn’t successful at all and you just don’t seem to be winning? How do you end on a positive note then? In this situation, for whatever reason your dog is just not having a good training session and continuing is not beneficial. So it is best to stop, change to an easier trick or behaviour that they can confidently do, reward that a couple of times and then call it a day.

Sometimes a training session may not go well for whatever reason. Don’t let any frustration get the better of you because your dog will pick up on this and will see the training session as something to be avoided in the future. It is important to remember that just like us dogs have off-days where they may not feel well or simply may just not be in the mood for training. If this happens then give it up for the day and just go on a relaxing walk and play a fun game.

Going for a walk with your dog is a great way to reward them for a job well done!
 (Photos supplied: Charlotte Bryan)





In Summary

No matter how “untrainable” you think your dog is, it all comes down to how much they are focusing on and engaging with you during the training session and you can increase this by making sure your dog is motivated and having fun. To recap:

✔️ Reduce distractions
✔️ Use high-value treats
✔️ Avoid long, drawn-out sessions
✔️ Play games
✔️Above all else, end on a positive note and of course be consistent!

By incorporating these tips into your training, you will see more engagement, focus, interest and overall success in your sessions over time."

written for Australian Dog Lover, March 2021 (© 2021, all rights reserved). 

About the writer

Charlotte Bryan is a Dog Trainer & Behaviourist (Australia) at Paws, Claws and Tails and a Top Dog Trick Instructor (USA) from Queensland, Australia. She has 10 years’ experience training dogs and has a particular passion for the WHY of dog training – why dogs do things the way they do.

Charlotte has a Certificate in Dog Psychology, Behaviour & Training and an official Dog Trick Instructor certification. She also runs a blog, founded the Chat Before You Pat dog safety campaign, hosts the annual Sunshine Coast Dog Awards and the PupAudio Podcast and authored the children’s book Frankie’s Alphabet Day.

Charlotte has volunteered at the Sunshine Coast Animal Refuge and has run her own private dog training lessons in Queensland.

Charlotte has 3 dogs, one of which is the very talented Instagram star @BorderCollieFrankie who knows many cool tricks. Charlotte can be found on  Facebook at 
www.facebook.com/TheCharlotteBryan and on Instagram at www.instagram.com/TheCharlotteBryan
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