1. TREATS: What and how you treat your dog is very important to your success in training. Treats don't need to be expensive, but they should be good for for your dog. The first thing to think is soft. Soft is important because you don't want to waste time for your dog to chew a crunchie. Your dog needs to be able to smell and swallow quickly in classes. Notice I didn't say taste. Smell is much more important to a dog than taste. So think soft and smelly. It doesn't need to be smelly to you because a dog's sense of smell is much stronger than humans. Then think size. The smaller the better because you want to be able to give lots of treats to your dog and not fill him up. Often, for a 5-pound dog, a little something smeared on your finger is enough for a quick lick; and for a large dog, 45 pounds or more, a small bite about the size of half of a natural pinkie fingernail is usually enough. All dogs are different, so for it to be effective you need to experiment to find what your dog likes best and the smallest size he will work for, then save that for outside the home. Use less valued treats at home, even the kibble at dinner time will sometimes work. Different things you can try for training classes are the cheapest hot dogs you can find and cut into small pieces (very salty, so offer lots of water), leftovers from dinner, cheese, dog food in a tube that can be cut into small pieces, and recipes for special treats. Always have a variety of treats as dogs often get tired of the same thing over and over. Mix in a few Cheerios or very small crunchies for the end of an exercise as something different. Always make sure your dog has plenty of water.
So remember the 3 S's: Soft, Smelly, Small.
Try this for a treat you can make at home:
(2) 6 oz. cans of tuna (do not drain)
1 to 1 1/2 cups of flour
2 tbsp garlic powder
2-3 tbsp Parmesan cheese
Liquefy ingredients in a blender or food processor. Mix in the flour, a little at a time, until it reaches the consistency of thick cake batter. Spread into a non-stick 9' x 13' cake pan. This will be about 1/4' thick when done (very little rise). You can sprinkle with more Parmesan cheese, if desired. Bake at 350° for 15 minutes. Edges should pull away from the pan. Texture will be like stiff putty (easy to cut and break if needed, but not crumbly). Cut into 1/4' pieces and serve. This recipe makes lots; extras can be frozen. If the treats get sticky, coat them with flour in your training bag. Keep treats stashed in bowls out of the dog's reach all over the house. That way you can reinforce desirable behaviors anytime. INSTANT PRAISE followed by rewards helps him learn and keeps him interested and motivated. You can go to random rewards later when he understands the exercise thoroughly.
2. When training, wear comfortable clothing that does not interfere with the dog, and athletic shoes with non-slip soles. Put valuables out of sight in your car and lock it. Better yet, leave valuables at home.
3. Your dog should not have eaten for 2-3 hours before your training session.
4. Bring water to class for you and your dog.
5. Please clean up after your dog. Always carry a plastic bag (plastic grocery bags work great) or use one of our "pooper scoopers". Not only is it the law, it's the right thing to do. Be considerate of others who share these spaces.
6. Always pay attention and be aware of what your dog is doing at all times.
Keep your dog on leash unless otherwise directed by the instructor for a specific training exercise. Never let your dog approach another dog unless both trainers have complete control of their dogs and are carefully watching their dogs' behavior. Don't "treat" or approach someone else's dog without permission from the trainer and the dog. This avoids dog fights.
7. If your dog is a "full of energy" type, come to the park early and try to burn off some energy with play and exercise. If your dog is a more "laid back" type, try to find motivation to excite them. You will find that simply arriving at the park before a class will turn many dogs on. They love the interaction with you and the other people during class.
8. Be attentive in class. We try to make the class informative and interesting and provide encouragement for you to help your dog. The purpose of these classes is to teach YOU to train your dog. Ultimately YOU are responsible for your dog's behavior. Practice outside of class is a necessity. Practice at home daily. THE WEEKLY SESSION IS NOT SUFFICIENT FOR TRAINING YOUR DOG! If you do not take the recommended amount of time to train outside of class, your dog will show it, and you won't accomplish your goal of having a happy, well-trained companion dog. This also includes the constant interaction with your dog during the normal day, the constant reinforcement of what the dog does right, the demonstration of your rules and desires, and lots of praise, play, and petting which strengthens your bond and develops your dog's confidence of his place in the world. We want to help you and your dog attain the best possible doggie "good citizenship" behavior that will make us all proud and happy!
9. Training should be Fun, Fair, and Firm. Train only while you are in a good mood. If you are tired or lose your temper, you will reverse much of the progress you have made with your dog. If you lose your temper, you both lose. Your most important asset in training is PATIENCE.
10. Be consistent in your commands and praise. Whenever you catch your dog doing something you want, immediately give him praise, even though you are not actively training at that time. Pay attention so you can PRAISE your dog whenever he is doing anything right, even if it is just laying quietly beside you or sitting at your side.
11. Don't think of dog behaviors as "good" or "bad". Instead, think of their behaviors in terms of desirable and undesirable. Many dogs love to jump up on people. This is a natural expression of affection for the dog and not a "bad dog thing". It is, however, undesirable in many human situations. The dog did not do "bad;" he simply did something that we find undesirable. By thinking in this way, we can avoid becoming angry at the dog and quite possibly making him afraid and distrustful of us. Instead of punishing the dog, we teach him an alternative behavior such as "SIT"; (desirable), and when he does it, we can praise him. If he's sitting, he can't be jumping.
12. Keep an open mind to YOUR errors. It is much harder for us to learn how to train our dogs than it is for our dogs to learn. ALWAYS ask questions if you are in any doubt about any training procedure.
13. Be sensible about not overtraining your dog in any one session. Several short sessions (5-10 minutes) are always more productive than fewer long ones. Learn to use the period when ads come on your TV to work on one exercise, perhaps a sit or down, with your dog. Or call your dog and praise him when he comes. Every little bit counts!
14. Always play with your dog at the end of a training session. It's his reward for pleasing you.