I have now been training Nali for six months. I have had a lot of successes and also some setbacks. Here are a few of the lessons I have learned along the way.
Training at the Wrong Time for Your Dog
You must consider what time of day works best for both you and your dog. For my dog it is often best to do retrieving drills immediately after she is let out of the kennel. Her energy is high and she doesn’t hesitate to jump in the water. If I try to teach stationary commands such as heel, sit and stay during this time Nali usually makes mistakes and doesn’t focus well. On the other hand once she has been running around for a half hour it is much easier to teach stay than to get her to fetch.
Training at the Wrong Time for You
I have come to realize that my biggest mistakes when training come when I train at the wrong times for myself. An example of this is trying to work on leash behavior first thing in the morning. My patience is diminished when I am tired and cold, which leads frustration and inconsistency. The principle can also be expanded to introducing new commands. If I have a busy week with classes and am stressed out or distracted, I am a less effective trainer. As a result, I try to introduce new commands on slow weeks. An experienced trainer that I spoke with advised not to introduce a new command unless you can practice it for three days in a row. Thus, I would not introduce the forced retrieve during finals week, instead I would use the time to review and strengthen past commands.
There is a tendency in among dog training books to promote speed training. While it would be nice to spend less time training, don’t worry about getting everything done quickly. As I trained Nali I had no idea how quickly she should progress, and it led me to be harder on her mistakes than I should have been. Be patient with your dog and don’t move on to the next command until they fully understand past commands. Also, don’t be afraid to take a break from training for a few days if your dog has lost interest. Practice commands that your dog knows well and is confident with then begin working on new drills again.
People love puppies, and they will let them do whatever they want. But, as your puppy grows the habits that are developed will become less acceptable. My friends always liked when Nali jumped up on them when she was young. Now that she is a fifty pound dog it is embarrassing, especially when she jumps up on strangers. From day one don’t allow your dog to develop bad habits. They will cause issues later that are difficult to fix.
In review, pay attention to: when your dog learns best, when you are able to focus most, slowing down to insure the dog completely understands commands and your dog’s manners. Thank you for reading. Let me know if you have any comments or questions. Stu