Training your dog has all kinds of benefits. Learning new tricks challenges your dog, and hence, it offers mental stimulation and makes your dog happy. In a lot of cases, it can strengthen your bond. Your dog can be more sociable, easier to control, and safer when they’re in public spaces.
However, dog owners can encounter hurdles when their dog becomes bored or resistant to training time. If this applies to you, you might need to change your approach and try some new tricks. To start, check out the following strategies and games to make your training sessions fun and enjoyable for your dog.
Observe Your Dog
Stay alert to your dog’s reactions during training. For example, you might be offering petting as a reward when your dog doesn’t like it. If you’re praising and petting your dog and they’re turning and walking away, that’s a sign you should be using another type of reward to train your dog.
On the other hand, a sign your dog is having fun is if they’re quickly engaging with training. By working out what your dog appreciates, you’ll be able to ensure the training is as fun as possible for them.
Length and Frequency
Generally speaking, less is more when it comes to training. it’s a good idea to train perhaps once or twice a day, a couple of times a week. Keep your training sessions short, at around 5 to 15 minutes.
Offer Tempting Treats
In most cases, the right food treats can motivate your dog. Maybe your dog has become bored with the dried kibble you’re offering. Offer something fresh and succulent, like some boiled chicken or a homemade peanut butter dog cookie.
Of course, you don’t want to overfeed your dog with too many snacks. When your dog masters the command, progressively ease off with the treat. Switch to using toys, praise, or a walk as rewards and see what happens. Change your rewards whenever your dog starts getting bored.
Be in a Good Mood
Always be in a good mood for your training sessions. Your dog will pick up on your attitude and reflect it. If you’re stressed, tense, angry, or frustrated, stop immediately. Come back to it when you’re in a good mood and ready to make it fun and playful.
Distractions like other dogs, children playing, or people walking by can derail your training sessions. Always train in a quiet area. This way, your dog can focus. They can fully receive your positive feedback and will be more likely to experience their training as a fun activity.
Use Positive Reinforcement
Avoid physical force or negative feedback. According to research, these can lead to stress. Your dog will associate training with punishment. Concentrating on positive reinforcement, such as enthusiastic praise and treats for rewards, will foster the link between fun and training in your dog’s mind.
Play the Name Game
The name game is a simple, fun, and useful trick to play with your dog. It’s also a useful way to commence training sessions.
- To start, say your dog’s name. Reward them for looking at you in response.
- Repeat at least five times until they’re completely focused on you.
You can try this in different environments with new distractions, to teach your dog to focus on you.
You can play tug at any time at home. However, this game is particularly useful if you’re out at the park and your dog is about to run after a squirrel or another dog. Bring out the tug toys and entertain your dog with a session of tug. This game can train your dog to pay attention to you when there are distractions.
Nosework is one of the easiest and most enjoyable games to help your dog burn off excess energy. It can make a restless dog feel calmer while training them to exercise their sense of smell.
- Place treats in boxes and set the boxes around your house or garden.
- Encourage your dog to sniff out the boxes and give them the treats when they do.
- For a variation, hide treats in a dog snuffle mat. Praise your dog whenever they find a treat in the mat.
Play Relax on Your Mat
A fun training game to try is relax on your mat. This useful trick will come in handy if you’re taking a restless dog to a pet-friendly workplace.
- Set out a blanket, towel, or mat.
- Praise and offer a treat if your dog shows interest in the blanket, moves on to it, and paws it.
- If your dog stays on the mat, offer more treats.
- Repeat the process across different training sessions.
- Eventually, only reward your dog if they lie down on the blanket.
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Play Hide and Seek
Hide and seek is a fun way to teach your dog to stay calm when they can’t find you and to use their senses.
- Start at home by calling your dog to come to you in another room.
- Offer treats and praise when they come.
- Gradually keep hiding farther away to make it more challenging for your dog.
- You can try this game outdoors as well.
Play Find the Toy
For this training game, use dedicated toys your dog doesn’t have everyday access to.
- Set out two boxes upside down.
- Place a toy under one of the boxes and shuffle them around.
- Encourage your dog to find the toy and bring it to you.
- When they do, offer praise and treats and return the toy to them.
- Add more boxes as your dog masters the trick.
Play Sit for Your Dinner
This is an easy and enjoyable trick for your dog to learn. For those that are food possessive, it can help with reining in their negative behaviors.
- Ask your dog to sit.
Bring in an empty bowl and fill it with one handful of food at a time.
- Ensure your dog stays seated until you’ve filled their bowl.
- Then praise them and give them the command to start eating.
When it comes to making training fun for your dog, you’ll probably need work by trial and error. Observe your dog and work out what’s motivating them. Eliminate distractions by training in a quiet place.
Keep training sessions short and don’t overtrain your dog. Always use positive reinforcement; never punish your dog. Switch up your rewards and treats whenever your dog becomes bored.
Try fun and easy training games and your dog will likely stay motivated. Remember, training should be pleasurable, so always approach it with a positive, lighthearted attitude and your dog will pick up on your mood.