Bark All About It!
In the spirit of the Best Of’s at The Local Bark, I thought I'd take a moment to share with you what I consider the 5 Essential Tools You’ll Need to Train Your Dog. While it's important to recognize that all dogs are different, and can be motivated by different things, most dogs will respond quite well if it means he can earn a treat, or a quick game of tug. Use this list to get you started on the right path to training your dog.
1. Treat Bag and/or Toys
You'll want to avoid the trap of setting aside time just once a day to train your dog. Remember, your dog is learning all day long. Don't miss opportunities to reward your dog the second you see him make the right choice. Having your treat bag handy will convince your dog that doing good things brings him goodies—on a consistent basis—not just during a “training session.” Is your dog not all that motivated by treats? Try cutting back on his meals, or making him work for his food completely as a reward. Still not interested? Maybe your dog is all about toys. If that's the case, keep a tennis ball in your bag, as opposed to treats. Pull it out for a quick game of fetch when you like his behavior.
Huh? Although popular among dog enthusiasts, the concept may be new to you. The clicker is a small tool that makes a click-sound with the simple push of a button. So why do you need a clicker to train your dog? It really expedites training and makes it much more fun for your dog (and for you, once you get it all figured out). Although you might feel a bit clumsy in the beginning--trying to time the click with the behavior followed by the treat, all while managing the leash—trust me, it gets easier. And once you see your dog's light bulb moment—when he totally gets that his good behavior gets you to click and treat like a Pez dispenser, you'll agree that this tool is one you won't want to be without.
3. The Right Collar
Everyone agrees that their dog needs a collar. Ideally, all dogs should wear a “belt”-style collar, which carries their identification tags. And in a perfect world, with perfect training, that might be the only collar you would ever need. In our not-so-perfect world however, we often miss out on early opportunities to shape and mold every behavior we desire. In these cases, we have many training collar options from which to choose. The important thing to consider when trying to find the right collar, is that your dog is an individual with a personality all his own. Work with a trainer to explore your options, and don't settle until you've found one you think works well for your dog. Keep in mind that just because you use, say, a pinch collar during the training phase of your dog's life, it's not a life-sentence. Use it correctly to modify your dog's behavior, and then wean him off when the time is right. Again, a trainer versed in all of the possible collar available can help you with this daunting choice.
4. Leather Leash
As a horse-enthusiast, there's one thing you'll never see me do: train a dog with a nylon leash. Okay, maybe for my five pound Chihuahua, but other than that, you'll only catch me using leather. It's really pretty simple—leather is just plain kinder on your hands. Think baseball glove. Now go out and get yourself one.
5. Long Line
I’m surprised how often I see mistakes when it comes to teaching dogs to come when called. What’s the number one mistake? Believe it or not, the fact that it’s not actually taught, but assumed that the dog knows how to do it right. An awesome off-leash recall begins with a long-line in puppyhood. In order that your dog feels an off-leash sense of freedom before he actually gets it, attach him to a long line and let him drag it around. This will give you plenty of opportunities to teach and practice coming when called.
So that wraps up the 5 Essential Tools You’ll Need to Train Your Dog. Gather up your items and get to work with your dog. Bring along your patience and a sense of humor, and you’re both sure to have a great time together. Go on, he’s waiting for you.