Training can become boring for both handler and dog unless we work to keep it fresh and playful. Last week I noticed that Badger seemed to be ‘going through the motions’ when we ran through our daily ‘compound’ training. The typical session would start with a few basics, like ‘Sit’ and ‘Down’. We then would move onto a few routines where commands are strung together: for example, Down at a distance – Sit – Stand – Round/tree – Badger Come – Fetch Ball. And then repeat this sequence 4 or 5 times.
He would still perform the sequence, but at half pace and without our normal eye-contact.
We currently do three sessions a day five times a week as follows:
- His daily run/walk, mainly off the lead. This is about 1 hour to 1.5 hours long and involves some heel work, some recall and down at a distance, all to the whistle. About 45 minutes is given to him just sniffing around. The objective of this session is his physical health and honing in his recall with distractions.
- A short specific session – about 15 minutes. This might entail finding hidden items in the garden or in the house or on scent discrimination work. Or it might entail a specific session learning a new command. We are currently working on ‘sit at a distance’ to a whistle. The objective of this session is the acquisition of a specific command or skill.
- A compound session of about 20 minutes where I combine commands together, alternating to the whistle, verbal and hand command. It always involves the ball. The objective of this session is essentially play, bonding and practising eye-contact.
At least once a week his daily walk turns into a habituation session (say on public transport or a trip to a town centre), or a tracking/trailing session in the woods or fields.
Once a week we attend an agility class with other dogs. Once a week we attend field trial training with an ex poilice dog handler.
I seem to have sorted out his lethargy on the compound sessions by starting to hold them in different places other than the garden. Today we did them at the beach where there were a few distractions from other dogs. Tomorrow it will be in the field opposite the house.
So I have learnt, largely through trial and error, that we need to vary the training by mixing up its elements and finding new locations. But, of course, each session must be as simple as your dog needs and have a specific objective. It would be very easy to complicate the training and confuse our dogs!