Let’s face it, not everyone’s dog is a champion performer, but you should be able to train them without tedium. So how do you motivate a lazy pup into action while teaching them too? “Trickery,” of course.
Dogs are smart. As a pet owner, it’s important to find creative ways to stimulate their mind (while also keeping them active). If you need a few ideas to get the ball rolling, consider the following 7 ways to trick your dog into training:
The easiest way to train any dog is by rewarding their behavior. There cannot be a successful training session without a rewards-based system in place. Treats are the fundamental tool for training your animal and they can come in many forms. From snacks to praise, toys and play, using positive reinforcement to “trick” your dog into training is by far the best way to condition their behavior.
Rewards-based systems enhance your relationship with your dog. Therefore, it is important to never use punishment as a training method. This can create fear in your pet that leads to deeper issues, like anxiety and depression. So keep it light, happy, and rewarding at all times.
There are tons of new toys on the market that will not only entertain your pet, but teach them too. Technology has elevated the pet toy industry and given us games like the self-fetcher. A simple robot, the automatic ball thrower trains your dog to retrieve the ball and feed it back into the system for another go.
Much like traditional fetching, a self-fetcher adds an additional layer of training and thought process for your dog. That’s because they are forced to problem solve each time they want to fetch.
Technology is usually a hands-off approach to playing with your pet. If you’re looking for a little more involvement, you may want to consider another training method like nose work.
A technique used to train K-9 units for the police force, “nose work” is a way to engage your dog with their sense of smell. It involves hiding a toy nearby and increasing the distance as they discover it each time. Your pet will feel like they are playing while you are helping them to hone their senses.
The intent is to build confidence and focus in your dog while they are distracted by the “playtime” aspect of the activity. This game can continue until eventually target odors can be introduced and competition skills taught.
Task it Out
Why not give your dog a job to do? Some dogs are bred to complete tasks like hunting and herding. Try to find work that can fulfill your dog’s breed if possible. If you have a retriever, for example, nothing will stimulate them more than a game of frisbee—while a bloodhound might love a round of nose work. Knowing your dog and their breed can help to determine the type of “job” you assign them, and ultimately, the success of your training.
Do you want to play with the same things every day? Neither does your dog. “Tricking” your pet into training means keeping them stimulated. One way to ensure this happens is to frequently rotate their toys. Some dogs might help you do that by destroying them….others may need you to take initiative.
If your dog gets tired of toys easily, keep some in a bin and do not introduce them all at once. If your pet hasn’t played with a toy in a while chances are they’ve already forgotten about it. Rotating the toys will help to keep your dog engaged and make training that much easier for everyone involved.
If you are a tad more serious about training your dog, you may want to consider the route professionals take and use a tool called a clicker. Clicker training is like a reward-based system for your dog, only it relies more on using a stimulus (sound) for the operant conditioning.
In order to train your pet with the clicker, you must first teach them to respond to the sound. You do so with reward-based training and a few tasty treats. Once your pet can distinguish the noise of the clicker from your voice commands, you’ll be tricking your pet into training in no time!
Keep it Positive
Always end any training session on a high note. You want your pet to associate training with fun over work. Keeping your dog motivated and happy means keeping it light and enjoyable. Unless you are training an animal for a specific job, like a service animal, there is no need to go overboard.
At the end of every training/play session, ask your pet to perform some tricks and tasks you know are simple for them. Ending it with a sense of accomplishment will not only keep your animal satisfied, it will make them much more eager to train the next time around.
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There really is no need to actually deceive your pet into training. The key is to pay attention to the individual needs of your animal. Using activities, toys, and treats that they prefer will help to keep them happy and engaged during the process. “Tricking” your dog into training really only equates to shaping their behavior with love.