I’ve been reading your blog with a lot of interest. I am still confused as to how much training I should be doing with my dog. I have a labrador puppy called Skye. How much training should I be doing?
Hi Emily, thank you for taking the time to read my blog and emailing your question to me. Your question is one that I get regularly so I thought I would post it for all to see.
The most important part about your training with Skye is attitude. This comes from quality, not quantity of training. At this early stage of training it is all about developing a dogs attitude. Skye needs a positive attitude to training, otherwise she will not be ‘sharp’ in her skills.
Developing a good attitude in your dog takes time, but, and here is the best part- it takes play. Play, play, play with Skye and intertwine the play sessions with constructive exercises and skills. There should be no difference between play and training to your dog.
Learning through play will enable a strong bond to form between you, learning will happen faster, you can train longer, and skills will be more reliable.
As long as Skye is interested in playing with you, you can train. This is your benchmark. Always finish play/training sessions when Skye is motivated, this will leave a good attitude that she will bring to the next session.
It is important not to do too many exercises all at once, or the same exercises over and over, you need to strike a balance to keep things fresh and fun. Choose a few skills that are important to you and work on these throughout your play sessions.
Here are some great play/training ideas….
Tug: Creates toy drive and you can teach ‘give’ and ‘hold’. Once you have the toy you can teach all manner of skills, then play tug as the reward. It’s OK to let Skye win at tug, otherwise she will loose interest. If you make tug fun, Skye will always want to bring the toy back to you for a game. Tug cannot happen without you, it is great for focus in distracting areas.
Chase me (with a toy to grab): Great for developing recall, let her grab the toy and play a game of tug.
Find the ‘heel’ game: Walk with some food in your hand (no talking in this game) and when Skye hits the magic spot on at your left leg you can reinforce her.
The two toy/food game: Throw a toy (or piece of food) to your left, have your dog chase it, as they come back throw another toy/food piece to your right, repeat this a few times (it is tiring for a young dog, so not too much). Great for recall, and makes you the focus of the game as your dog must cross your path each time.
If you use play and training together you can train as many times as you like, for as long as you like. Skye will develop a great attitude to training and will always work with zest and happiness.
I see too many dogs that are ‘drilled’ and become bored, they may perform the skills, but their performance is lacklustre and dry. Lets bring some personality in to training through play. Kids love to learn this way too, actually, so do I.