When You’re Done Training, Now What?
When You’re Done Training, Now What?
When asked, “Have you started any training with your dog?” many owners report that they have already completed training. They’ve taken a pet store class or two, or maybe they had a trainer come to the house soon after getting their puppy and now they’re done. So they say. When you ask a trainer or dog sport competitor the same questions, you will get a range of answers referencing what they’re currently working on, but you will never hear “we’re done.” In fact, you are never “done training” your dog even if you think you are. By simply interacting with your dog, you are training your dog. Simple routines are trained every day, from meal time to couch time to how to act when people visit. Each event is a training opportunity.
Let’s say you have “already trained” your dog by taking a class or going through private lessons. Now what? Your dog sits fairly well in predictable situations, you know how to perform an adequate recall, and you are comfortable with how your dog walks on leash. Are you 100% satisfied with your dog’s behavior? Would you be interested in doing more with your dog or participating in activities with your dog? There are plenty of ways to get your dog more involved: you might be interested in dog assisted therapy, agility, flyball, treiball, freestyle, obedience, or rally if you knew a little more about them. Or maybe you just want your dog to perform a fun trick or task for you (like getting a drink from the fridge or skateboarding).
I am never done training my dogs. I take treats on every walk and practice simple behaviors in all types of circumstances. My Bullmastiff is probably bored to tears with down-stays everywhere we go but she loves getting to touch and give paw to new people (it helps that they smile and feed her). My dogs will work on leash walking skills until they can no longer walk, i.e. until they are no longer with us. My Bullmastiff, also a certified therapy dog, just began competing with me in AKC Obedience trials and will start Rally trials later this summer, which means I go home after training dogs at work and train her or take her to a fun new class in the evenings. My little lab mix is also getting her paws wet with obedience and may go on to agility next year if it suits her. There’s no end in sight and that’s probably the best part, I always have some one-on-one time with each of my dogs to look forward to and they stay active and engaged with me.
If you are not 100% satisfied with your dog’s behavior, then you are certainly not done training. If you think your dog actually knows all the commands you use, you can test a simple sit the way discussed in a previous blog post http://perfect-pooch.com/does-your-dog-know-what-sit-means/. You may want to rethink reviewing basic obedience, learning more complex behaviors like a heel walk, or you may want to move on to the obedience sports: Obedience and Rally. Obedience is broken down into multiple levels by the AKC and your dog does not need to be a show dog to try it out. The beginner levels of Obedience and Rally are mostly on leash and only you and your dog are in the ring together- no other dogs. There are also dog sports for those of you who are less interested in obedience but still want to have fun with their dog and work on relationship building: flyball, treiball, and agility are fun active sports that utilize games like fetch, herding, or directed jumping to earn titles. Therapy work is also a great way to stay involved with your dog and help other people. Essentially you and your dog visit people who need a puppy-pick-me-up and spend a few minutes to an hour being told how wonderful your dog is and cheering someone up. I’m fairly sure my dog mostly thinks I take her to visit people just to get some extra attention for herself and free pets and treats, though she has shown remarkable empathy and what seems like understanding.
At the end of the day, you are never “done” training your dog. Training is all about the relationship you have with your dog and your ability to communicate with your pooch. Graduating from puppy class is only the beginning of the journey. Your dog deserves more and you won’t believe how much fun you will have working with your dog. Imagine how excited your dog will be to work with you and listen to you; if they get to learn and be rewarded for fun behaviors most of the time just think how willing they will be to do the less fun stuff knowing the next part might be awesome. If you thought you were “done” training your pooch, just consider taking one more training session or class and see if you don’t have a blast or get hooked on training.
Head Trainer- Perfect Pooch
BA, CPDT-KA, AKC CGC Evaluator