A dog’s ability to focus on the owner/handler is the foundation of successful dog training process. The dog should be able to keep its attention on you and must always expect guidance from you. This week we will be practicing a few simple exercises designed to teach the dog to focus on you and to improve your clicker training skills. In addition, it will accustom you and your dog to the regular dog training sessions. For those of you, who are not yet familiar with clicker training, I will outline the basics tomorrow. In the meantime, I will suggest modifications to the dog training exercises, that will allow you and your dog to benefit from dog training regardless of whether you use a clicker or not.
Before you begin, make sure you have enough treats, a clicker (optional) and as little distraction as possible around you. It is always better to start training at home.
Exercise #1: “Touch”
This exercise is priceless for further training. Besides teaching your dog to focus on you, eventually it will allow you to guide your dog into almost any position or move. Here is a basic outline of the exercise:
1. Have your treats and your clicker (if using) in one hand.
2. Present your other hand to the dog.
3. When the dog approaches (it is not necessary to touch yet) your hand, click (if not using a clicker, say “good”) and treat.
If your dog seems to have no interest in your hand, try placing a treat between your fingers, while still keeping your palm flat. After you’ve done 5-10 repetitions, start rewarding only when the dog actually touches your hand. If it won’t touch, you may try to move your hand and touch its nose yourself. It is important to click at the exact moment when the dog’s nose touches your hand. Repeat 20-30 times or until the dog touches your presented hand immediately. You may add the verbal cue now.
1. Present your hand to the dog.
2. Say “touch” right before the dog’s nose reaches your hand.
3. Click (or say “good”) and treat. Repeat 10-15 times.
4. Gradually begin saying the cue earlier, bringing it to the moment right before presenting your hand.
Teaching you dog the “touch” cue will act as a warm-up for more advanced exercises that we will do later this week. There is no need to go over your head with this: you should be fine with a couple of 10-15 minutes sessions a day. Good luck!