Trainer’s Top Tip: FOCUS!!
Building a strong relationship with your canine companion
For all new customers joining Dobercademy one of our first pieces of advice is usually to purchase a prey dummy from us to use as an interactive teaching toy. A prey dummy is the perfect aid to help in training your dog and building a happy, focussed and fun relationship with him/her.
To focus your dog on you, and keep him interested, despite a wildly exciting outdoor world, full of exciting smells and things to chase, takes hard work and commitment and a little bit of help from your friend the prey dummy. What we are effectively teaching the dog is that it is much more fun to stay with us and play than run around the fields amusing himself and getting up to all sorts of mischief of his own! The prey dummy will become more exciting than that quicksilver squirrel, or that tantalising bunny hopping over the horizon and if taught properly your dog will never leave your side!
The first exercise is to get your dog interested in your prey dummy. This is done by filling it with tasty smelly food such as cheese and sausages. Your dog won’t be able to resist the smell! Next let your dog have a good sniff and open it to show him what is inside, let him put his nose in and help himself to a snack. Do this few times and then seal it back up and drop it on the floor in front of him and encourage him to pick it up. If he does so, gently take it and again reward him from the prey dummy. Do this several more times. I advise that you should always keep your dog on a lead at this stage as you need to ensure that the prey dummy remains your property and he is not able to run off with it to chew in a corner. If your dog is picking the prey dummy up and letting you take it you are ready to move onto the next stage. If your dog isn’t a natural retriever all you need to do is persevere a little longer, just rewarding him for touching the prey dummy with his nose at your feet. With a bit of encouragement from you your dog will eventually understand and start to pick the prey dummy up himself.
The next stage is to throw the prey dummy out and ask your dog to retrieve it. Again keep your dog on a long line until the retrieve has been conditioned by requiring him to bring the prey dummy back to you whereupon he gets rewarded from it as above. Do not be too ambitious and throw it too far whilst still conditioning the retrieve.
When your dog is happily retrieving the prey dummy reliably you may move onto hiding it and getting him to find it. You can do this indoors to start with and move it to outside in your garden and then start to use it in this way on your walks.
One of the most important benefits of using play with your dog is that it helps strengthen the relationship between you and your dog. Play is fun, and involves both you and the dog. It makes you a team. Finding a game that you and your dog enjoy and then using that game all the time increases your value to your dog and helps your dog enjoy you more. With a deepening relationship, every interaction between you and your dog is more fun and more rewarding. With play, you can create a dynamic that will enrich not only your training, but your lives together
Final tip : Why not use your prey dummy to feed your dog on your lead walks every day? In this way your dog will learn to trot alongside you taking his food and imagine how focussed and excited he will be every time you pick your prey dummy up?