There are not many absolutes in dog training. However, one thing is for sure, when it comes to training young dogs you are either making emotional deposits with your dog or withdrawals. Remember that the next time you take your young dog out for a training session. In fact, write it down on a yellow sticky and place it next to your training equipment. Better yet, stick it to your forehead – just kidding. Imagine the looks you would get at work the next morning. Oops – I digressed.
Dogs, like humans, establish likes and dislikes early on in life. In fact, they start establishing strong associations between 12 and 20 weeks old (the so-called “imprinting period”). It’s during this time when most dogs’ working attitudes are established. What is a “working attitude”? Well, it’s just like it sounds – the attitude your dog has about working or training.
When you were in grade school, did you get up in the morning excited about school or do you hit the snooze alarm a dozen times before finally getting out of bed? Well, chances are, how you felt about going to school was largely based on the associations you had with school or what you thought the day might bring – spelling test, a bully on the bus – yikes, maybe I will hit that snooze button again! Well, dogs are not cognitive thinkers like humans, they are associative thinkers and even dogs might not be so keen on school if every day they had a SPELLING TEST or were greeted by the NEIGHBORHOOD BULLY.
My point to all this is simple. If school was about gym, lunch, and recess many kids would start their day with big smiles on their faces, eager to head to school. Was there ever a time that you enjoyed school? Perhaps it was a great teacher who made learning fun. Think about it.
As a professional dog trainer, I find that many clients are too quick to jump into a structured obedience program and use traditional corrections with their dog before taking the time to fill the glass with good positive experiences. Sure I like an obedient dog as much as the next guy. But what I love more is a strong bond and connection with the other end of the leash.
I have so drastically changed my young dog training program over the last several years. My emphasis now is about one thing, making it fun to learn! No, my standards have not changed, what has changed is the methods I use each day to make regular positive deposits with that dog, instead of withdrawals. It requires a whole lot of creativity and in the upcoming articles, I will share some of the ways you can make your next training session fun — for both you and your future gun dog!