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After-Obedience Blues; Keep Your Dog Engaged After Basic Obedience Training!
By Kimberly LeMaster
The majority of owned dogs who are showing signs of behavioral problems are typically over the age of two years and have had some sort of basic obedience training. The owner will say, “I taught him how to sit, stay, come when called and lie down but he still won’t listen!” This is a simple case of a lack of reinforcement for the dog and boredom. He doesn’t listen because there just is no reason for him to want to! Once he has gone through obedience training and knows his commands, you must continue to keep your dog engaged in the commands he has learned as well as challenge him through learning new skills, proofing behaviors he already knows, and keeping it all fun at the same time!
Keep Him Engaged
Keeping your dog engaged in his learned behaviors as well as new ones you are shooting for is all about the reinforcement, how fun it is and the steps you take to continuously use the skill sets your dog has learned in basic obedience. Obedience is far more than just learning a few commands, but your dog is learning how to learn. He uses obedience to learn your body language and what your communication actually means; it’s like a translator! Just because your dog has already gone through, does not mean you should quit talking!
You can keep your dog engaged in the basic obedience commands he has already learned through incorporating it into your daily life. If your dog has learned the stay command, you can use it during meal times. With the bowl in hand, ask your dog to sit and stay. Begin to lower his dish and if he moves, lift the bowl back up and again ask him to sit and stay. He will eventually get the idea that until he stays put, he won’t get to eat! Dogs usually learn this within a couple of meals, and will sit in front of a full dish of food until you give him the okay to eat it! This keeps him interested and working with his sit, stay and even wait commands!
You can do this with other commands, as well and incorporate them into solving other behavioral problems you may be experiencing. You can use the sit command to work on leash manners, for example. If your dog is a puller and loves to ignore you while on a walk, you can walk the opposite direction in which he tries to pull while encouraging him to follow you. When he catches up to you, ask him to sit. Don’t walk anywhere until he does! When he sits, give him a “Yes!” and walk on. The walking is his reward as this is what he wants to do! Give him the thing he wants when he offers a wanted behavior!
Always Challenge Him, But Go Slow!
Using known commands to teach new ones is one way to set your dog up for success, but you can also involve him in training new things. Make goals of what you would like your dog to learn, and consider it a ladder. Each step of the ladder should be one training game that can help lead you to your final result. For instance, if you want to teach your dog to pick up and put away his toys, you will need to teach individual behaviors before turning it into a chain of behaviors to reach your final result. Start with teaching him to pick up and hold a toy in his mouth. Then, build that onto putting the toy on a certain spot or object, like a piece of paper. Then you can ask him to put it in his toy box.
If you try to start at the top and expect big things quickly, you will not only confuse your dog but you also will quickly make him lose interest in the task. This will translate into him disobeying more and more as he becomes frustrated and uninterested in what you have to say. Go slow, at his pace, and build onto it to keep him engaged in learning!
A Command Is A Command
It doesn’t matter if you’re trying to train your dog to ride a skate board or just walk loosely on a leash, the concept is all the same. Keep him engaged, and never give up! Basic obedience is not the end of a dog’s learning life. Any dog as any age has the ability to learn and alter their behavior with the right reinforcement and training schedule.