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The need for space

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I do a huge amount of training in my house.   I do that because it’s quiet, it’s familiar to my dog, and it’s convenient for me.     That is very much a winning proposition, and the convenience allows me to get in several tiny sessions per day if I wish to do so.

Unfortunately, after a reasonably short amount of time, I will have taught the behaviors that my dog can learn inside. Sit, down, stay, pick up an object, etc. I can add proofing, and I can add in fun little games, but at the end of the day…

I need space.

I need space to create behavior chains.   The way I get off endless cookies is primarily through behavior chains, and there are relatively few that I can do in my house.

I need space for play.   I like to build energy for work with toys, and I’m not willing to play tug or fetch with a 50-pound dog in my bedroom on hardwood floors.

I need space to bring joy to the work. Dogs like to move their bodies. If you want flow in your training, so that you and your dog begin to ‘feel’ the work, then you need to free up the dog to move and express themselves.  You can’t get that in your bedroom.

I’m not talking about the generalization of skills. It can be your own backyard or a local training building for all I care. I’m talking about movement; the joy that comes when the work becomes more interesting, and that includes running and movement. Expressing joy.

What if you have no space? You live in an apartment and there are no training buildings nearby?   The weather outside is consistently too horrible to train there?

I don’t know.

I’m serious. I would give you suggestions if I had them, but at the end of the day, if your goal is to get into any sort of competition with a freed up dog who finds joy in the work, you need to allow the dog to move so that it becomes part of the dog’s training habit.

I find it incredibly hard to get off a fairly continuous stream of reinforcement if I cannot move around freely with my dog. How you do that in your house? Well, like all things you can be super creative, but it’s not the same.

Personally, I like to incorporate movement into my training early on, with a puppy. I do it in my own training yard so that they will be comfortable, but it doesn’t change the fact that by the time a puppy has been here a week or two, a decent percentage of their training actually takes place in the yard.

Precision skills? In the house. Probably for the rest of their lives. Flow? Freedom of movement? Games? Fetch or toy play?  Developing a love of training independent of cookies?   Mostly in the yard or in any larger training space. A space with good footing for running.  Space where the dog isn’t always within 3 feet of a wall.

Give some thought to the percentages of your training which take place in an open space, and the percentage which take place in a closed space. Then consider what you use each of the spaces for.

Think about creating a plan to bring those two together.   If you do not, if you stay in your small home space and work endlessly on precision skills, you might find it extremely difficult to get off of the cookies and use the joy of flow, movement and training later on, when you want to go into competition.

 

About dfenzi

I'm a professional dog trainer who specializes in building relationship in dog handler teams who compete in dog sports. My personal passions are Competitive Obedience and no force (motivational) dog training. I travel throughout the world teaching seminars on topics related to Dog Obedience and Building Drives and Motivation. I own Fenzi Dog Sports Academy, a comprehensive online school for motivational training of performance sport dogs.

10 responses »

  1. I don’t think there are very many places in the world where there literally is no space to be had. My backyard is not very spacious, but a five minute walk away is a nice little walking trail with great big fields on either side of it. So while one may not have space on their personal property, there is probably space somewhere nearby.

    Reply
  2. Denise said, “the joy that comes when the work becomes more interesting, and that includes running and movement. Expressing joy.” I think I have a pretty good balance of training in my home and training with space. However, when I have space, I have zoomies! Can zoomies be an expression of joy? Do they always have to be about stress and lack of confidence? How can you tell for sure, and how can you stop them? Good article 🙂

    Reply
    • wow – I have never interpreted my puppy’s zoomies to be stress – he does that when he wants to play – as a form of play. He even invites me (slow me) to join him – but mostly all I can do is provide a flyby touch on the shoulder or on the rear – to let him know he’s moving fast but I can still catch him! (go Faster!)… (and I could never ever touch him if his goal was to avoid me…) I encourage the zoomies in my house – I have a 25′ living area with no furniture and padded floors for good grip – and when its too cold or wet outside – we can zoom in the house – round and round – and then flop and pant and play by rolling… I know that people talk about their dogs getting zoomies in the ring – in agility – go “out of control”… they have to *catch* their dog… I think those zoomies are maybe what they mean by stress related – but for me – as soon as I want to stop and do something with him – he’ll come round and be ready for that play… but zoomies are good – gets the heart going… aerobic… we like em!

      Reply
      • I hear ya Terri. I get zoomies in the house too, however, since I have a Great Dane and smaller house, I get spins 🙂 My challenge with zoomies is in training when he finds more value in zooming around the ring than engaging with me. I just haven’t figured out a way to build enough value in working with me over zooming. I’m confident we’ll get there – just not sure when :).

  3. Barbara Krynski

    Denise,

    I LOVE your posts. May I have permission to share some with my club members in our newsletter, with credit being given?

    Barb

    _____

    Reply
      • Sparky and I are Marooned in Manhattan — modest size apartment, no car to travel to classes or competition. But we are blessed to live close to Central Park — 800 acres of back yard — where off-leash play and work are permitted early in the morning. And boy, do we take advantage. And boy, do I see the joy it gives him — ecstatic fetch, long walks on the bridle path. We can find isolated spots when we have work to do. His pleasure takes me out when the weather’s lousy or I feel lousy. I’m just SO glad I can give it to him. People ask me, “How can you have a dog in New York?” And I answer, “How many dogs do you know with an 800-acre back yard?”

  4. Oh boy do I hear you know you are so very very right
    My dogs had the freedom to be dogs and train out and about it so made a difference
    Living now where I can no longer do that I see a big difference in my dogs
    I really had to up my game

    I have to be way more physical to allow for body joy free movement
    My other semi solution was to get smaller dog but it’s still not the same
    I am always looking to be creative think outside the box
    Thanks for the article it’s nice to know one is not alone with this problem
    I have allowed something with my dogs that I never did before
    I allow them to do zoomies in the house
    It’s safer then anywhere else they do have on off switch

    Reply
  5. Oh boy do I hear you know you are so very very right
    My dogs had the freedom to be dogs and train out and about it so made a difference
    Living now where I can no longer do that I see a big difference in my dogs
    I really had to up my game

    I have to be way more physical to allow for body joy free movement
    My other semi solution was to get smaller dog but it’s still not the same
    I am always looking to be creative think outside the box
    Thanks for the article it’s nice to know one is not alone with this problem
    I have allowed something with my dogs that I never did before
    I allow them to do zoomies in the house
    It’s safer then anywhere else they do have on off switch

    Reply
  6. I really liked this post. When Training is joyful it is rewarding to Dog & handler. Rewarding as well.

    Reply

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