Good training is much more than teaching specific skills or developing your dog’s emotional comfort. You also need a plan for what you will do after you finish one exercise and before you start another, a plan for unsuccessful repetitions, and a plan for unexpected results.  In combination, these lead to “crisp” training sessions.  Today I’ll discuss the first one.

There are times when your dog will be with you but you are not actively training even though you are within a training session. You might be moving equipment, speaking with an instructor or another person, or maybe adjusting a video camera or simply deciding what you want to do next.

What is your dog doing during that time? If you’re not sure, go back and look at a prior video and then you will know.

Here’s what I want you to look for.

If your dog is offering behaviors, something is wrong. Why does your dog think they might be able to earn a reward? How can you make a plan to make it more clear to your dog that nothing is happening at that moment?

If your dog is staring at you, and then moving away, and then staring at you, and then moving away, etc., something is wrong. Why is your dog unsure of whether or not they should be working at that moment?  How can you provide more clarity to your dog?

If your dog is struggling to engage when you re-start, why is that? Done well, working opportunities should be specific, discrete, easily recognizable by your dog, and a chance to earned a desired reinforcer, so your dog should be extremely enthusiastic when they appear!  And if your dog is not, ask yourself…why is that?  Is it possible that you manage your time in between work with free cookies, so there’s no real difference between working time and simply being alive?

The time in between training repetitions is important.  Strive to be “crisp” in your training sessions; the entire session, not just when you’re teaching a behavior!

If you’re not so sure about this, take a moment to visualize some of your favorite trainers. What do they do with their dogs when they are talking to you or talking to the camera or in between training repetitions?   I think you will find that their dogs almost never offer behaviors or look unsure; the dog knows exactly when they are working, when they are on their own time, and when they have been asked to perform a mild endurance behavior like a relaxed stay while they wait for their handler to be ready again.

You have a variety of options for handling this time, but let’s start with an assessment.  If your dog is offering behaviors, or checking in and out with you (and the environment), or if you are not pleased with the way your dog comes back to work when you are ready to restart, there’s a good chance you will be able to trace the root of the issue to the “spaces in between.”  Take a close look and see what you can do to improve the matter.

If people express interest, I can discuss options in my next blog. Go ahead and comment if this would be useful to you.

On another note, the new Fenzi Dog Sports Academy Pet Professionals Program (FDSA-PPP) has released its website! Registration for PPP workshops will begin June 22, and instruction will start in July. If you’d like to learn more about how that program will operate, please visit the website:  FDSA Pet Professionals.

And…we are finally on Instagram! If you are a fan of FDSA or the new PPP program, please follow us on Instagram! To make it a little more fun, we are currently offering contests to encourage you –  Follow us! Tag us in your photos when you train your happy FDSA dogs! Excited to see you there –  Look for…. @fdsapetprofessionals.

And lest you think we’ve abandoned FDSA, you would be absolutely wrong. Registration is currently underway for classes, workshops and webinars.   Find what works best for you and get registered.