Keeping your dog engaged in training can be a challenge. Food is fine, toys are fine and picking work that dogs like is fine too. Now, in addition, consider this simple phrase: ‘Keep the feet moving!”
Who’s feet are we talking about? It doesn’t matter much but someone’s feet should be moving as much as possible because when all of the feet stop moving things get boring fast. Dog and handler doing not much of anything, staring at each other. Waiting. For something. That never comes. Or comes so slowly as to suck the life out the entire session,
So, as the feet are moving, how fast should they move? Well, what are you doing? When I’m within an exercise, I may not be moving very fast at all – neither may my dog – because maybe we are concentrating and performing. For example, if my dog is selecting the correct scent article, the feet are moving but…slowly. But between exercises? Well someone’s feet are moving rather fast! Maybe everyone’s feet if I’m taking the dog to a new spot in a light and playful fashion. Maybe only the dog’s if I sent them to the new spot. But odds are pretty good that no one is moseying along, doing not much of anything.
Keep the feet moving.
And while you’re at it? Keep the exercises flowing!
What does that look like?
It’s a function of creativity. What’s gonna happen? Your dog isn’t sure because THINGS are happening. Feet are moving, cues are flowing, and you’re using up as much of your training space as possible. All of a sudden your dog is really paying attention, not because they have been trained to do so, but because they are curious about what might happen next. Paying attention is the way to succeed! Plus, it’s more fun. We covered that already; don’t be boring.
Got an error? So what, who cares?! Get back to moving your feet or your dog’s feet. Get on with it, let it go, and enjoy that training time with your dog. Keep going! This isn’t the time to stare at your dog like a deer in the headlights while stewing about how you’ll fail if your dog does that in a show. It’s not important. Get those feet moving and the exercises flowing again so your dog doesn’t start stressing and worrying. Move your feet and move through the exercises.
Keep your feet moving. Get the exercises flowing.
How about disengagement? You’re working just fine and your dog finds something better to do?
Errors and disengagement are not the same thing. If you have errors get back to work! Disengagement is more complicated. A whole workshop’s worth of complication.
If you have issues with disengagement from a dog who starts out engaged, consider joining my “Disengagement from Engagement” workshop and learn your options under a variety of circumstances and with different types of dogs. The focus will be rally/obedience types of disengagement but the general principles and considerations apply to all sports – just weighted somewhat differently. The first video lecture was just released. Now you have one week to watch it and submit your questions before I do my follow up video lecture where I review disengaged dogs and answer your questions. I hope to see some of you there!