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Tuesday Training Byte: Communicating expectations

There are times I may want to take my dog on a walk and just let him explore around, sniff, and wander ahead of me. Yet other times I want the dog to focus as we train. For training I use a different collar and I begin by telling my dog in a pleasant tone, "Are you ready to work?" Like a kindergarten teacher, she may bring the kids in from recess and then signal that it is now time to work. I first make sure my dog has had some "free time" or exercise in the yard before we get down to business. My dog soon learns that "work" means one on one time, lots of praise, good treats, and doing some different things. I try to do a variety of things during our short 15 minute training session, rather than just drill on the same thing like heeling in a straight line at one speed. can you say boring? I start out with something my dog already knows well, then I might introduce a new skill. I try that about 4 times and then praise my dog. Then I will ask for a good heel at a fast pace and then stop suddenly. Then I ask for the new skill again. I finish up with something fun and easy like jumping up on the pause table. I cheer my dog with praise saying "Good work!" We head back to the house for a special treat and a few more pets before returning the dog to the yard. In obedience and rally competition, I need the dog to be very focused and willing while we are in the ring completing the required course or exercises, which takes generally less than 15 minutes. My dogs quickly learn the word "work" and associate it with the particular collar and a few minutes of doing a variety of things with me. In training and requiring the focus. Just be sure to also make it clear there are times for the dog to just be a dog and sniff, run, dig, and roll around, and times to pay attention.

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