When it comes to training your canine companion, you want to make sure the job is done right the first time around. By using positive reward training and prevention, you can do anything from teaching your dog to walk nicely on a leash to fetching the newspaper in the morning. Your training sessions can be made easy and fun with using a few must-have items that nearly all dog trainers just can’t live without!
If you have been to any training class or read a book about dog behavior, you have heard about the clicker. The clicker is nothing more than a plastic and metal tool that when you press the button it creates a loud clicking sound. The clicker is meant to be used in place of your verbal “Good dog!” to mark a wanted behavior. Basically, when you ask your dog to sit, and he does, you click your clicker and that tells the dog that what he did was correct and a food reward is on the way. Using a clicker can make a dog become more reliable in the behaviors you wish for them to perform, and makes them excited for training time. A dog isn’t born with the knowledge of what a clicker is, however. They must be conditioned to understand it’s meaning. In the training world we call this charging the clicker. To charge the clicker, you sit with a handful of treat and your dog in front of your. Click your clicker, and give a treat. Do this about 10 to 12 times, and your dog will understand that the click means yummy treats will follow!
The Bait Bag
The bait bag is an invaluable tool for anyone training a dog, doesn’t matter if you’re a professional or training your first puppy. A bait bag holds all of your treats in an easy to store, easy to grab place. Most bags are waterproof and will have a magnetic, automatic closure so that when you bend over to pat your pup on the head, your treats won’t fall out. Bait bags will also make jugging all of your tools much easier. You may have a clicker in one hand, leash in another, so where would your food rewards go? The Bait bag is a must-have for anyone training a pet!
Targeting is sometimes one of the first things a dog or puppy is taught. It is especially helpful in the first few months of training any kind of working dog, from police K9 to service dogs. A target is a gateway for the dog to interact with other items, making things like retrievals a breeze to teach. A target is simply a stick with a ball on the tip. This is very similar to what you will see in marine mammal parks when the dolphins touch their beaks to a ball or other item. They are targeting! Some targets marketed for dog training will even have a built in clicker to make juggling all of your tools far easier. To teach a target, you simply encourage your dog to touch his nose to the ball on the end of the stick. The second his nose touches it, you click and give the reward! Targeting is often a majorly fun and super easy for both the trainer and the dog!
The Front-Leading Harness
The front-leading harness can be used long term but should not be depended upon throughout the life of your dog if possible. This harness is exactly how it sounds – instead of clipping your leash to the back of your dog, it clips to the chest area on a D-ring. There are many brands of this style of harness and they are all worth their retail price. The usage of a front-leading harness should be considered prevention, not solution. By using a front-leading harness on your dog, you are preventing him from learning to pull while walking on leash. This prevention should always be coupled with training! Your dog should learn to walk beside you with proper leash manners. This harness will help you get there by never letting him learn the self reinforcing behavior of pulling in the first place. Once he is trustworthy of never pulling you can use any other harness or his collar, or continue using this harness as ‘power steering’ for your pooch.
The Hands-Free Leash
The hands-free leash, also called a Euro leash, can make training more simple for both you and your dog. This leash is versatile and can wrap around your waist, loop over your shoulder, or attach to an item. Many brands exist for this style of leash and they can be found in nylon or leather and at different lengths. In using a hands free leash, you have your hands free to click, give treats, and offer hand signals unobstructed. This reduces confusion for your dog and frustration for you. While teaching your dog leash manners this leash is also very useful. By wrapping the leash around your waist you eliminate confusion of hand movements. Your dog can focus on the movement of your legs so he can follow closely without putting pressure on the leash.
Of course no training would work out if you did not have your rewards. If you are using food rewards for training, keep the treats as small as you can for the size of your dog. These treats must be quickly eaten so that the dog does not become focused on eating, and instead keeps his mind on the training. Just as important as the size of the treat is the value of it. Depending on how difficult of a task or command you are working to achieve, the value of the reward according to your dog should match. For example, if you are working on proofing a long down-stay with distractions, you may want to give the highest value of reward to your dog like real meat or cheese.
Training your dog does not have to be frustrating and tiresome for you. With the use of these critical tools and a positive attitude, your dog can accomplish anything he is physically able to do. These must-haves can make training go faster and make the experience enjoyable for both you and your furry best friend!