Sunday, January 16, 2011

If You Hear Barking..........Sing Louder!

Over the past year I've taken Faye on many outings in our never ending quest of new people, places and things.  Today she made her first visit to Church.  We have a big  congregation so there was alot of activity.    Even though Faye has spent her entire life working in public I know that taking her to a new place means this is going to be a training exercise not a social visit.  Entering a new building means new smells, new sounds and new people.   Training in public is part of a working dogs life, here are a few tips to help you and your dog be successful.

Setting Them Up For Success
The key to having a successful training session is setting your dog up for success and having realistic training goals.  To do this start by having a clear, well thought out plan,  this helps you and your dog not feel stressed.   Any time you work your dog in a new environment you can expect to see some degrading of training.   Because dogs don't generalize well, we need to give them opportunities to practice learned skills in a variety of environments.   When you enter a new environment let your dog sniff around for a few minutes and explore this new place.  It's not a good idea to start firing off cues the moment you arrive,  even the most basic skills like Sit and Down may fall on deaf ears if your dog is nervous or distracted.   Once your dog has relaxed, begin practicing skills that your dog knows, set them up for success. 

Recruit The Help Of Strangers
There are dog lovers everywhere and who doesn't want to pet an adorable dog.  I always recruit the help of strangers when I'm training my dogs.  Because we are always working on 'good manners' I ask people to be a 'friendly stranger' and pet my dog as long as they keep 'four on the floor'.   I also ask people to ignore my dog, this allows my dog to learn to settle and not always be the center of attention. 

Forget The Fancy Stuff and Keep It Simple
As tempting as it can be to want to show off all your dogs 'bells and whistles', I find it more beneficial to work on basic skills and reward/reinforce calm behavior.   You may not think there is anything impressive about having your dog lay at your feet, but think again, how many dogs do you see in public who can just chill out and relax.   

Have A Good Sense Of Humor
Yep, you got it, this should be fun too.   I never go into any situation expecting my young untrained dog to be a superstar.  These are learning opportunities and I definitely learn something every time I train in public.   As we entered church today I wondered if Faye would be quiet during the service?   She is typically not a barky dog, but just in case she decided to have a vocal moment,  I prepared people.  "If you hear barking..........SING LOUDER!

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