Working for a Living in Dog Training
So I’ve done it, I have gone and crossed over into the dark side; I entered a competition with my dog Fury the other day!
Now, you first need to understand ME to understand my thinking and why this is extraordinary and a problem for me.
I am clearly not normal. I hate competition. Hate may not be a strong enough word; I loathe competition!
I vividly remember being in kindergarten and running my first “real” race. Apparently I was “super fast” for my age because I was going to cross the line first (this is not a trait that lasted for me) but I hesitated, slowed down and looked back for my friends. There was a part of me that didn’t want to cross first.
That trait stuck. Whenever I talk about competing I always share how much I loathe it. Some of you must wonder; if I despise it so much WHY do I do it? Because competition bonds me to my dog!
Even though I hated it and I still hate it some of the best times I had were spent training for competitions with my former dog “Mr. Snitch”. Not necessarily competing, although I have some great memories of our competitions together as well, the training was spectacular time spent together. We enjoyed every moment of it together because, of course, I worked him with positive reinforcement training and in drive.
I never cared whether he won the biggest blue ribbon, whether we barely passed or the few times we didn’t even qualify!
I wanted the same relationship with my 18 month old Dutch Shepherd. I went through some major depression after my father died and then Mr. Snitch died of cancer and my Nix was then diagnosed with meningitis. Fury, the little beast, was unintentionally put on the back burner.
Recently I have been spending an incredible amount of time working with her and shooting some videos and our bond has certainly strengthened. And, a few weeks ago when I was at a client’s house working with his biting puppy, I recommended that he work his puppy for each of his meals.
A lot of times I hear people gasp when I recommend this, like working for his or her food is a despicable idea! And, I tell my clients it’s like taking your kid to dinner and enjoying his or her company versus tossing his bowl on the table and making him eat alone.
Really how often do you “interact” with your dog while he is eating? Most of the time the bowl barely touches the floor before the food is gobbled up and gone, ready to be filled yet again at another meal time.
If you work with your dog while you feed him his meal, you are actually interacting with him and that lessens the treats and fatty foods you are giving him while you train.
I almost always recommend this type of training if you have a dog that is food aggressive, because this gives you all the control and makes your dog realize that food actually comes from YOU and so he should listen to you and respect you.
But I got to thinking…why not incorporate this into my already busy training regimen? Now that we have our eye on the prize (or at least some basic goals together) I have been working with her “highness” several times per day.
We go outside and work 5-20 minutes a few times a day but I have also started putting her food in my pocket and having her do some basic stuff for it. This isn’t as barbaric as it sounds and I guarantee if you were to ask her, her opinion she would much rather play games and interact with me than eat alone from a cold sterile bowl.
She has a great time working with me for her food, and sometimes, when the day is busy this helps me ensure we are getting at least 2 good training sessions in for the day.
You don’t have to make your dog work for every piece of kibble. I often jackpot and give her a handful of food so that she is satiated!
How to Implement This Training Schedule
- Decide what you want to work on before starting! Does your dog need help with his basic obedience? Does he come when called? Do you want to do more challenging advanced obedience? Or would you like to teach him some tricks?
- I don’t care what you work even a multitude of the things above on as long as you are working and spending time together!
- This requires meal feeding, I don’t like free feeding dogs anyway!
- Measure the regular food you are giving your dog and put it into a bag, a tool belt or a fanny pack.
- Get your clicker
- Begin working on whatever skill you desire.
- Don’t just have your dog do ONE thing like laying down and waiting to be fed. Interact with him and make it fun!
- Utilize lots of jackpots to keep it fun and keep your dog motivated.
- Calling your dog: I back up and call my dogs to come; when they sit in front of me I feed them. I may even dash into another room while calling my dogs to come, then having them sit in front.
- Have your dog find heel position.
- Work on sit and/or down stays.
- Train them how to come when you call
- Teach your dog to shake.
- Or, take your dog outside and work on more advanced obedience. I am working on out of motion down stays, so I toss some food down in the grass as I tell her to down.
- Most importantly HAVE FUN TOGETHER!
This is all about bonding with your dog and working on your obedience together. Using their food simply give you a set time and an outlet and keeps your dog a bit slimmer than using treats! You will see your bond deepen and your dog listen to you more readily just by implementing this simple plan.
So make a pledge to your dog to “go out to dinner” together if not once or twice a day at least 3 times a week! And you will see his obedience and commitment shine!
I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.