Over the past several years, I’ve attended a lot of AnimalSense classes – as an observer when I was learning to be a dog trainer, as an assistant trainer and as a student.
Everybody wants their dog to do well and when they act like, well – a dog – it seems a lot of us get self-conscious and stressed. In turn, our dogs become more stressed and the hour of training is not as effective as we would like it to be. If you recognize yourself, here are a few ideas that might make your next AnimalSense class more enjoyable.
First and foremost – relax! Jamie Damato Migdal, who founded AnimalSense, is fond of saying ”It’s just dog training”. Of course what she means is that it’s not like we’re in class learning how to be Navy Seals – we’re there to learn how to teach our dogs to sit and lay down when we ask them to. Group classes are great because they make it harder to train. It ‘s generally pretty easy to practice sit one-on-one in your kitchen – it’s a whole other experience to get your dog to sit in a strange room full of strange dogs and strange people. If it happens great- if it doesn’t it’s no big deal. Just try to listen to what the trainer is saying so you know what to do when you are at home.
We’re fond of saying that you should set your dog up for success but the same applies to us humans. For example, when you’re in class use better treats than you do at home. You’ll probably get more attention from your dog if she’s getting something special. Also, remember when you’re training it’s as important for you to end a session on a positive note as it is for your dog. The more you practice, the more confidence you’ll have.
Training at home should not be done for an hour at a time – a few minutes a few times a day will yield great results. The next time you heat something up in your microwave, train your dog while you’re waiting for the timer to go off. I also keep little bowls of dog treats all around my house so when I see them it reminds me to train – I like to train during commercials when I’m watching television.
Remember that dogs don’t speak English and you don’t speak dog, so it’s no surprise that it’s a process to learn to speak each other’s language. Most of what we ask of dogs is not innate – if you were a dog you’d probably wonder why your humans want you to walk around slowly tied to a rope that they hold. (By the way, they’re also puzzled as to why you don’t let them eat the delicious garbage.) Training is more interesting when you learn how dogs learn, so reading articles or books on the subject can enhance your training experience.
Ask questions in class and e-mail after class. AnimalSense trainers like nothing more than to talk dogs and love to help students – human and canine – progress.