Repetition. Ah, that wondrous turn of events that does not turn effortlessly on its own. Like building a skyscraper, there are seemingly little, repetitive needs that create a foundation upon which such structure can be sustained. Much the same in training dogs. Even once that foundation is set firm, the repetitive needs of the structure are essential to build a stable, balanced and well-trained dog–whether you have a working dog or family pet. But there are times the “up, down, good girl” and repeat can grate your nerves. Here are a few ways to make it fun, interesting and sustainable 😉
Games, don’t ever forget the games!
Playing games with your dog daily is as essential as daily walks. Not only is it fun for you both, but it also creates and reinforces your bond, keeps their minds engaged, and helps strengthen the structure of your pack.
For example: Even merely tossing a ball (especially for “ball crazy dogs”) is an exercise in Pack Leadership. Or, it should be! Take close note of your dog. Does she bring a ball or tug toy to you, “asking” to play? Or are you the one instigating play times? You may not think this makes a difference, but oh boy! It certainly does! Even before the game gets started, it begins with a choice and, essentially, a command. Who is giving the command makes a huge difference in other areas of daily life with your pooch.
The best example of this is just after I published the article Pack Rank. That post talks about how much better Hanani was getting along with Mia, insofar as not stealing every toy, bullying and demanding to be above Mia in rank and such. Just after that transition Hanani, Mia and I were out in the yard playing that same game I wrote about in that article. This time, however, without prompting Hanani grabbed the big green ball, ran to “place” and sat, “asking” me to play the game with her. I obliged and called Mia over as well.
Note that Hanani did not ask Mia to play. She only asked me. This idea of hers that she was in charge became more apparent after a few times of kicking the ball. As usual, Hanani remained in place until I gave the release, “YES!” At such time Mia runs after the ball as interference. We had so much fun doing this, it hadn’t occurred to me that Hanani was up to something else.
Although I know the difference between a dog asking and telling the dog, there are times when I give them the room to initiate. I found out the hard way that is not a good idea for all dogs.
I kicked the ball, Hanani remained in place for a bit. Mia ran after the ball, but when I released Hanani she went after Mia instead. It was quite traumatic for both Mia and myself. When I got them apart, Hanani went to her crate and I took Mia inside to clean her wounds. The manner in which Hanani got a hold of Mia–by the neck–she could have done earnest damage physically. But she didn’t. There was only a cut and a small puncture on her ear and neck, respectively. As horrible as that sounds, my point is Hanani could have killed Mia. This was just a warning; an attempt to knock Mia out of her rank position.
So, what does repetition have to do with that?
The repetitive nature of training and maintaining dogs is essential for any dog to thrive well. It also works out these behaviors and doggy desires (aka, higher pack rank) that lurk just beneath the surface at times. Dogs look forward to structure and routine. When you get that in place–yes, through consistent repetition–you not only build a fabulous dog that looks forward to obeying, but you also can flush out areas that need refined.
Another fun way to be repetitive is to have your dog shadow you in your daily routine. Whether going up and down the stairs to do laundry, sitting at your desk to get some online work accomplished or driving errands, your dog loves to be around you. Turn it into something fun that requires him to obey you in order to enjoy the “treat” of being near you and involved in whatever you are doing.
For instance, each morning when I get up Mia goes outside first (since I now must keep them separated until Hanani gets her shit under control). Mia enjoys time in the yard while I make coffee, sit on the porch with her a bit, and do my morning prayer time. At, what we call, “shift change”, Mia goes in my bedroom and Hanani comes out of her room. We got out for her yard time for a bit, but when we come inside she knows as soon as I get my coffee I am headed for my office. If she is to remain out with me–in my business–she must remain laying under or beside my desk. If I get up, she may follow, like when do laundry, yard work and such, or just go get more coffee. Otherwise, she stays by my feet. Of course, she gets occasional praise and treats! In her mind, she “helps” me get my work done 😉
Repetition builds a firm foundation.
Consistency builds balanced structure.
Every once in a while we mix it up, but we always go Mia first and Hanani never is allowed to roam the house on her own while I am busy. In the evening, Hanani does get some “free time” before bed: Her her collar comes off and she may roam to some degree, initiate play time, or simply laze around. This simple explanation of our day does not include everything, but I just want to illustrate that the constant, daily repetition of these patterns helps her considerably.
Repetition builds a firm foundation. Consistency builds balanced structure. Though it may seem mundane and almost unnecessary at times, keep it up! You *will* begin to see results–even in areas where your pup may have issues. With some dogs, like Hanani, you may need to get more nit-picky and detailed, but you will see results. You will!
Although her fear/aggression issues are not fully resolved, Hanani is overcoming and learning to calm herself because of having a solid foundation and balanced structure. A great example is that she has accepted Dina (my son’s fiance) into her pack, she no longer goes nutty at the fence when folks and dogs walk by, and all sorts of great improvements!
The most fabulous thing is, when you watch closely, you can actually see your pup take a moment to think about what to do and begin to make better choices. It’s truly a beautiful and awesome experience.