Yes, you did read that correctly. Every dog has an’on’switch, it’s just that finding it can sometimes be a problem! Once you have found it though, your dog will be completely different in his attitude to training, in line with the necessary changes in your methods.
If you have ever watched a routine that brought tears to your eyes, have you stopped to think exactly what it is that has provoked such a reaction? There’s every chance that it was because dog and handler truly worked as a TEAM, with the dog as hooked on the handler as the handler was on the dog. This type of relationship does not happen instantly (believe me I know!) it takes MOTIVATIONAL REWARD BASED TRAINING to achieve it.
“Hang on”, I hear you cry,”all the top teams in HTM/Freestyle are Border Collies or Working Sheepdogs”. In answer to that ,I should like to point out there is absolutely no reason why this new sport SHOULD be dominated by the collies as all the other popular sports are, since speed is not a prerequisite as it is in agility and flyball. Indeed my own mongrel, Pepper, has done pretty well for herself giving the collies a run for their money! The only thing needed to succeed is a highly motivated dog (and handler!). If during your routine your dog wears a bored expression or lags three paces behind you, then it is time for a change. If you get the dog working closely with you and wanting to work then the only thing limiting your success is your own lack of imagination in dreaming up new moves to teach your dog!
My advice would be to use a clicker or a key word that means the same as the’click’, get your dog “hooked” on a particular toy that you can use as a reward and then to work on what I call the foundation moves. By this I mean, before you start getting your dog to do tricks get him performing beautiful motivated heelwork as his party trick! Start by getting just a fraction of a second of full attention from your dog and gradually build up from there. Remember that a seconds’ worth of perfection at this early stage, beats 3 ½ minutes of your dog lagging behind or sniffing the floor!
Another important thing to remember is not to just always have your dog working on your left (this isn’t an obedience round) but also on your right, in front of you, able to turn left and right, circling etc. Once your dog can work every which way, you then have a superb foundation on which to build .Even if you have your heart set on freestyle, remember this – to produce a flowing routine you have to be able to get from one move to the next with style and ease, so if you have a whole panoply of movements at your fingertips, you will find it much easier. The beauty of HTM/Freestyle is that the dogs and handlers are free to use all their capabilities, and a whole range of wonderful flowing movements, rather than having the worry of a crooked sit hanging over them!
Just one more point for you to ponder – you can teach a dog many things, but you can’t teach it to look happy, to look happy it truly has to BE happy. Surely we owe it to our best friends to use the best and most rewarding methods of training?