You'd be surprised how many dog owners view training as boring and even a bit tedious. If you'd count yourself as one of those owners, you're in the right place! The good news is, it doesn't have to be that way at all. There are plenty of ways to spice up your obedience training routine, allowing you to get better results and brush up on some of your dog's known skills.
Now here's the catch: so many dog owners and dogs view training as boring and predictable because, well, it probably is! If all you ever do is command, say "good dog," and treat, it can only go on so long before it becomes mundane. The trick to making obedience training fun is partly by making it unpredictable, or in other words, changing up your routine.
Change Up Your Treats
To put things into perspective, think about what you might be willing to work for. Would you go out of your way to complete a series of complex tasks for a bowl of oatmeal? How about an ice cream sundae with candy toppings? Your dog may view his treats similarly. They may be less willing to comply with your commands for their daily kibble, but most dogs are much more enthusiastic about working for a few small pieces of cheese or hotdog chunks. Adding variety can make each training session so much more enjoyable and fluid.
TIP: You will want to limit high-calorie treats, especially in smaller breeds like Maltipoos. Treats should make up about 10% of a dog's daily calorie intake. Feeding your dog too many treats can upset your dog's stomach and cause diarrhea, canine diabetes, weight issues, and other serious health issues.
Add Variety to Your Dog's Rewards
Dog treats tend to be one of the most common rewards used during training. But what's often lost on dog owners is the fact that several other rewards can really invigorate your basic training routine. While food is a significant motivating factor, play is also something dogs thrive on! Training with play as a reward is very similar to using treats and can even be used when covering basic obedience. As you go through each command, try throwing a ball or engaging in a quick game of tug in celebration of each job well done. Give your dog a release command to drop the ball or release the tug toy to move on to the next command quickly. Giving your dog praise and affection is another excellent way of offering a reward each time your dog hits the mark. Be sure to offer praise and pet your pup liberally for the best results. This method is perfect to use on its own when you need a calmer reward sequence or, in combination, using treats, toys, and praising in an alternate pattern.
Redirection Instead of Punishment
Sometimes there are moments you don't necessarily intend to train your dog. Still, the need for behavioral correction is warranted, and you're forced to either train with your dog or live with the unwanted behavior. Times like these are an incredible opportunity to redirect your dog instead of punishing them. Redirection is a surprisingly effective technique! Suppose you notice your pup fixating on another dog, a bicycle, or anything nearby. That is the perfect time to ask your dog for their attention, using a treat to lure them away if necessary. Another option is enticing your dog into a game of tug as a distraction which will ultimately communicate to your dog what you'd rather they be doing. Consistently redirecting your dog pays off long-term when it finally does become a habit. Over time you shouldn't have to ask for much, and your dog will willingly give you their attention and look to you for direction. We've found this to improve obedience training by making it so much more fun and avoiding the downsides of punishing your dog and breaking down the bond you share.
Throw a Party
Okay, not literally, your dog doesn't need balloons and streamers, but we've all seen how dogs react to that squeaky, happy voice! It really amps up the excitement of performing and will typically give you better results over time. Pottying in the potty area, for example, is a fantastic opportunity to pretend an absolute miracle has just taken place! It might seem a bit weird, but it will clue your dog into what a great decision they made by pooping outside.
If training has been a source of stress for you, try some of these tips to liven up your routine and make obedience training fun for you and your dog!