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Training Your Dog to Like Repetition

Sometimes in training, we have to ask our dogs to repeat actions to get them right. But some dogs consider this a correction, or get bored or unhappy with it. Can you train your dog to lie repetition? By Frankie Joiris

With my dogs, all training starts as integrated with play and interacting with me, and all play and interacting with me incorporate training. Most dogs are happy to do the same thing over and over if it's something they love doing - think of a Lab chasing a tennis ball or a Whippet lure coursing. An awful lot of them would be happy to go on doing that until they dropped from exhaustion. That's the kind of attitude that I want for dog sports.

As an example, when I got my Whippet, Boing!, she had what some people would call no manners - she just loved jumping on people. The very first day I got her, every time I saw she was about to jump on me, rather than do anything to discourage it, I opened my arms wide and said "Here!" in a cheerful voice while kind of bouncing around to get her even more excited. If she managed to land high enough that I could catch her in my arms, I gave her a little treat then we went back to playing. She thought this was a wildly funny game, especially since she had started it, and was thrilled to do it as long as I was willing. I made sure not to make the treat a big part of it because I didn't want her to stop playing and work too hard on figuring out how to get the treat. Once that sets in the dog might get the attitude that the goal is to get the treat, but the goal should be to have fun playing the game, whatever the game is.

When I have a session with a dog, I act as though it's this huge favor I'm doing them. "Wow, aren't you lucky! It's your turn! Now you can have my undivided attention if you want it!" I won't beg the dog for attention; if they don't want to play with me, that's fine, they can go in a crate or someplace else while I work with another dog (having another dog to work with really helps, but when I didn't I just played with one of my kids instead).

In the early part of training, virtually any time a dog gets something wrong, we stop doing that and go back to it later. If the dog is doing it right, then he gets to keep on doing it. Since initially everything is introduced as a game, the dog wants to keep doing it. Of course, the regular training "rules" apply; I try to set things up so that the dog isn't wrong very often.

Here's a typical scenario with a new young dog, again using Boing! as an example. I rent an hour at our local training facility so that there aren't any other students or dogs there to have to deal with.  I first go into the building without the dogs to set things up, turn on the lights, and so on. If we're using the outdoor facility, I also go in without them first, just to put up jumps, check equipment, etcetera. I take the bag with their toys and treats with me, and I talk to them as I'm leaving in a very cheerful voice "Sorry guys, it's my turn first, you'll just have to wait," or whatever comes to mind. I might even play peekaboo from the doorway to get them really excited. I then go get the dog and race to the door with them, open it up, run in, and let the dog loose with a whoop and a holler. I start racing around the room tossing a favorite toy if the dog is toy motivated, handing out a treat here or there if the dog isn't toy motivated. Because I'm having a wildly fun time, I've rarely met a dog who ignores me and goes off to sniff around, but if that does happen then I put the dog in a crate or back in the car and get another dog, a kid, or just run and play by myself before giving the dog another chance to play.

When we're running around during the first few sessions, the dog will invariably do something that's right from an dog sports point of view, like go over a jump, run ahead of me, whatever, and that gets rewarded. The dog also starts to get an idea of what fun it is to pull out all the stops and just run with me. I do this same thing to retrain dogs who have gotten dis


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