Do you know what I love? A good analogy for dog training. A few months back I went to a seminar put on by Tami McLeod from Absolute K9 Solutions. She is an expert in obedience and Schutzhund. Her analogy? Is your dog rich or poor? She defined a poor dog as a dog that is confined to a crate or a dog run, and only comes out to work. A rich dog is one that is free in the house, sleeps on the bed, has people and animals around, is given treats and has a lot of external stimuli like trips to the dog park.
How is this useful? If you’ve set training goals, your dog should be more on the poor end than the rich end of the spectrum. Why? If your dog is always full, has all of the toys it wants and lots of fun at the park playing with other dogs, sitting on command for a treat doesn’t hold much appeal. If you want your dog to learn quickly, it needs to be a bit hungry and have a couple of hours in a crate before a training session. That way, when your dog comes out to work, she’ll have energy and room in her belly for a treat.
The amount you need to deprive your dog depends on your dog’s personality. How much energy does your dog have? If you have a low energy dog, the amount of time your dog is confined before a dog training session will be more than a high energy dog. How much food drive does your dog have? I can train Kinsey with dog food because she’s a total pig. But, some dogs may need something more enticing, like cut up pieces of hot dog. So, you have to know your dog and decide what will work best for her!
As your dog progresses and reaches the training goals you’ve set, you can back off on the restrictions and see how she does. Kinsey is five and has been training as a FEMA live find search and rescue dog since she was seven months old. At this point, my girl knows her job and loves it. So, if I’m going to be completely honest with you, right now, she’s a millionaire. She comes to work with me, has a memory foam dog bed, we hike several times a week and I buy her very expensive chewies. But, when it’s time to train, she’s ready. She leaps over the rubble and barks at victims with no issues. When we first started training, she didn’t have all of the luxuries she does now! Like everything with dogs, it was a progression.
I will also admit to you that Quincy is more of a challenge. She is stubborn, and sometimes needs a reminder about who is in charge in our relationship. Occasionally when we’re out on a walk, I call her and she ignores me. It doesn’t matter if I have a treat in my pocket–although it helps–she has her own agenda. So, I walk over to wherever she is and give her neck a little shake. She rolls over and shows me her belly and then follows me. With Quincy, I don’t think her training period will ever end.
So, think about it. Is your dog rich or poor? How will deprivation help you meet your training goals? Simple things, like making sure your dog is hungry and energetic before a session, make a big difference.