I learned at an early age riding and competing horses that every moment you spend with a horse you are either training or untraining that horse. To put it another way, you are either training your horse to do the right thing or training your horse to do the wrong thing.
I think the same applies to dogs. While I have ZERO aspirations of being a professional dog trainer, I have to acknowledge that every moment I spend with my dogs, I’m training them. I might be inadvertently training them to do the wrong things, but I’m training them!
Acknowledging that is the first step in correctly behavior issues and the first step toward training your dogs at a new level.
I’ve always actively worked with my dogs. It’s just a part of having more than one dog in the house and part of owning more difficult dog breeds, at least if you want a happy, calm household! But when we shifted to training dogs for jobs a few years ago, it also shifted how we trained at home.
Training shifted from something we worked on once or twice a day to something we do in every interaction. (When I say we, I mean me and the dogs. Hubby prefers to spoil.) I’ve always treated meal times as training moments, but I’ve learned to take more time with everything from putting leashes on to getting out of the car. Every moment is a training moment.
The best advice I can give any one looking to transition from pet dog owner to dog sport competitor is to find good trainers to work with who are succeeding at what you want to do and make friends with other competitors. There is so much to learn and having great mentors and instructors is critical. It’s also important to have people that you can share your successes with who appreciate the work it took and that you can get encouragement from when things go wrong.
I had a two trials back in January that were an absolute disaster. Both my trainer and a fellow student from our Rally class were there. They saw my disastrous NQ and my later false start ending with being excused. They shared their own frustrations in the ring. Thankfully, years of competing horses had prepared me to take it on the chin once in a while.
I’ve also had some great successes and have had my trainers and fellow competitors right there with me celebrating.
Most importantly, they help me create realistic goals. They provide great feedback on training plans and strategies. They help me remember just how much I love my dogs and how much my dogs love me. They help me remember that while I’m always training my dogs, training is supposed to FUN!