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Sunday, August 3, 2008

A Great Dog in Five Minutes a Day

Okay, so you've gone through classes with your dog. He's three years old and generally well behaved. He's more independent now...spends more time away from you, exploring the back yard or sleeping on the couch.

Every so often, you think back to those days when he was six months old, and you remember all the time and work you put into training him. You have a good dog to show for it...but you kind of miss the fun and satisfaction of working daily with him and building a good relationship. Going to classes was fun and exciting for both of you. Taking those walks was invigorating. You had goals for him, and you worked to achieve them. Now that he's all grown up, all that work is behind you. Right?

Wrong! Dog training isn't about attaining a goal or a plateau. It's an ongoing part of responsible dog ownership. Call it "maintenance" if you want, but it's something you MUST do if you want the relationship with your dog to continue deepening.

It's like going on a diet. You start our with motivation up the kazoo, and you fervently stick to your plan until you've achieved a certain weight loss. But if you forget the diet and start eating the way you used to, the weight will come right back on. You must have a MAINTENANCE PROGRAM for keeping the weight off.

You must also have a maintenance program for keeping your dog's skills and manners up to par. You can do it in five pleasurable minutes a day.

Start with a minute or so of attention exercises, like the Leadership Game.

Next, do some heeling: five steps forward, and sit. Five more steps, and sit.

The third time, your dog sits, ask him to STAY. Move to the end of the leash, then walk back to your dog and around behind him, returning to your starting position beside him.

Tell him to stay again, walk to the end of the leash, turn, and call your dog to sit in front of you. Heel him straight forward again. Ask him to DOWN and STAY as you move out in front of him and then return back around him.

Take him to a doorway and CURB him as you walk through. Then release him to come with you.

Finish up your five-minute session with some no-nonsense Leadership Game again. Your dog will think he's back in school, and will start practicing his best behavior. He'll also be happy, knowing he's pleased you through your friendly interaction.

Never again will you have to say, "I didn't have time to work with my dog this week." Nor will you want to!

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