Cool Training Tips for Cold Days – Train your Dog Indoors

It’s still cold here in Pennsylvania and even though it’s looking to warm up, there is still rain on the horizon. Don’t let this dreary weather rain on your progress with your canine companion. There are plenty of ways to train your dog indoors that will entertain and stimulate him, both physically and mentally, making for a healthier living situation.

Confined Spaces? No Problem!

You don’t need acres and acres of space to train your dog. Simple commands such as “sit”, “stay” and “down” are simple enough to do in tight quarters. Already know the basics? Bump it up a notch and see if you can teach him a more difficult trick or challenge him in a different way.

Sit, Stay… stay… stay…

Challenge your dog to “stay” for longer periods of time. First teach him to stay, both while you’re near him and when you walk away. Once he is comfortable staying with you in another room, slowly increase the length of time before you call him and reward his behavior. Remember: increase in small increments only about 10 additional seconds each time.
Don’t let your dog cheat by scooting forward or shifting to another position to maintain visual contact. If he does shift, stop the session, reset his position and start over. Don’t reward him until he stays still for the entirety of the exercise; if you have trouble increasing the time, work longer at a shorter time until it is fully mastered.

Walking the Dog – Not Just a Yo-Yo Trick

Walking your dog on a leash inside a house seems like an odd concept, but it’s a great way to teach your pooch to walk on a leash without lunging at distractions or pulling to move faster.
Start by accustoming your dog to having the weight of a leash attached to his collar; some dogs really dislike the feeling, and walking outside in an unfamiliar environment exacerbates the situation. Just attach the leash to his collar and leave him alone to get used to it being there. Eventually, he will start walking around without giving it a thought, and when that happens, leash training can begin.
To keep your dog from pulling on the leash, make your desires black and white. The moment there is tension on the leash, react immediately by extending your arm to give slight slack and then change direction; either turn or about face. The sudden slack and then very slight pop of the leash tightening again will cue your dog that he missed your movement and will regain his attention. Once he creates slack to catch up with your movement, praise him profusely; Praise, Praise, Praise and reward when this happens to reinforce his good behavior! Continue your walk while keeping your movements unpredictable enough to keep your dog’s attention.
This is easily done indoors as you move from room to room doing chores or just getting a little leg exercise during the long, cold days. Remember: do not go back to letting him tighten the leash; this trains your dog that you want the leash tight while walking and will confuse him if you then correct him for it.

Man’s Best Friend – Taking their Position at Your Right Hand

Teaching your dog to “heel,” both on and off the leash, is a very valuable skill; for many working and competition dogs, “heel” commands them to be at full attention. The same goes for the basic “heel” command; when it is used, your dog should have his full attention on you and block out other distractions.
Begin similarly to leash training, walking around at a normal pace and when your dog follows in the sweet spot, give him a short praise and a small treat. Important: don’t stop walking; instead, reward your dog on the move and continue walking to encourage him to stay in the sweet spot. Make sure you choose either your left or right side to train your dog on.
Practice this for a few minutes, then sit down so you can restart the session and allow your dog to recognize when he should be walking at your side and when he can have his attention directed elsewhere. After a few days, introduce the command you would like to use and begin saying it as he starts moving toward the sweet spot; again, reward him and keep moving.
Once your dog has learned the command and responds, you can begin teaching him different commands for left and right. This is done by using a similar process as described, but separate commands for each side. Important: only focus on one side at a time, don’t try and teach your dog both sides in one training session.

Personal Favorite: Roll Over

Last winter, I taught my dog to roll over. I have always seen it in movies and TV shows and thought it was too cute to pass up.
I started by having my dog lay down and stay in that position for a little bit, about 5 seconds, then I showed him the treat in my hand and moved it in a circular motion while helping roll him over with the other hand. Whenever he completed the roll, I praised and rewarded him with the treat quickly.
I progressed to tapping his side, combined with the command “roll over,” and only rewarding him if he rolled with the combination of those two commands. Since it was a long winter, I progressed further by combining the verbal command with a hand signal, making a circular motion with my finger. Finally, I taught him to “roll over” on command, either verbal or with my hand signal.
The only problem I ran into during training was the connection he made between rolling over and laying down. For a short period, whenever I had him lie down, he would immediately roll over, expecting a treat. I eventually had to partially retrain him to lie down and reward him when he didn’t roll.

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