Take it from a private dog trainer, dog training is much easier to accomplish when you’re in the comfort of your own home! Taking your dog to group classes in a public setting can be great for socialization if done correctly, but it’s simply counterproductive when it comes to actual learning!
I spent years conducting private dog training programs in my clients’ own homes, and I want to let you in on some of the best private dog training secrets to use with your own pets!
The Benefits of Private Dog Training
The term “private dog training” doesn’t necessarily need to mean in-home dog training. Rather, it indicates training that you do in the privacy of your own home. That was one of the biggest concepts I hammered home with my dog training clients. The vast majority of your dog’s training isn’t coming from your dog trainer, but from you.
You see, a huge percentage of your dog’s stimulus, or things that they experience, come directly from you. You and your family interact with your dog every single day. Sure, guests and strangers can interact with your pup and impact their training, but all of it revolves around you!
The most important thing for you to remember is that you can and should control your dog’s interactions, even those that seem like they might be out of your control!
You are your dog’s advocate.
The How of Dog Behavior
If I haven’t beaten this dead horse enough for you, mental stimulation can benefit your dog in many different ways. Fancy-sounding as it is, mentally stimulating activities are really quite simple at their core.
You’re simply providing your dog with some type of activity that stimulates their brain to perform behaviors they feel intrinsically motivated to do, such as chew, sniff, chase, grab, and more.
Sure, a standard walk around the block gets your dog some mentally stimulating activity, but the best types of enrichment will provide your dog with a way to use their brain. Critical thinking is a fantastic skill to hone and improve in your dog, and it can really help them improve their all-around behavior.
While a ball that dispenses treats might seem simple to you, your dog sniffs the treats and has to figure out to manipulate the ball to get them out, and it actually requires quite a bit of critical thinking to accomplish this! You can even take this a step further by researching your dog’s breed history.
Breeds that had various jobs tend to enjoy some activities more than others. For example, a scenthound might find great pleasure in snuffling around searching for treats in a snuffle mat, while a border collie might prefer honing in on a good game of frisbee instead. Even when it comes to breeds, all dogs are individuals.
Look at your dog’s preferences and tailor their activities to reflect what they enjoy the most!
Learn to Read Your Dog
When you can read your dog, you will better understand how you can change their behavior. By “read” your dog, I mean two primary and interconnected elements. You should be able to understand your dog’s body language to interpret how they are reacting to something in the moment.
On a similar note, you should also be able to look at your dog’s behavior as a whole to understand why it is occurring. A “small picture” and “big picture” if you will.
Actually doing these things will vary based on the behavior your dog is doing. For example, if your dog is barking you should be able to look at the small picture of if your dog is fearful of something, or if they are excited about it. From there, you can take a look at the bigger picture.
Why is my dog excited? How can I help them better interact with strange people in a less intense way? How can I decrease their overall hyperactivity?
The answer to many of these big picture questions is mental stimulation.
The Magic of Mentally Stimulating Activity
Let’s face it. No matter how much you do with your dog, you simply fall short sometimes with their needs. You might miss a walk here or not get them quite enough play time there. That’s ok! In fact, that’s human. But that doesn’t mean it can’t impact your dog’s behavior.
When your dog doesn’t get enough mentally stimulating activity they can become a bit stir crazy. If you are unable to provide enough activity for your dog for a few days or weeks, there’s a decent likelihood you’ll see your dog’s unsavory behaviors increase in volume or intensity. It’s the unfortunate truth.
Thankfully, making sure your dog gets mentally stimulating activity that engages their brain and encourages natural behaviors isn’t as difficult as you might think. Your dog needs to engage in critical thinking. There’s no way around that. But not all of that critical thinking needs to be so hands-on.
You don’t need to take your dog on hour long hikes every day and spend six hours per day training them and playing games with them. You can absolutely alternate between the engaging hands-on activities that your dog loves and hands-off activities that will keep your dog busy when you just can’t manage their needs head-on.
Choosing The Best Items to Encourage Critical Thinking
Not all dog toys are made the same. Cutesy little stuffed animals and rubber dog bones are all fine and dandy to toss around and play with your dog periodically, but they aren’t going to magically become interesting when you aren’t around.
Sure, your dog might play and chew on them a bit on their own, but they aren’t going to magically increase engagement and critical thinking.
For that, you need to choose your toys and activities more carefully. Food is generally the universal motivator, and treat or food dispensing items are king when it comes to encouraging additional active and foraging behaviors from your dog.
If your dog isn’t very food motivated, you might need to utilize our Ask The Trainer program for some additional help finding the right types of activities for your dog. But like I said, not all toys are made the same and not all work-to-eat toys are the same either.
It’s important to make sure these toys have a careful balance of difficulty and attainability. Essentially, you don’t want your dog to get all the treats in two minutes. At the same time, you don’t want them to get fed up because they can’t get any treats at all.
Choose a toy that the treats can fall out of, but that has obstacles to prevent your dog from completing it too quickly. When I’m personally choosing a toy or puzzle, I like to find one that my dog will be able to get one or two treats every couple of seconds.
Dog Training Has Gray Areas
Behavior isn’t black and white. You need to understand some of the more finite details when it comes to your dog’s behavior before you can stop an unwanted behavior. For example, stopping barking involves several different training concepts working at the same time.
This is the case for most unwanted behaviors as well. You generally can’t toss a quick fix at a behavior and expect results. But as long as you are learning how to understand your dog’s behavior better, and you are addressing your dog’s mental needs, you’re on the right path to successful private dog training in the comfort of your own home.
If you need more help with your dog’s training, we offer a variety of training programs for different needs and behavior problems!