Training tips : Take a break!

By Leigh Laviolette // May 2017

Sometimes when we are training with our dogs, we come across little moments when they don’t seem to fully understand what we are asking of them or they may have just “switched off”. It can be tempting, then, to label them as stubborn or disinterested when the truth is that they may be tired or confused! Anyone who has attended a session where you are just sitting and listening knows how exhausting it can be, even though physically you haven’t done anything!

Mental stimulation can be just as tiring as going for a walk, so don’t underestimate how tired your training will make your dog. To test whether they are confused or tired, ask them to do something dead simple which you know that they can normally do without any problems, like a “sit”. Don’t be tempted to repeat the cue! Sometimes, just like with humans, our dogs need a bit of thinking time. Look at your dog’s response time, if they respond at all, and look at how well they perform the exercise. If they respond quickly and they do it well, then maybe your dog was just confused by what you were asking of them and you need to make it easier for them. By asking them to do something simple and rewarding when they do it, we have kept the rate of reward steady and therefore kept their motivation high. You also now know to gradually build up to whatever it is you had asked them to do.

If, however, your dog doesn’t respond, seems disinterested or walks away then this may be a good time to let them take a break. There are no rules with how long you must train for, or what you must achieve in that session. Taking a break is not going to damage your dog’s learning or put you behind in achieving your goals. In fact, quite often allowing our dogs to get some sleep can help consolidate information!