Dogs are observant animals, noticing so many little details when training, that they force us to be detailed in return. We structure a training session with:
Start session cues
Working together, during a session, cues
End of session cues
Free time between session cues.
Once you are in a routine, you will see how easily these cues are to implement and how quickly the dogs respond.
Start session cues - I am not training until I focus on my dog, but the dogs pick up the cues that training is about to begin and start to respond. You can expect your dog to start becoming interested and looking for opportunities to train once you begin to collect your food and equipment together.
Working together cues – my focus stays on the dog, I have made a promise that I am training and rewards are available. It would not be fair of me to take a phone call, realise I have forgotten to turn the camera on and go off to sort it etc. Any hesitation or disconnection on my part, at this stage, risks negatively impacting on the dog.
End of session cues – show dog empty hands, say ‘that’ll do’, laugh, make a fuss of dog, pick up equipment etc. I can put my dog on a lead by my feet, send my dog to a resting target or allow dog free time.
Free time between session cues – my body language has changed, my focus is redirected towards my notes, watching the video back or planning the next session. The contract with the dog is that they are on their own time, therefore I cannot seek to control this time as well. I may need to tidy up, shut doors or manage the dog’s movements with a lead or resting place, to honour the deal.
These simple routines help teach the dogs to manage their own arousal levels, getting excited when a session is going to start, remaining focused during a session and switching off after a session. They encourage your dogs to stay connected and aware of your actions without the need to continually verbally prompt, a foundational skill for 'recall'. These are the skills dogs will need to manage their own behaviour in your work, park and home situation.