Dog Competition Training

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zoe-picMany dogs thrive on the challenge of competing and find proper dog competition training techniques to be exciting and enjoyable. Regardless of the type of dog competition training you’re involved in and the methods being used, training your dog will bring you lots of joy, as well as some frustration. And addressing problems when training your dog can take time, patience and self-control.

Dog competition training provides many opportunities for us to become frustrated. You started training your dog to develop rapport, maybe to “show” him, and to have a well-mannered companion. But who knew that there would be so much involved in teaching and training a dog?

Whether at the gym, concentrating on something requiring great focus, or conducting dog competition training, some people grind their teeth or hold their breath while training, while others clench their fists or rattle off a string of swearwords.

Likewise, keep in mind that our dogs can get very frustrated too! This is especially true when we fail to give clear direction, we are inconsistent with our criteria, or when we put them into a stressful, no win situation. When the frustration of training your dog comes to a boil, there are countless number of ways to respond.

The problem with frustration during dog competition training is that it often leads to an emotional outburst. Have you ever yelled at your dog during a particularly challenging training session? We’re only human – it happens! In dog competition training, these emotional outbursts often transform into strong negative verbal reprimands.

Interacting with your dog in an angry way carries the risk of damaging your relationship with him. It can also create an anxious dog, or one who “shuts down” when uncertain what to do or how to be react.

So, how do you get past being frustrated? Well, it’s much easier to teach a dog what you do want in your dog competition training session than what you don’t want. That’s why incorporating positive reinforcement into your session is so effective. When involved with dog competition training, or any other type of training, positive reinforcement is built on the premise of recognizing and rewarding correct behavior. It’s being proactive, rather than reactive.

When in a stressful, or otherwise negative training session, relax and remember to breathe. Sounds easy enough, right? As it turns out, frustration and stress can inhibit your breathing, which affects your body language. By concentrating on slow, deep breathing, you take in more oxygen, and your shoulders, neck, and upper chest muscles become more relaxed. Focus on your inhale! Focus on your exhale! It has a tremendous calming effect!

Pay particular attention to your dog’s behavior during your dog competition training period. Dogs may respond to stress in a number of different ways. These can include yawning, licking their lips, sniffing the ground, and appearing un-focused. If you notice your dog engaging in any of these behaviors during training, stop and analyze what is currently happening in the session. These signs may be an indicator that your dog is stressed.

Consider taking written notes during your dog competition training session. The more organized trainers keep training logs that document results of each training session. Later analyzing of these sessions offers insight about the dog’s rate of progress, and will help in fine-tuning and improving your training plan.

But what kinds of notes should you take and keep a record of? Consider recording:

  • How many times you repeat or practice a skill?
  • How often was your dog correct or incorrect?
  • How much or what type of reinforcement did you use?
  • Did you do something special to fix a problem?

In addition, make notes of any ideas or adjustments you might want to try during your next training session. The more notes you take during a dog competition training session, the better. Sometimes just writing down a perceived problem brings to light the solution automatically.

It’s sometimes hard not to obsess over your dog’s perceived training problems. And when you factor in your own personality type, it can turn into a real test of wills, as well as a test in your emotional self-control. Logically, we know that disobedience isn’t personal, but this can be tough to remember in the heat of the moment. It’s easy to blame the dog. But it’s harder to look at how your own actions likely contributed to the dog’s inability to perform to your expectations or hopes.

When you find yourself getting frustrated with your dog competition training, or any other training for that matter, first stop and think of ways you might fix the problem. If your dog does something totally unexpected, let him know he is wrong. Then try the command again. If he repeatedly makes the same mistakes, step back and analyze if he truly understands the action you are asking him to perform.

But at the end of the day, always remember that our dogs are never with us nearly long enough. Enjoy the time you have with your dog and continually build a relationship that you will be able to look back on with many fond memories.


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