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Dog training goals 2015 – and why dog training is never complete

My dog turns 9 this year, and yes, we still have training goals.

With this post, I want to accomplish three things:

First, I want to show new dog owners that a dog is never fully “trained.” It’s an endless work in progress, at least for me.

Second, I hope you’ll see that just because I write about dog training, that doesn’t mean my dog is perfect. Far from it. And I’m not perfect either.

Third, I hope I encourage you to set your own dog training goals if you haven’t already. I’d love to hear what you’re working on this month. On Thursday I’ll be announcing a fun but motivational dog walking and training challenge, and I hope you’ll participate!

The following are the dog training goals I’ve set for myself.

I’ve been pretty laid back over the last year or so with Ace. He’s getting older, so I tend to let things slide. Who cares if he pulls? Who cares if he sits and begs while we eat? He’s old, I tell myself.

Because of that, he’s probably not as well behaved as he could be, which is OK, but that’s why I have goals.

My dog training goals – 2015

Black Lab sitting in grass

1. Give my dog off-leash time at least twice a week.

You may not think this is a training goal, but it is.

When we lived in Fargo, N.D., I could just open our patio door and let Ace run around off leash for 10 or 20 minutes. We lived right on a City park, and we’d play there each day in addition to our leash walks. While my dog is on the low end as far as physical energy, I did not realize how important those off-leash play sessions were until moving.

Here in San Diego, a week or two (or three!) can go by where I don’t give Ace any off-leash time. Because of this, Ace has a lot of physical and emotional pent-up energy. He’s been whining a lot lately, and I know letting him run around for even five minutes a few times per week will make a huge difference.

There are plenty of places where I can do this. It’s just a matter of making a point to do so. We live a mile from the dog beach for crying out loud.

2. Ignore Ace’s whining.

Yep, this one is related to goal #1. My dog has definitely been whining a lot lately, and it’s annoying. He’s always been a bit of a whiner, and I know it’s mostly because I give him attention for whining. Even if I scold him for it, he wags his tail like “Ha! Gotcha to look at me!”

Black Lab with polka dog collar

My husband Josh reports that Ace hardly ever whines when I’m not around, and I believe it. Sometimes I need to take some of my own advice – ignore your dog for whining!

My plan is to ignore any whining for 30 seconds or so, and if he doesn’t stop, simply get up and move to another room without reacting. Or, move Ace to another room when necessary, like when he’s whining while we’re eating. Which he’s been doing lately. Oh, Ace! 🙂

3. Work on heeling more seriously.

I used to be really strict about heeling. Basically, if Ace was on a leash I expected him to heel.

I think that’s a little too extreme now. It’s only fair to give the dog some on-leash freedom to sniff and explore as a reward for walking politely. Here’s my favorite post I’ve written about teaching heel.

The problem is, I’ve been a little too relaxed with Ace, and he’s been pulling a lot more because of it. For example, he’ll suddenly dart across the sidewalk to sniff a random plant. And, he pretty regularly tries to pull towards other dogs while making those excited breathing and “choking” sounds.

Annoying, right?

My “solution” around other dogs has mostly been to hold Ace back, which is not teaching him anything. It’s actually making the problem worse, because he probably anticipates the tension in the leash, which encourages more pulling. Sigh …

I’ll be writing more about this on Thursday, but my goal is to work on heeling with Ace by carrying treats, encouraging him to pay attention to me, and stopping when he pulls forward.

Pretty basic, but we all know it’s easier said than done. I’m lucky, because my dog actually knows what “heel” means (remain at my left side without pulling). It’s just a matter of enforcing it a little better.

4. Make sure to release Ace from “stay” and “go to your bed.”

I taught my dog that “sit” means “sit and remain sitting until I say OK.”

So, when we tell him to “go to your bed,” this also means “go to your bed and stay there until I say OK.”

The problem is, we’ll tell Ace to go to his bed, and then we won’t say anything for a half-hour because we basically forget about him!

This isn’t fair to Ace, and I know it’s been a little stressful and confusing to him. It’s also another reason why he whines because it’s a way to tell us, “Um, guys?” And then of course we release him, which reinforces the whining!

I know, first-world problems, right?

Some dogs are living outside tied to a barrel, and my dog is whining because he doesn’t know if he can leave his organic dog bed. Good grief. What have I created? 🙂

So that’s basically it for us.

Let me know what you’ll be working on this month, and I hope you’ll join me Thursday when I write more about the upcoming walking and training challenge.

What are your dog training goals?

You should also consider signing up for my email newsletter where I share additional info on training and living with dogs.

Have a good week!

– Lindsay

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