The power of toys in dog training
Most dogs love toys and may particularly have a favourite toy that they take to bed and carry around with them. Many dogs are also obsessed with balls and a tennis ball or a very favourite toy is a really good focus aid to use in training. High energy dogs tend to engage readily with toys, especially balls or a Frisbee and provides the good workout that they need to keep them happy and calmer.
All training should be reward based, praising good behaviour and ignoring the bad behaviour. The reward can be a food treat, which may be the best starting point, but also the reward can be the ball or best toy. For example, rewarding a good sit, stay and come with a ball is an exciting result to a command and one your dog will want to repeat again, establishing repetition. Replacing the ball with food treats also helps stop over feeding and weight gain! Some trainers have to reduce the amount of food in their dog’s meal to make sure they do not get too fat. Some dogs may also become so obsessed with the food treats that they are unable to pay attention to what they are supposed to be learning!
A short training session should be incorporated into each walk and using a toy makes exercise a fun time for both you and your dog. Toys are also a good mental stimulant and will help keep your dog occupied and mentally stimulated when left alone. The Beco range of dog toys are not only ‘eco’ friendly and made from recycled material, but also tough and long lasting and in particular the Beco ball can be stuffed with food treats which can keep your dog occupied for ages working out how to get to the goodies. The ball on a rope is also a great one for a game of fetch.
When using toys in training, keep those toys only for outside training. If they are around at home to use at any time, the excitement of playing with them is lost and therefore not such a useful training aid. Take the balls away as soon as you return home.
Always use a command to ask your dog to release the toy so you can repeat your game. Use the same command or indicator such as a clicker or word ‘Out’, ‘Drop’, or whatever you like as long as its consistent.
There are so many different toys on the market, there is bound to be something fun for your dog, even for those dogs who have little interest in toys. They can be taught to enjoy toys with some imagination. Perhaps using food treats with a food focused dog to start with and giving a food reward if your dog picks up his ball or makes his toy squeak. Once associating the toy with a treat, you can gradually drop the food treat. Always make toy training fun and energetic – your dog will soon catch on!!!