Huge insight on dog training: Play more than you do anything else.
Two of us have started doing some distance training with our dogs. Now, Paige is a much better handler than I am. Really, she’s amazing. Her dogs adore her; they run fast and they run accurate. She is a joy to watch. People all over the arena stop what they’re doing to watch her run. Judges comment on it.
I was thrilled when she asked if I wanted to do this. Today was the first day. We cleared half the equipment to the sides and set up some nice smooth wide open distance sequences. She went first, five jumps, throw the ball, play, play, play. Just as I was thinking “time to do another sequence”, she takes the ball from her dog and … throws the ball again. Plays some more. She played about three or four times more than she asked the dog to work, and the dog thought the whole thing was a blast.
I thought about that as I watched. I thought: “I don’t play enough with Dancer. She does this for me, not for the sheer joy of playing with me.”
I tried it. I asked her to do a short sequence. I played with her. I gave her treats. I pulled out a toy and I ran shrieking away from her and played tug with her when she got to me. I asked her to do another sequence and got a joyful dog. I played tug with her, I let her win and chased her all over the arena. I was laughing and she was teasing me by pretending not to notice that I was sneaking up on her… right until she grabbed the toy and ran away. After a while I offered a treat in exchange… and then started all over again. I tried to play lots more than I asked her to work–and I got a fast happy dog who was having a blast.
I need to play more. Lots more.