How your dog spends it's everyday life will have a big impact on how well-behaved (or not!) they are when you particularly want them to be - for example on the lead or coming back when called.
And every family is different so your rules and expectations will be unique to your household e.g. dogs on furniture, upstairs, on beds etc.
It isn't a case of only training them when you pick time to have a session - every interaction with your dog is valuable information to them about how consistent a trainer you are.
What’s the bigger picture?
The lifestyle questions I ask during a 1-2-1 session or home visit get people thinking about their dogs in broader terms, rather than just a dog who gets over aroused at training classes or out and about. The questions I pose can have a big impact on a dog’s ability to manage its arousal levels in any situation, not just an exciting environment.
For example a young dog who is experiencing everything for the first time is likely to be much more excited than an old hand who’s been there, done that and bought the T-shirt!
The breed or type of dog you have is going to influence their reactions - researching your dog’s fundamental genetic make up may get you thinking about the sort of rewards you’re using.
If your dog is a crossbreed or lovable Heinz 57, you might even go so far as getting their heritage checked out with a DNA test:
What our dogs are eating has an enormous influence on their attitude and behaviour. Changing the brand of food their on could make a big difference, as could tweaking their mealtime schedule.
I recommend two meals a day, with food being put down for no more than 10 minutes before being taken up - regardless of how much has been eaten.
Free feeding (food being left down all day) is a bad idea - food then becomes a meaningless resource as it’s available all of the time.
Obviously how much physical exercise your dog gets will have an influence on their behaviour. Ideally they would be getting approx. 10-20 minutes or so on lead walking (avoiding pulling with a head collar or harness) to build good core strength and muscle tone. This will help avoid injuries as your dog will be nicely warmed up before they start racing around.
Then they should also get some off-lead fun (perhaps 45 minutes - 1.5 hours as a minimum spread out across the day). Here are a few agility-related fitness things that I have in mind when I'm walking my dogs:
- Running fast! That’s what we’d like to see in agility, so learning how to open up and really run FAST on a walk is an excellent way to combine daily exercise with agility aspirations
- Proprioception - walking and running on different surfaces, for example through woodland/ moorland, to help make your dog more aware of their body
- Hill work - changing gaits from walking/ trotting/ running
- Our fantastic team at The Smart Clinic (http://www.smartvetwales.co.uk/) also recommend steady, regular exercise such as going running or cycling with your dog
- As with all things, look to implement them one at a time and keep a check on your dog so as not to overdo it
Taking into account your dog’s previous training history is important when you’re looking to make a change, as better to make a few simple changes successfully, than trying to implement a detailed and complicated lifestyle change all at once.
You will both have more success if you add new training exercises and games in bit by bit, so that they become part of your daily routine and life with your dog.
Plus perhaps it's worth exploring other training avenues (Kennel Club Good Citizen Awards, Trick Training, Gun Dog, Agility etc.) that you might enjoy - any activities such as these are a valuable investment in your relationship with your dog.