Schooner, Great Dane service pup in training, feels that way every day. I gave you the lowdown on his challenges at our last visit to the service dog organization.
Here’s what I’ve been doing to help pump up his energy and enthusiasm level. If you have a dog who you might label stubborn, lazy or hard headed, try some of these ideas. You might see that it’s not any of those things, but merely an issue of enthusiasm.
Ways to Boost Enthusiasm
- Go back to basics. I’d been excited about teaching Schooner as much as I could. Puppies are like sponges and I didn’t want to miss any teachable moments. In my haste to fill his brain full of the many service dog tasks, good manners, and precise behaviors, I might have fried his baby brain. I’m used to Labradors who can’t learn fast enough — they want more, more, more!
- Cheerlead. I am normally a quiet trainer. My body is still. I’m silent. I let the clicker do all the talking. Schooner needs a little bit more excitement and encouragement. It’s been a challenge for me to squeal and carry on, but after a few tries, I’m getting pretty good at it.
- Get physical. Surprise you? A clicker trainer saying “get physical?” What I mean is this: Schooner really likes to be thumped on the side, rather roughly. This kind of physical praise seems to really pump Schooner up. He gets excited and then looks forward to his next opportunity to earn some good ol’ thumpin’.
- Work for food. I’ve cut Schooner’s food back by about 1/3. He earns that remaining 1/3 of his calories through high value treats when we’re training. High value means something different to every dog. For Schooner, it means leftover flank steak, summer sausage, and cheddar cheese crumbles. We’ll keep trying new food treats, as it’s good to have several really good options when training.
- Leave ’em wanting more. With the Labradors, I’m used to longer training sessions. Most Labradors think a short training session is a joke — if they’re gonna train, they’re gonna really train! For Schooner, though, I’ve been setting a timer for five minutes. I stop about 15 seconds shy of the alarm. We’re done! Short and sweet.
Every service pup in-training that comes through our home teaches me something new. And for that, I’m thankful. And excited. It’s always fun to try new things, to be challenged, to figure new solutions.
Your turn: Have you had to pump up your dog’s enthusiasm? What’s worked for you?
Leave a comment below and let us know!