In 2016 I ran the London marathon (you can blame my brother, I never could resist a challenge!!), I’m not just showing off, although it was one of the best days of my life . There are actually quite a few similarities in running a marathon and training our dogs and puppies. I found out I had a place about 6 months before the event which gave me plenty of time to prepare and train. I started simply with a 0 – 5km app (I really wasn’t a runner!). Over those months I trained a little most days, building up the distance and time in each session, I even trained in minus 17 degree weather on a trip to Canada.
On the day itself I bizarrely found the race quite easy; I say race, I was never in any danger of winning :0). It was an amazing day, but it could have been a very different story if I hadn’t put the time and effort in and built up slowly, I remember at about mile 3 talking to a girl who was ready to give up (I’m not sure if she did or not), she admitted not having trained, she kept putting it off. Here she was with a once in a lifetime opportunity and she hadn’t put the work in.
Back to dog training, it’s why we are here after all. I often talk to clients about the need to set our dogs up for success, to make things easy to start with. If we do, our dogs are far more likely to enjoy the process and want to continue to work with us. Let’s face it, If I had just turned up on the day of the marathon and attempted to finish I would have failed.
Let’s look at it in the context of loose lead walking, we pop our dogs lead on and set off to the park, a place where they meet their mates and get to run around, and don’t forget all those pee-mails on the way! It is no surprise that they want to get there are quickly as possible, so they pull on the end of their lead. If we asked them to loose lead walk all the way there without any prior work they would in all likelihood fail, causing frustration and a sore arm for us. We may even be tempted to give up and resign ourselves to a lifetime of being dragged everywhere.
If instead, we spent time training with our dogs in a boring place (empty car parks are great for this), practicing our loose lead walking with lots of rewards to make us fun to be with, I bet they could manage a good few minutes of loose lead walking. Over time we make it abit more difficult for them, maybe practice on the way home from the park, when they are tired and have had their fun. The more we practice the better we both get at it until eventually comes the day when you can both walk to the park with a ‘smile’ in your lead (your London Marathon day!).
There are few quick fixes in dog training (if you want lasting results), taking the time to do it properly pays dividends for everyone, and can last a lifetime. Train little and often, make it fun and build up the difficulty over time.