How to train a lazy dog
Lazy dogs are hard work. You have your awesome training plan in your head, your treats in your bag and your clicker in your hand and you are ready to go, so you get in that garden and you say dog, let’s train. And they look up at your from their hound sleeper as if to say ‘you do it.’ It can be disheartening, and your dream of going on the X-factor with your amazing (lazy) dog is shattered right there. ….Not that I’ve ever dreamt of going onto X-factor, anyway, here are some tips on how to work with your lazy dog.
Motivation: That is the first thing you need to look at. What really motivates your dog? A specific treat, toy, attention, a game. And, how motivated are you? You need to be moving around, encouraging your dog, be ready to praise him or prompt him. We call this your jolly routine.
Duration: How long can you work with your dog until you see that vacant stare? Time it and write it down. With lazy dogs, it’s often much better to do very short training sessions, and stop the session while they are still having fun. So if your dog can focus nicely for two minutes, you are going to stop your session after one and a half minute.
Build it up: Once you know how long your dog is able to stay focused in a training session or an activity, you can build the duration up in small increments. So let’s say your dog was able to focus and interact for two solid minutes (but remember you stopped before your dog got bored), then your next criterion would be to train for two minutes and 5 seconds, then 10 seconds, etc.
Jammin’: Set up some things for your dog to interact with. Have your clicker ready (or a verbal yes), and start rewarding you dog for ANYTHING he does. Move around, loosen up and make sure your tone of voice does the same. You can click foot movements, eye movements, head movements, sniffing stuff, etc. Really anything the dog does. Playing this game with them every now and then will motivate your dog to offer more and more behaviours, your dog will also become very responsive to the clicker or your verbal yes. The best of all, your dog’s focus will be on why he earned a treat and how can he earn one again, instead of oooh…. tree mail.
To take this game even further, you will notice that something clicks for your dog and he will offer a specific behaviour more often than the others. You can use this opportunity to reinforce that behaviour even more and then eventually even put a cue to it. We have managed to come up with all sorts of weird and wonderful ‘party tricks’ the dogs can perform, by just playing this type of game.
General issues when training with a ‘lazy dog’
They just sit down or lie down and stare at you. So keep them moving, instead of feeding them the treat, toss it to the side so that they have to go get the treat and come back to repeat the behavioral in order to earn another treat (or whichever reward you are using).
They walk away when they are done. Keep them on a leash so that they can not walk away from the session. If they get to walk away from their session, they will just do it again and again. However, if your dog is walking away from the activity, you need to ask yourself what you can do to make it worth his while to rather spend that time with you.
Remember that less is more. The shorter your training sessions are, the easier the dog can process what he has learned and the information he receives seem to be a lot less confusing.
By Tersha, Trainer