I once heard a dog's drive broken down very simply by Ken Licklider of Von Liche Kennels...He said 'Dogs live for 4 things: Air, Food, Water, and Sex...and you better be making love to your dog every day.' (this is a polite version - the live version had more expletives. Anyone that has heard Ken speak understands what I am talking about...) This statement was made before he encouraged a group of stoic police K9 officers to stand up and make baby sounds and get animated in an effort to practice 'love making' to their dogs...
Obviously that is an extreme way to say - you better be showing your dog love and enthusiasm when they succeed :)
K9s are motivated by many things: food, toys etc but id be lying if I said I didn't regularly smile, dance, shout HUZZAH to the K9 adding excitement and reward during training. I tell my clients this all the time 'I train in the woods so I can act like a fool without anyone judging me.'
Now at this point anyone reading this needs to think about how they have spoken to their dog when nobody is watching...right as you come home after a long day of work...tail wagging: how do you sound? What do you say? How happy does that make your pup? Well...add that energy and reckless abandon to training. Let the neighbors talk...who cares. Your dog will love you for it! Dogs love structure and they love understanding how to be successful. You don't exactly instill clarity and success by offering a modest golf clap. You need to EXPLODE with happy energy every now and then when you dog succeeds during training. Overall, it is extremely important to not let training get stale and boring. You will feel it and so will your dog. I fully encourage clients to take a shot, drink a beer or do whatever you have to do to relax and find your swagger before working your dog...(within reason - please don't get hammered and stumble into the street with your dog.)
It is also important to not make life with your dog JUST training. This can be a tough for a lot of my clients. They work so hard to learn, gain all this info and do right by their dogs with training. Then, after a time, I say to them, 'Ok, now spend the next day or 2 not training at all - just have fun.'
See, humans are goofy. We work too hard, always driving forward. Success success growth growth ego ego. If we are not careful and that mindset creeps into training = you will hit walls. Guaranteed.
Ive been there, trust me...
When I was in Florida testing for my working dog certifications Liesel Weapon and I were hitting training hard. Every day - early start, late finish. Tracking, bite work, nose work, advanced obedience rinse repeat. Around day 10 LW started fighting me a bit. I was admittedly getting frustrated with her and could tell she was stressed because of it. Just as I grabbed the leash, ready to head back out to the training field I stopped...
I hung up the leash...left campus...drove an hour north into Georgia...Bought a bag of skittles and a pop and went to the nearest movie theater. For what it is worth I saw the newest rendition of 'Magnificent 7.' It was ok. Plot was to be expected, cinematography over did it with sun flares and low angles...but hey, it was a cheesy western and I spent the next 2 hours NOT training.
After the movie I drove back to campus in the dark, parked my car in a field and grabbed Liesel. With headlights on and music blaring we executed a full on Kevin Bacon-esque footloose warehouse scene (see video for reference...). We goofed around, danced and I randomly tossed a few easy peasy commands and behaviors in there just for fun and called it a night.
This is pretty much what I looked like dancing with Liesel Weapon around our rental Honda in that field...
The next day LW leveled up in ever single discipline. Moral of the story : Sometimes to take the biggest step forward in training you have to take a step back, or stop walking altogether and dance for a bit :) Set goals for training, and when your K9 succeeds - you better be their biggest cheerleader.
If you feel dumb/embarrassed/foolish working your dog - then you are doing it right ;)