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Winter can be tough to get through some years, but since hibernation is simply not an option for most of us, we have to make the most of it. Winter with a young dog or a dog in training can be even more challenging, but there are lots of great tips on how you can continue to work and train your dog, even when it's too frigid to go outdoors.
Warm Indoor Spots
These may be plentiful or they may be sparce, depending on where you live, but there may be some places you haven't thought about where you can get out of the cold. Most pet stores will allow dogs in and they can be a great place to practise skills and obedience in a new location. Some hardware stores will also allow dogs in. Check with management to make sure you are allowed in. You may also find schools or other buildings where you may be allowed to do some training with your dog. It never hurts to ask!
Check if your local dog training locations have rental options. Our own facility offers Drop-In Training times where all current students are invited to come out and train in an available hall. There is no additional cost for this for current students. For those who are not students, our halls are often available for rentals. Ask around to see if someone in your area offers these types of options.
Practise Stays and Build on Distractions
Stays are a great and important part of all obedience training programs. It's sometimes hard to convince people to work on their stays since they aren't nearly as much fun to practise as walking on lead, recalls etc. They are a game changer though. Stays teach your dog to have emotional control, which will help you with distractions in any and all situations.
The nice thing about stays is they require very little space to practise. You can build incredible stays by simply introducting a variety of distractions and reinforcing the dog's good choices to remain in the stay regardless of what they're faced with. Start small and build on their successes - in very short order, you'll be amazed at what your dog can hold a sit or down through.
Build Value for Positions
This is another great way of training without the need for a large space. Build value for the positions you want your dog to repeat. Things like control position, which is a sit at your left side are great to reinforce at every opportunity. Control position is one of my most relied upon skills with my dogs. I want to be able to get my dog sitting at my side at the drop of a hat when the need arises.
A sit in front will be very valuable for the ending of your recall, so spending some time rewarding that particular position will come in handy as you build the skills surrounding it.
Playtime & Settle
This is a GREAT skill that doesn't need a ton of space to practise and perfect. Teach your dog to stop and settle/sit on cue. Check out this video of 14 week old Ned learning to master the Playtime & Settle skill. This will help you teach your dog an off-switch, which is essential to have.
Tricks, Tricks, TRICKS
Quite frankly, I'll never stop saying this - tricks are AMAZING for so many reasons. They'll build confidence, strengthen communication and tire a dog out quickly. Short trick sessions are wonderful for draining a dog's excess energy. On days where it's too cold to go outside, plan a few trick sessions to keep your dog in the learning habit.
Find a Class
Haven't been to dog school in a while? Winter is a great time to get back into it as it will give you a warm indoor space to go to with your dog and you can brush up on old skills or even learn some new ones. Most schools offer a variety of classes including Tricks, Agility, Rally, Obedience. Find something fun and motivating to keep you in training mode with your dog.
As always, Happy Training!