A dog that maintains connection while training is crucial to a successful session. However, there are times when we must disconnect from our dogs, and teaching relaxation games will prevent your dog from disconnecting and forming bad habits like wandering and sniffing.
The Disconnect Dilemma
Handlers often find themselves disengaging from their dogs for various reasons — turning to talk to instructors, setting up equipment, or even getting distracted by cameras. These moments might seem inconsequential, but they can significantly impact your dog’s ability to maintain connection.
Here’s a typical example of a handler disconnecting. Strive and I are at an agility seminar. Notice how, as soon as I tossed Strive’s toy, I turned away from her, fiddled with the wing, and talked to the instructor. Because of our training, Strive was a good girl and didn’t leave me, but I should have been engaged with her and the toy and given her something else to do as I discussed what happened.
Alternatives to Disconnects
To address this issue of handler disconnection, you can implement alternatives that give your dog something to do while you are busy. In this video, I do a good job giving Excel something to do while I talk to the instructor. This prevents him from disconnecting and running around.
Here are some alternative activities to manage the time while you are busy.
- Treat Magnet Technique:
- Instead of disconnecting entirely, use a treat magnet to keep the dog close.
- Engage the dog with treats, ensuring they stay focused on you during discussions or adjustments.
- Down Stay or Station:
- Place the dog in a down stay or on a designated station off to the side.
- This gives the dog something to do while the handler addresses other matters.
- Peek and Treat:
- Incorporate the “peek” command, where the dog comes between your legs.
- Use a treat magnet to occupy the dog.
- Leash or Crate:
- If the situation requires more control, putting the dog on a leash or in a crate is a viable option.
- This prevents the dog from wandering off or becoming distracted during breaks in training.
If you want to learn more connection games, please join me for my December online class at Fenzi Dog Sports Academy, Connect and Engage With Games: Build Focus for Sports Dogs!
Maintaining a strong connection with our dogs is crucial for successful training sessions. Recognizing and addressing disconnects is the first step toward fostering a positive and engaged relationship. By implementing relaxation games like treat magnets, down stays, and focused commands, handlers can ensure that every moment in training is an opportunity for connection and growth. Let’s strive to be more aware of these moments and build stronger bonds with our dogs.