It’s really easy to end up in a rut. Daily routines can become really hard to break out of. You work, you eat, you clean, you walk the dog, you do the training, and somehow it’s always the same. Especially when you are dealing with behavior issues with your dog, it is so easy for your training to fall into a rut. We end up so focused on our problem behavior training, that it quickly becomes monotonous and not fun for us, or for our dog.
So how do we break out of this rut? What can we do to mix up the training when there is something so important to focus on?
This is where some Goofy Training can save the day. What exactly do I mean by “Goofy Training”? In this context I am generally referring to training that has nothing to do with your actual goals. (Non Goal Oriented Training just doesn’t have the same ring to it.) Basically, take a break from the heavy lifting training and do something goofy. Teach your dog to spin, to push something, get them climbing up on stupid stuff on your walks, or even teach them to boop noses with you!
Even if you have a specific goal you are working towards, whether it’s a problem behavior, a sport, or a therapy dog goal, you can always step outside of that goal to have some fun while training with your dog. There are so many great benefits to including goofy work into your training plan. Here are just a few.
The most important part of breaking out of a training rut is having some fun. When you are working on your goal
focused training only, it can start to feel boring, monotonous and even overwhelming after a while. This goes for your dog too. It is so beneficial to both of you to take a break from it and just have some fun together.
It helps to maintain the bond between you and your dog.
When training is boring we get frustrated and can feel resentful. We can start to resent our dog for having to do this stupid work, and get frustrated that they aren’t ready for the next level yet.
When our dogs are bored, they become less responsive, and this just accelerates our frustration and resentment. So doing something where you are both able to step away from the same few exercises, but still work together and be successful at it, can be a life saver for your relationship with your dog and with training in general.
Especially if you find your goal focused training stalled at a certain point, I usually recommend that your goofy training be something that is quick and easy to teach and learn. That success can go a long way very quickly in boosting morale and getting your other training back on track as well.
It could accelerate your goal focused training.
Sometimes the best thing you can do for your training is to take a break. We say it a lot in lessons, that days off are just as important as days on. It’s important for our dogs, and us, to take some time to breathe away from learning.
However, sometimes they need a break from our goal focused training while their brain still needs to be worked. This is where teaching something goofy can come in to play! Teaching your reactive dog a spin still means their brain is getting exercised (and a little bit of physical exercise as well) but without the emotional stress of reactivity work for both of you.
When you take that moment away to teach something else, you may find that you come back to your goal focused training and all of a sudden your dog is a little sharper, faster, and more willing to do the work. You may even find that you start seeing improvement a little faster. Sometimes our dog’s just really need a moment away, and a win.
Sometimes, goofy tricks can be practical.
Seriously, often those silly little things we teach our dogs in the living room can have real life, practical applications that can actually serve our goal focused training. For example, if you are working on agility focused skills, teaching your dog a spin and focusing on getting a nice tight circle can help your dog learn to bend their body a little better for weaves.
If you are focused on getting your dog out in public, or even working on reactivity, teaching your dog to step between your legs and stay there (sometimes called Middle or Peekaboo) can be super handy. It helps get them out of the way in crowded stores, and it can help create space in a potentially reactive situation.
That isn’t to say you should focus your goofy training only on things that can serve your goal focused training, because then that isn’t goofy training. But keep it in the back of your head once your dog has learned the new thing. How else can we use this skill?
It can help you find holes in your handling.
Sometimes the reason that our goal focused training is stalling out is because of a handling choice we are making that we are completely unaware of. Taking a step away to do something that we have no stake in being successful can help us realize that something we are doing might be confusing for our dog.
Maybe we are over gesturing, keeping the food in our hand too long, expecting too much too quickly, or struggling to piece out the small steps from the big picture. Whatever it is, it can be hard to recognize in the moment, but odds are you will do something similar while teaching another skill. This gives us a great opportunity to figure out how to fix it while working on a skill we don’t particularly care about, and then take that back to our other training.
So train something goofy! Take a break, have some fun with your dog, and then head back to your goal focused training feeling a little more fresh and happy. Trust us, it works for us all the time.