What is engagement? Why is it important? What does it mean? How do I know if my dog is engaged?
In dog training, engagement is vital to have a dog that is happily working with you, as part of a team. You are relevant to them and they want to please you.
A dog that is engaged with you, knows that their “paycheque” (praise, food motivators, treats, toys and time spent with you) comes from YOU and it helps them to be motivated to WANT TO work and play with you. It also means that interacting with their owner is worth it. Respect is earned both ways.
Engagement helps you to work your dog with lots of environment changes and distractions that do not affect the dogs focus on you or their desire to work. They have fun and enjoy their time with you.
Communication is vital. Knowing how to be a fair communicator helps dogs understand right from wrong. This in turn helps support their choice making, while having fun and learning at the same time. This then helps to strengthen your relationship with your dog.
On the flip side, a dog can show affection and be loving in nature, but do not be fooled. It does NOT mean they respect you. Dogs need true leadership to support their decisions. This means having an advocate, communicator, and support system in place to help them learn.
Dogs unfortunately for humans, do not come preprogramed. If we want a well behaved dog, we have to put the time and effort into it. It doesn’t happen overnight. Engagement is a key part of the puzzle. But the results of your efforts are so worth it. You can have an amazing relationship with your dog and be able to take them anywhere and enjoy them in your home and in the public.
When we start puppies off, we start immediately with engagement games and exercises to help with creating a positive and lasting foundation. We can do the same with older dogs too. Just takes a bit of effort and time, but is not time consuming.
Enjoy your dog, but set them up for success vs failure. Enjoy the fruits of your labour if you put the time into it. You will never regret it. If you don’t, you can’t complain as you haven’t done anything to create a supportive environment your dog can learn from.
Get out there and train your dog! Looking for engagement exercises? Take a look on YouTube! Lots of great content out there. Good Doggy! Youtube channel shares 3 great engagement exercises to start off with (name recognition, feeding station game, food toss game). Have fun! Train on!