Note: I originally wrote this article in 2012. Naboo is now 6 years old, but these keys to optimal learning are timeless!
My life has changed in many ways now that I have a puppy. There are joys, frustrations, and a different rhythm to my days.
While dogs and humans certainly have different brains, we share the same fundamental nervous system. This means the learning principles I use with my movement and dance students also apply to training a puppy!
Boost Your Learning with These 5 Easy Principles
1. Is pleasant and enjoyable
If you start getting frustrated, it’s time to take a break. So when my pup wanders away during training, it’s a signal that he’s no longer having fun.
2. Is at your pace
Start where you’re at, not where others are or where you think you should be. Then add more challenges incrementally. I can’t expect my pup to “stay” for 5 minutes when he’s never “stayed” before.
3. Is playful
Make learning a new skill into a game. To learn “Come,” Naboo and I play “Hide and Seek.”
4. Includes frequent rests
After a handful of repetitions, it’s time to give your attention a break. In Naboo’s case, some petting or a short game of fetch allows him to be refreshed and ready to resume training.
5. Is broken down into pieces
Instead of doing everything at once and at full speed, just do part of it, at a slower speed. Like many of the lessons I teach in my movement classes, teaching a new behavior to a puppy is done in pieces, slowly building to completion, then refining to make it easier and reliably repeatable.
So next time you want to improve upon or learn something new, I invite you to experiment with these principles and enjoy the results!