It is easy to get in the habit of working with your dog at close range. Many commands like 'sit' or 'shake' are things that you expect your dog to do when you are close to her. In fact, many dog owners make the mistake of only working at close range, inadvertently training their companions that they only need to pay attention when they are nearby.
However, there are major advantages to training your older dog to run away and still follow basic obedience commands. The main plus is that it extends the range of your command and response. Imagine being able to have your canine sit, stand, or lie down while she is 20 yards away from you! This is the power of starting to work with your dog from a distance.
This guide will offer three methods to try, each with a distinct command for a different version of 'run away' that will come in handy for training. Although it can take an older dog a little longer to learn new behaviors, all of the methods offered here are easy ways to get started with working together at a distance.
There are three methods in this guide. Decide which method works best for what you are looking to work on with your dog long term, or, put them all on separate commands and teach all three!
This method will train your older dog to run away and touch his nose to a target that you can place wherever you please. Or, you can train him to go to the target and wait for the next command if you like. Use whatever you want for a target--just be consistent. One good idea is a sticky note, which makes it easy to put your target on a vertical surface.
This trick will teach your older dog to run away from you and around an object. It is most helpful for outdoor work. Many trainers use it for dog sports like agility or herding trials.
This method lets you set a boundary using a piece of rope. You will send her away from you to a position behind the boundary of your choice. You can later use this skill to teach your dog to stay out of a room or stay off the porch while you are entertaining company.
All of the methods used in this guide assume you have a clicker. This inexpensive tool allows you to tell your dog exactly when she is doing the right thing, giving you a few seconds to get a reward to her after the fact. If you do not have a clicker, no problem! Just use a special sound or word that you always follow with a reward – something that you just use for training sessions.
You can use very small pieces of food as a reward when training your older dog. If he is on a diet, you can use some of his regular kibble to train with--just mix in a few tastier treats so he is randomly rewarded with something extra special. Over time, once your dog already understands a command, you can decrease the rate of reward until you are just rewarding the very best examples of a given behavior.
Keep it Positive
Training is not the time for punishment. Keep your training sessions fun and short so that your older dog will not lose interest. Focus on rewarding success and ignore failures. Set the bar to the level that she is at and you will find that she will learn quickly.