Training Tips for Superstar Dogs

Surprising ways to make the most of training time with your dog.

You see these amazing creatures, soaring and speeding in agility and demonstrating incredible concentration in obedience. Don’t you wonder how they do it? We did too, and over the years, we’ve had the opportunity to ask the best trainers for a few of the secrets that separate the good from the great, at least where dog sports are concerned.

Obedience competitor Helen Marie Capps, who has trained top-performing Brittanys, says, "You have to be in charge but let your dog think that it’s his idea. Being consistent is the key. When I say sit I mean it the first time, not after three or four repetitions."

Dave Maurer, of Urbana, Ohio, AKC Lifetime Achievement Award in Obedience awardee, says, "Motivating them to do their best for you is the most important thing. It also helps to keep an open mind about new training methods. Get with the people who are successful and watch what they do with their dogs and how their dogs respond. You have to be willing to try new things if what you were doing before isn’t producing the results you want."

International agility competitor and trainer Daisy Peel says, "I try to do something every day, like a long walk. I do tricks training, which keeps their brains occupied."

AKC World Cup obedience-team competitor Joanne Johnson told AKC Family Dog, "Especially with big breeds, start training when they are puppies and you can still control them. If you wait till they are full grown, you’ve got a mammoth problem on your hands."

Kimberly Sisak, who has competed with the AKC United States World Agility Team with her rescue Papillon, Phoebe, says, "Play when you train, train when you play. If you feel like you are engaged in a stodgy training session, then your dog does, too. Your dog should not know the difference between training sessions and outright play."

Find a dog trainer near your location and take the Canine Good Citizen test for your dog.