Make Training Easy to Do
Updated: Oct 1
Sometimes the idea of training your dog can feel overwhelming. But I'm here to tell you that basic training doesn't have to be a labor-intensive process that eats up big chunks of your day. You can actually get some nice training accomplished, even if you can only carve out two 5-minute training sessions per day.
Today's blog provides five simple tips to make training opportunities do-able and easy.
#1: Prioritize training tasks
If you have limited time, decide which tasks are the most important to you and focus on them. If you have too many training tasks on your list of things to do, it'll feel overwhelming and you may then give up on all training.
#2: Make a daily training commitment
Even if you only have a few minutes per day to work with your dog, make a pact with yourself that you will actually do the training. Stay honest by keeping a simple log. Perhaps you can do a bit of training during a commercial break. Or train for a couple minutes and then reward yourself with a treat!
#3: Make access to treats easy
Training moments can present themselves at odd times throughout the day, so you want to be prepared for those opportunities. For example, if your normally barky dog hears a sound outside and does NOT bark, you'll want to praise her warmly for that good choice and then promptly toss her a yummy treat.
You can carry treats in your pockets, or in a treat pouch. You can also stash goodies out of the dog's reach all around the house so you'll have quick and easy access when a training moment presents itself. You'll be like a magician pulling goodies out of thin air to reinforce your dog for good behavior.
#4: Make learning easy for the dog
Think about how you can set up the environment so it's easy for the dog to figure out what you'd like her to do. Then, observe carefully and reward the stuff you like. Here's one example:
Tether your dog or set up an exercise pen near where you sit to watch TV. Place a dog bed within the tether zone (or inside the pen). Whenever you see the dog lie down on the bed, praise and toss her a treat. You can then use a 'release' cue like OKAY and toss a second treat slightly away from the bed to re-set the dog for another opportunity to go lie on the bed. Before you know it, the dog will be promptly lying down on the bed to cause you to deliver treats!
Next, while the dog is loose, set up the dog bed in a room where you'll be spending some time. Have treats within easy reach. Notice when she chooses to lie down on the bed, and toss a treat to reward her. Continue to periodically lob treats right to the bed to reward her for maintaining that position for gradually longer periods of time.
I've been doing this training with a lovely cavalier that's staying with me now. Gigi has become "magnetized" to her dog bed, wherever I happen to set it up. We've practiced with her bed near my desk, at the threshold of the bathroom while I'm brushing my teeth or applying makeup, in the living room while I watch the news, and at the threshold of the kitchen while I'm preparing food.
#5: Manage the environment to prevent rehearsal of unwanted behavior
When you're not prepared to supervise and train your dog, think of ways to keep her from engaging in behaviors you DON'T want her to do. Otherwise, the more practice the dog gets doing the undesired behaviors, the stronger those behaviors become, and the more training work you'll have to undo these issues. For example:
If your dog barks excessively when looking through a particular window, gate the dog out of that room or block her view by drawing the shades or by putting up opaque film or poster board on the lower part of the window.
If she begs at the table when the family is eating, give her a food puzzle to keep her contentedly occupied.
If your dog likes to steal your shoes or dirty laundry, keep that stuff up and out of her reach.
Then, whenever you have the time and motivation to do so, actually address those issues by teaching acceptable alternatives to replace the problem behaviors.
If you need training guidance, I'm always happy to help, either remotely or in person!
Virginia Dare is a certified dog trainer & behavior counselor with decades of experience. Her business offers live video consultations anywhere in the US for training and behavior help, along with pre- and post-arrival counseling for new puppies.
She also provides in-home, private lessons and behavior consultations in northern Fairfield and Westchester counties, western New Haven county, Putnam and southern Dutchess counties.
Please visit www.NorthStarCanines.com/services to learn more, or contact me at 804.784.0120