Finding the Time to Train

Most tasks must be scheduled and planned, as we all have very busy lives. Like any dog owner, I’m sure that you’ve had difficulty finding the time to do the training you’d like to do. There’s work, the kids, the spouse, the house, the garden and more!

As I see it, training need not be scheduled, nor a task at all. It can and should be more spontaneous. After all, if your dog jumps up or pulls on leash, how much time did you schedule for training your dog these behaviors? You do know that you trained your dog to do things, right? If not, let me tell you that you most certainly did!

Without any thought or planning, and without a training schedule, you have successfully taught your dog to jump up on people by rewarding her with attention for doing so. In the same way, you have taught her that pulling on the leash will result in moving forward to reach the desired destination. It was all so very easy, wasn’t it? And I bet you didn’t even notice the time it took out of your daily routine.

Training your dog to sit for petting or to walk nicely on leash can be just as easy. All you have to do is what you’ve been doing all along, reward the behavior. You’ll also have to ignore the behavior that you don’t want, but you’ve probably been doing that all along, too. You know, those times when you’re dog was doing something wonderful and you either didn’t notice or didn’t let him know that he was wonderful? You probably didn’t know it, but you were teaching him that nothing good comes from sitting quietly and behaving.

Are you getting the message here? Yep, I’m saying that your dog is basically everything you’ve taught her to be. You found the time to teach her the bad habits; you definitely have the time to teach her the good ones!

The secret is to provide spontaneous, short, upbeat learning experiences within the normal course of your day. We all do lots of activities from which we could take a break and call our dog to us (there’s your recall), ask the dog to sit, ask for a down and give him a meal stuffed in a Kong. What does that take, one minute, maybe two? Well, if you have a Malamute, it might take five minutes. With my Jack Russell, it takes almost 30 seconds.

Later, while watching the evening news, call the dog to you during the commercial break. With a treat in hand, practice “leave it” until the news comes back on. I mean, you don’t even have to get up off the couch! Then let your dog practice a down-stay with a chew toy until the next commercial break. It’s so incredibly painless!

I have treats hidden all over that house at human level, where dogs can’t get to them. I can be in any room and basically pull treats out of thin air (I imagine that’s what my dog’s think). Do you have any idea how interesting that makes me to my dogs? Additionally, I can train anytime, anywhere.

Not only will “training as a lifestyle” make things easy for you, it keeps things fun and positive for your dog. In fact, if you do it right, your dog will eventually associate the cues you give her with that upbeat, positive feeling and the simple act of complying will become a reward in itself. In turn, the fact that your dog is doing as you ask will become a reward for you. It’s a beautiful thing!

Here is a short list of potential, spontaneous training opportunities:

During a TV commercial break...work on Leave It and Take It

During a bath, brushing or nail trim...Sit, Down, Stand, Roll Over

During a walk...Heel, Sit

Using the dog’s dinner as training treats (no bowl)...Whatever you want!

While cooking dinner, while eating dinner...Down, Stay, Go to Your Place

While taking a break from checking/writing email...Whatever you want!

In the waiting room at the vet’s office...Sit, Down, Stand, Off, Touch

While getting ready for work...Down, Stay, Go to Your Place

My favorite: When taking a bathroom break...have your dog heel off-leash as you walk to the bathroom, have him “stay” outside the bathroom door, then have him heel off-leash on your way back to the couch. The reward can be a stuffed Kong, yummy treat or a good old fashioned tummy rub.

I’m sure you can think of dozens more!