How many times have you said to yourself: "Gee, I need to practice with my dog, but I just don't have time to train today." A friend recently said this very thing to me. Of course, having dogs most of my life and believing in practical training, I readily had an answer:
"Do you have time to eat?
Do you have time to watch television...even the news?
Do you have time to get your mail?
Do you have time to surf the Internet?"
Well, then you have time to train. Isn't the purpose of training your dog to improve communications with your pet and increase the harmony between all the 2-legged and 4-legged members of your family?
Training doesn't always have to mean going to a dog-friendly park. Training doesn't have to take place on a large field. Training doesn't always include special equipment and time spent setting it up. Training doesn't have to involve a 30-minute block of time. And, training should never be tedious or boring.
Training opportunities are all around you. There's no better place to begin than in the home and there's no better time than RIGHT NOW.
Note: Adjust each training suggestion to the appropriate level for you and your pup, increasing the difficulty as training progresses. If you have questions, please check with your trainer.
TIPS - Training In Practical Situations
- Place the dog on a down/stay during each commercial break. If the pup is housetrained, allow it freedom during the program.
- When your dog is easily holding a 5-minute down/stay, reverse the procedure. Have the dog do a down/stay during the program and practice a more active command, such as heel, during the commercial break.
- As training progresses, place your dog on a down/stay and leave the immediate area during each commercial break. Remember to enforce the command before leaving the room and upon re-entering.
- If crate training is an issue, place the dog into the crate during each commercial and allow the dog to come out during the program. Then flip the times in the crate and the times outside. The randomness of your actions will lessen anxiety associated with crate training, i.e. owner leaving home.
- If your dog becomes nervous and anxious during thunderstorms rent a movie that features them, i.e. The Perfect Storm. With your dog on a down/stay by your side, start the movie and play it very softly. Play and replay the weather scenes - - very softly. As your dog becomes accustomed to the noise, g-r-a-d-u-a-l-l-y increase the volume. Do this several times over a period of days, or even weeks, until you've solved the problem. This method also works for gunfire. Remember: go slowly. There are also CDs available with specific sounds.
Getting the Mail:
- Our mail is not delivered to our door; I must walk a good block. Take the dog along and use this time for a lesson in heel, walking sits or walking downs. Have your pet sit/stay while you reach into the box. Leave your dog on a stay and walk away; then, recall the dog to heel while you are in motion.
- I must cross two streets to reach our mailbox. This is a great opportunity to reinforce curb training. My dog must automatically stop at all curbs and then does not step off without an "OK, heel" command.
- Is your pup learning to carry or to retrieve? Getting the mail is the perfect opportunity to let your pup practice by retrieving a piece of purposefully dropped junk mail and carry it home.
- We often meet up with neighbors at the cluster mailbox. This is a perfect time to practice socialization skills with your pup. Be sure you have treats to pass out to neighborhood children so that your dog can be petted by a variety of people. You may wish to introduce a command such as "go see" or "make friends," to insure that socialization is done only with your permission in appropriate circumstances.
Working in the Yard:
- Place your dog on a down/stay as you move about the yard. Randomly, turn and face your dog, reinforcing the stay command. Periodically, break that pattern by either returning to your dog and releasing it or calling the dog to come to you.
- Yard time is great for walking sits, walking downs, recall in motion, figure-8 heeling patterns - around two trees, two lawn chairs, etc.
- Prior to taking the dog into the yard, place "forbidden" food items. Take your dog into the yard, on leash, and practice the "leave it" command. Be certain to have appropriate dog treats (food/ball/toy) for a reward.
- "Leave it" can also involve chasing a rake or a broom. (Note: be certain never to practice this command when using power tools or equipment such as an edger or weed-whacker. Keep your pet, and yourself, safe.)
- Teach your pet to be a good citizen by retrieving pop cans and placing them in the garbage. This "trick" is very impressive in the park and sets a great example for children.
- Introduce your dog to water play after yard work. Whether running in the sprinklers or chasing ice cubes, remember to have fun.
- If allowed by your house rules, station your dog in a quiet, out of the way corner of your kitchen or dining room. If your rules say "no dogs in the kitchen," station the pup where he can still see you moving about. This is a great place to practice down/stay. There are lots of distractions: noise, odors, people coming and going, etc.
- Use kitchen time to practice the "leave it" command, if your pup shows interest in food dropped on the floor.
- If your dog is in front of a cabinet or pantry door, make it an opportunity to teach the command "move", by pointing to another place and encouraging the dog to relocate.
- During dinner, place the dog on a down/stay under the table. No eye contact; no whining; no begging. Soon your pup will be ready to join you at a dog-friendly outdoor cafe and will be welcome on family camping trips. (Note: no people food should ever be given to the dog while you are eating. If you wish to offer table scraps, do so after you have finished and make certain they are placed in the dog's dish.)
- Chairs make wonderful obstacles for practicing heeling, right turns, left turns, about turns and figure-8 patterns. On a rainy day, train in the family room or dining room.
- Teach your dog the command "under" using a coffee table, a child's desk or a hall bench. Make certain the item is appropriate for your pet's size. This command is great when hiking or visiting that outdoor cafe.
- A ladder placed flat on the ground can help growing puppies learn to manipulate their hindquarters and become more sure-footed. Use lots of patience, praise and rewards to encourage your pup, on leash, to walk the length of the ladder, stepping over the rungs.
- To encourage your pup to chew their toys/bones and not your furniture or clothing, establish a toy basket just for the pet. Place a variety of toys of variable textures and sizes in the basket - - including plush toys, rawhide chews and a ball. To keep your pet interested, hide a few special treats in the basket before encouraging your pet to get a toy. You can eventually move the basket with you, to entertain a pup while working in your home office.
Times NOT To Train:
- When you are not feeling well.
- When you are angry, negative or upset.
- When you are low on patience or out of energy.
- When there are too many distractions for you in the training area.
- When there are too many distractions for your dog's level of ability to concentrate on learning a new command. (Instead, try proofing your dog on commands that are already well understood.
- When you are unclear how to perform or teach an exercise to your dog. Clarify what you should be doing, with your trainer, before working your dog.
Training is really all the little things you do each and every day, showing your dog what you expect from their behavior. Training should be a special time for you and your pet to enjoy being together. End each session with something your dog is good at doing - - and praise, praise, praise.