One of my students mentioned in class that they knew the reason their puppy wasn’t learning things as quickly as he could was because they needed to be better about carving out time to train each day.
My response may surprise you.
“But I don’t have TIME to train…”
Many people believe that training a dog requires a big time investment, but training a dog to be a good family member and to understand basic manners doesn’t have to involve a long commitment in terms of time.
In fact, the results are often much better if, instead of training twice a day for 15 minutes each time, dog owners work small training opportunities into their every day routines.
For example: You want your dog to learn to hang out and relax during TV time at night. The best time to train? Work on his “place” command during the commercials—just turn down the sound!
Want a few other ideas for finding time to train during your day? Check out the list below.
15 Real-Life Opportunities to Train:
1. During commercial breaks while watching your favorite TV show — just turn the sound down.
2. While your bagel is toasting.
3. While your coffee is brewing, tea is steeping, or the microwave is working on your next meal.
4. While on the phone (remember, you don’t need to give commands when you’re capturing good behavior; this is also the perfect time for practicing hand signals).
5. While on the toilet (sits, downs, even “come”).
6. Two minutes before your walk — don’t indicate the walk in any way, just start running your dog through his commands. Reward each correct response. After the last one, say, “Good dog! Want to go for a walk?” and go get the leash. This is a jackpot!
7. Two minutes before the dog gets to go on a car ride (see above).
8. Every time you let the dog in our out a door, including potty breaks (ask for “sit” or a “down” before you open the door).
9. Every time you put down a food or water dish (ask for “stay” or “leave it” before releasing them to get it).
10. While playing fetch (ask for a “sit” or “down” or other trick before throwing each ball).
11. While your computer is warming up, shutting down, or downloading that slow e-mail or website.
12. When you walk out to pick up the paper or mail (wait at doorways, walk on a loose leash, etc.).
13. Every time you start an interaction with your dog. Don’t interact with him unless he is calm and polite – especially when you first come home. Ignore him (pretend he’s not there, give him the cold shoulder) if he’s being wild or noisy.
14. During mealtimes—teach your pup where he’s supposed to be and what he should be doing!
15. Whenever your dog does something right without you telling him to! That means you can stop to give him a belly rub when he’s laying calmly by the door or grab him a chew when he goes and lies down on his own while you help the kids with their homework.
Working your training into your day is a great way to break up training time into manageable chunks and to teach your dog how to be a well-behaved member of the family.
It’s important to remember that just because you practice at home doesn’t mean that your dog will be able to do those same behaviors everywhere you go. Dogs are very bad at “generalizing” behaviors.
What does that mean? That means they need to practice behaviors in many different places before they understand that a command isn’t specific to one place or person.
In other words, it is unrealistic to expect your puppy to respond to your cues in other environments outside of your home unless you practice in all environments. He does not “know better” because “he does it at home” — he doesn’t know better. You must teach him.
Remember: Training Should Be Fun (For Both Of You)
Your puppy should love to do things for you and you should get a sense of success and feel proud of what you and your puppy have accomplished.
In order to get this you must make sure that you are giving him plenty of rewards for good behavior. Remember, thought, rewards don’t have to be treats—rewards are anything your puppy perceives as fun and rewarding. Examples include dinner, walks, a ride in the car, treats, play, hugs, eye contact, and “sweet talk.”
Want more examples of times you can work with your dog everyday? Try out one of our Life Skills dogtraining classes!