Oh it’s hard to fit in training time isn’t it?! I have every empathy for my customers who struggle to find time to squeeze in training sessions with their dogs - I often do too. I think that the problem is often that we see training as time consuming and difficult and maybe even worry that we’ll do it wrong or it won’t work, so we don’t start!
But training doesn’t have to be time consuming - you don’t need to feel that you must set aside a whole hour to train your dog each day. In fact, hour long sessions are often counter productive - your dog can become bored, frustrated or lose concentration long before the hour is up and you both end up feeling that training sessions are pointless and not fun. Regular short sessions with your dog can be much more effective, little and often is the key!
But if that sounds worrying as now you need to find the motivation for lots of training sessions each day, fear not, there are some very simple ways to make short regular training sessions easy...
- Have treats ready to use when needed! Too often training opportunities pass us by because we don’t have treats to hand. Keep a sweetie tin filled with treats that your dog likes and put it somewhere close to hand (but out of reach of the dog if you have a chewer!). Put a clicker with it too if you like clicker training, but your voice and a ‘clicker word’ can work just as well!
- Get out of the mindset that you need to be in a set situation when you train your dog. The more variety in your training the better. If you only ever train your dog to sit when you are stood right next to him after you’ve physically dragged him away from whatever he was doing before, your dog will never learn to come to you himself, or to sit if you are in any other position other than standing next to him. Initially just focus on training your dog to come to you, then focus on teaching him to sit whilst you are sat on the sofa. You’ll be surprised how difficult getting your dog to sit when you are in a different position can be! Having a reliable sit means that you have ‘proofed’ it (or trained it) in a wide variety of different circumstances and environments - including when you are sat down and watching tv!
- Train in the ad breaks of your tv shows! 2-3 minute training sessions are brilliant for your dog - they keep him motivated and focused and don’t push him past the limits of his concentration! Finish up with a little game of tug (or other game your dog likes, such as scentwork) as a reward for your dog for the training session and he’ll be motivated every time you get into ‘training mode’
- However, don’t think that in order to train you must always be in ‘training mode’. Remember, rewarding behaviours you like will increase the chances of your dog repeating those behaviours. Put simply, if your dog is doing the right thing reward him - don’t think that the only time your dog ‘earns a treat’ is when he follows your instructions, reward him for making the right choices without you asking. So if your dog is lying down and chewing on his chew toys, praise him and throw him a ‘bonus treat’ from the reward tin. Reinforcing this behaviour with a treat, praise and attention makes it less likely he’ll find less savory ways to get your attention!
- I don’t follow the ‘NILIF’ programme (nothing in life is free - your dog gets nothing unless he does the right thing as decided by you) but do remember you get the behaviour you reinforce. Taking your dog out for a walk because he is climbing the walls often seems like a good idea to ‘drain energy’, but the reality is that a walk is a ‘reward’ and if you’ve done it because your dog is barking at you and racing around the house, you’re making it more likely he’ll keep barking at you and racing round the house! So find a way to teach him to settle down and then use a walk as a bumper reward for chilling out! Rewards are decided by the dog, not the human, if your dog likes something you can use this to reinforce good behaviour!
Lastly, you don’t always have to train your dog to change it’s behaviour. If you can’t train to overcome a problem with your dog, because you don’t have the skills or time at the moment, manage it. Many professional dog trainers like myself have imperfect dogs. We are all self employed and time is tight, so rather than letting our dogs practice a behaviour making it become ever more ingrained as a habit, we implement management. Management is essentially using tools or techniques to prevent an issue from happening. It doesn’t usually fix the underlying cause of behaviour, but often simple management can be effective enough to allow us to put off training to a more suitable time, or resolves the issue to a level that is acceptable to both dog and owner! Examples include:
- Using a head, or no-pull harness to enable owners to cope with their dog pulling on lead.
- Having a dog in a crate or single room when owners are not present to prevent toilet training accidents, or problem chewing on household objects.
- Using a flexi-lead or long line to prevent a dog with poor recall from running off (NB:- I’m not a big fan of flexis, but they arguably have their uses).
- Making sure you never leave food unattended on the side of the kitchen to prevent counter surfing - or ensuring your dog is not allowed in the kitchen alone if there is food out.
- Muzzling your dog and keeping it onlead if it has problems with aggression towards other dogs or people, or has a particularly strong chase drive, or if he just won’t stop eating things on the ground on walks!
And so on! Management is often not a ‘sexy’ solution, but it IS a practical one.
If you and your dog have a problem that you are struggling with - don’t feel that contacting a force free trainer means that you have to invest a great deal of time in training that you don’t have right now, very often we can come up with practical management solutions what will enable you to workaround the issue now, which then relieves some pressure off of you. We can then put together a manageable training schedule for you and your dog to work through the issue at your own pace.
If you’d like to talk to us about any issues you are having with your dog please email us and we will be in touch!