Dog training requires homework. If you decide to take your dog to class, to get the greatest value, you need to do the homework. Take your trainer’s advice and you will see the dramatic results that the trainer promised. The trainer probably impressed you with their skill in your initial session or consultation. But, if you don’t do what your trainer recommends at home, your dog will not get better or become reliable. Your dog lives with you, so how you incorporate training into your life matters more than the how well the dog does during the one hour a week you see your trainer. I often tell my clients, “If you don’t do what I tell you, the longer you will need my help.” So following instructions can be cost effective, too.
Here are a few tricks to make sure you get your homework done in time to impress the teacher:
1. Keep your homework sessions brief. 3-5 minutes at a time and no more than 10 minutes. You can do this several times a day.
2. Remember, every interaction you have with your dog is a training session. Either your dog is learning what you’re teaching or it’s learning what it can get away with.
3. You’re better off not saying anything to your dog than giving a command or cue when you can’t follow through. Don’t teach your dog to disobey.
4. Connect the behaviors you are practicing to the activities your dog loves. If your dog loves going outside, do a 10- 30 second down-stay before you open the door. If your dog gets excited to see the leash, have them sit calmly while you snap it on her. If your dog likes to sniff, have them heel on a loose leash for 10 feet before you stop to let them sniff.
5. Speaking of walks, your walks with your dog are a great time to train. So leave the cell phone and bring the treats and focus on your dog during the walks.
6. Keep your “training kit” handy: treat bag filled with treats and a clicker so you can do an impromptu few minutes of training whenever you feel like it.
7. Pay attention to your dog! Your dog will offer the new behaviors you just taught him at any moment, to get your attention. But he will always fall back on behaviors that work like jumping, barking and begging. Catching him doing something right.
8. There is no such thing as no time to train. When you say it, your trainer is imagining all the opportunities you might have had since they saw you last. During your walk, before their dinner, while watching TV, while brushing your teeth, when you walk through the door, during a play session, the list goes on.
Follow these suggestions for fast results and a dog you can enjoy all the time.