How many times have you put off doing your homework?
Whether you are looking at homework for school, house cleaning, yard work, even writing blogs for your dog training page...humans tend to get bogged down with a never ending list of things we need to accomplish. Many look at dog training as a never-ending job that requires work. I'm hoping with this blog to challenge how we as people look at the job of training our dogs!
- Training your dog should be fun and enjoyable! Very few people I've known have actually enjoyed doing homework, while most people hate doing homework.
- Training your dog should fit easily in your day! People commonly struggle with the act of getting started doing a job, saving it until they get the whole job done at once without interruption. Yet training in mini-sessions throughout the normal course of your day is much better for you and your dog.
- Training your dog should be ever changing! There may be some things that we do in our day with our dog that is best on a routine such as meals, potty outings, etc. But when it comes to training new things we need to flexible based on other activities in our day. If you've had a bad day, you should do something more relaxing or something you love with your dog instead of focusing on a training plan. However if you've had an amazing day, you may be able to do more with your dog on that day. Some people work during the week and have weekends off, thus training would look different during the week than it does the weekend. As a Canine Coach, I'm not there with you every day to tell you what you should be focusing on for that day! However, I often give my clients some great activities to do on the rainy days or days you simply can't do training for some reason.
- Training your dog should be like telling the story. There isn't a specific start/stop to the action that takes place, but more like new chapters that build on what has happened previously and continue to progress into new adventures and activities. You don't simply teach your dog to hold a stay in one training session, or even one training session a day for a month. You start with a simple 1-2 second stay in a low distraction environment and gradually build up the distance, duration, and distractions involving that skill. Especially if you start training with a puppy! The expectation for a 6 month old puppy is that you can back of 5 steps and return to your puppy to deliver reinforcement. Around 12 months that expectation would then increase to 10 steps away with a pause before returning. And the expectation for an adult is that you can back away 20 steps. Yet we all know dogs that can hold a stay much longer than that, right! That's because the more practice you have doing a skill, the better you get and the same is true for our dogs. The skill of holding a stay is built up over time as the dog and owner develop teamwork together. No matter how old a dog gets, you can still reinforce and build the skill of stay because the story never ends.
- Training your dog should happen in a wide variety of environments. It's true that when training a very new skill, you need to start at home or a low distraction environment. But training can't end there. As the story progresses, we need to slowly build in more and more environments. Let's look at loose leash walking for a moment. You start with training at home, walking through the house, then move out into your driveway, perhaps the backyard, perhaps up and down the sidewalk in front of your house all before trying to walk around the block. Then your walking world slowly expands to more and more environments based on where you live. With a puppy we kind of naturally do this in an attempt to keep the puppy safe. So many people struggle with leash walking with older dogs simply because the environment is too distracting and the work hasn't happened yet to build up to these super fun environments. (I'm really guilty of this too!) Since training in new environments needs to build up slowly, we may not always be able to get to the next environment as quickly as we'd like. Winters are harsh in my area making outdoor walking more challenging which means training any sorts of outdoor leash manners need to go on hold for a few months. Service Dog in Training Rosalind is working on practicing skills in new environments, but because of the busy Training Center schedule, having time to get her into the new environments is challenging.
- Do we need to slow down the training or can we perhaps speed up?
- Do we need to change the games we are playing to make it easier for the dog to learn or make it more challenging to keep the dog engaged?
- Do we need to hold of on training for awhile to let your dog recover from an injury or grow up a bit? Or perhaps we need to meet more often or check in with each other between sessions?