Gah! It’s so hard to fit training into a busy family life. From the minute you’re up in the morning, you’re going somewhere, doing something, coming home or going out. If you’ve got kids, the issue is compounded EXPONENTIALLY, because everyone’s going in different directions.
You adopted a dog. You made the commitment and darn it!, sometimes behaviour needs addressing. I have 4 things I recommend to make training easier, without biting into your busy day.
#1 – Be clear about stuff
Think about and define what you want to teach your dog. Training is not just about the what (sit, down or come), it’s also about the where or the when. When will the dog need to go to his mat and lie down? Where do you need your dog to sit? Where do you want your dog to listen to you and come when called?
Be clear about what is required to earn a cookie. Don’t reward sloppy work. Are you practicing going to your mat and staying there? If you reward your dog when only one paw is on the mat, but then also give a reward for being completely on the mat, you’ve created confusion.
Do you let your dog pull on his walk in the morning, but then get frustrated in the afternoon when he does the same thing? Clarity and consistency make the difference to your frustration and his. Decide what leash walking looks like and stick to it.
#2 – Be spontaneous
Get really, really good at reinforcing as many instances of spontaneously occurring good behaviours as you possibly can. Make it a contest between you and your partner, or kids, to see who can get the greatest number of reinforcements delivered during the day. Keep a tracking sheet, or just count out reinforcements (literally kibbles) for the day and see who has used them all up by bedtime.
I love, and have shamelessly stolen (with permission) Kathy Sdao’s SMART X 50 protocols. “See, Mark and Reward Training” is about looking for good behaviour and reinforcing it throughout the day. Start with 50 reinforcements in a day and you’ll see your dog’s behaviour improve.
#3 – Have fun, even if your issue is serious
Turn it all into a game. Your dog doesn’t’ actually know that training is “serious business”, so make it all fun. The key is that each game has a purpose, trains a thing, improves a moment, or changes a bad habit.
I have 100s of games because I’ve had 100s of struggles. The answer to a struggle is a game.
~ Susan Garrett
When you enjoy training and the process of training, you’ll do it more, because it’s reinforcing for YOU. When dogs enjoy training, they’ll be more engaged with it, and more engaged with you!
#4 – Be practical
Do you have to train ALL THE THINGS? Dogs can learn a lot of stuff, but do they have to? I want your busy family to focus on making 3 things really amazing, rather than 99 things half-baked.
Train what you need, not what someone else tells you that you need.
Bonus tip! …because I can’t stop myself.
I think the most practical advice I can give you is to try and create training that fits into your existing daily interactions you already have with your dog. Don’t do MORE, just do the things you are already doing, differently.
If your training goals require carving out extra time, or creating special set-ups, the truth is you may NEVER get to it. How can you successfully include the training in your day?
Is there something you can stop doing with your dog in order to free up that extra 20 minutes needed? This is going to sound like dog heresy, but consider walking your dog once a day (yep, once, as in ONE time) instead of twice. Now, take that time that was dedicated to the second walk and do some training around the house instead.
Brain work can be tiring, enriching and relationship-building. So get your busy pooch tuckered not just physically, but mentally as well.
Hey, as a side-note, nosework is an awesome activity for just that. It easily fits into busy schedules and days with too much stuff. I use it as a lovely topper to our quiet days where maybe, we just didn’t do a lot.
Extra bonus…I teach nosework workshops and classes in Victoria BC. You can find out more about those RIGHT HERE.