It’s 7:52 on a Saturday night.
I’m in my cozies snuggled under the covers with Cooper.
Laptop balanced on my knees. Beer on the side table.
And I am wiped.
But, this is the first chance I’ve had all week to write about time management for dog training–the theme of this past week’s blog hop, which closes tomorrow, so I’m scooting in at the very last second. Ironic, I know.
Anyway, we’ve been busy. Who isn’t, though, right? There’s always more to do and no more time in which to do it.
OK, now it’s 8:05 on Saturday night because I totally got sidetracked watching that video circulating on FB with the little girl getting the kitten?! OMG… So, so, so sweet!
But that right there is exactly my issue. Like most of you, by the time evening rolls around, it’s already been a long day of work, errands, cooking dinner, cleaning up the house, feeding and exercising the herd… where’s the time to train?? It could totally be tonight, but I’m super tired, so instead of taking Cooper outside or upstairs to work, we snuggle under the covers.
I know I’m not alone in this. Between the have-to-dos and the want-to-dos, there’s just never enough time.
So, I have two tips to share with you today if you’re in that same boat.
Here’s the trick in our house that works the very best at getting dog training into an already-way-too-full schedule:
Make training part of your everyday routine.
Seriously, it’s that simple. We train with Cooper all. the. time. (BTW, you’ll note I refer to Cooper in this post and not Emmett. Well, there’s no more Emmett training. It’s now just letting Emmett have/do/eat/sleep/whatever he wants, when he wants it. The end. Newt, on the other hand, stay tuned for a Caturday post sometime this month on that…)
First up, I will say, Cooper has his basics down. I’m not talking about teaching general “obedience” here, which I do think takes a concerted effort in focused blocks of time. What I’m talking about is the ongoing stuff, the stuff to challenge him beyond a basic sit/down/stay.
For example, Cooper has to shut the kitchen cabinet every single time we feed the dogs. (Check it out on Instagram…)
That’s great, but it becomes routine super fast. So, when I’m emptying the dishwasher or putting groceries away, Cooper tends to hang by my side, so I have him shut the cabinets and even push the drawers shut. He’s a PRO at it, and he gets excited to do it. He wags his tail to close cabinets! We keep treats in jars on the counter, so as he does his work, I say, “YES!” then give him a treat.
Same thing with his mat. He’s solid with “on your mat,” so I use it for all sorts of things that push him beyond just placing on his mat. If FedEx drops a package at the door, I’ll send him to his mat and ask for a stay. Walking to the door, opening it, grabbing the package… all while he’s holding the stay on his mat… is hugely challenging. I need to retrieve the package anyway, so adding in that bit of training takes hardly any extra time.
When we throw his ball while we watch TV or something, we’ll do different challenges. I’ll ask him to sit and wait, throw the ball, then release him to chase it down after a few seconds. Sometimes I’ll even ask for a “watch me” while he’s holding his wait.
Right now, I’m working on handing him something, like the mail, and having him, “Take it to John!” (We’re not great at this yet, so there are many a teeth mark in our bills right now!)
All of this is training–largely, for Cooper, training on impulse control–keeps his brain active, but it doesn’t take any extra time out of the day because it’s all part of the day.
OK, I mentioned two tips at the beginning, and here’s the second:
Make training part of your everyday routine.
Huh? That’s the same, right? Well, sure, but I want to emphasize that it’s not just running through the typical stuff that your dog has down pat. It’s the other stuff, too, the new and exciting things or the just-for-fun training.
Here’s an example: You put a pot of water on your stove to boil spaghetti for dinner. While you’re waiting for the bubbles, grab your clicker and a couple treats, and start working on something new. That’s dead time anyways, time most of us spend scrolling mindlessly through Facebook (though, seriously, that kitten video?! OMG…)
Or you have to call your internet provider about an outage. Well, that’s several minutes of your life on hold that you’ll never get back, but make the absolute best of it by teaching your dog a quick-and-easy trick, like luring him to twirl in a circle or something like that.
These little blocks of “found time” can be super fun and rewarding for you and your dog!
I think a lot of folks fall into the trap of feeling like training needs to be a formalized block of focused time. More like Training than, you know, training. You can accomplish a ton in tiny increments, and it keeps it fun and frustration-free.
All that said, there is tremendous value in signing up for a class, or joining a group sport like agility, or having a science-based trainer out to your house to work on specific problem areas. But don’t let the lack of time to do those things now keep you from training at all!
All you need is a few minutes, a clicker (or “yes!”), and some yummy treats, and you’ll find that you have plenty of time for dog training when it becomes part of your everyday routine!
As for the rest of my time, like the writing blog posts time, well… that’s still a work in progress.
Your turn: How do YOU find time to work with your dog? I’d love to know what tricks and tips you have up your sleeve!