In the world of dog training there are so many views, options and practices that one could utilize to help with one’s dog. It really is mind-boggling when one goes to decide what to do or train. It is often drilled into the novice dog owner’s mind that going to training classes, where you are essentially working for an hour in a highly distracting environment, is the best way to train a dog or at least required for a well trained dog. For many dogs and humans, this is too much to handle. The amount of work can be overwhelming; the behaviour to be learned, the high level to which your dog needs to learn them, the amount of time daily required.
Do this instead:
If you want to make real improvements in your dog’s behaviour AND make it easier on yourself, consider the following:
Do short training sessions more often, or even just once a day for one minute. BUT DO IT! Small steps towards a goal are the best, especially when talking about training your dog. This rule applies to all dogs, obviously, but especially dogs that have trouble focusing, such as scent hounds, livestock guardian breeds, or very young dogs. If you knew that training could be less difficult and time consuming than you thought, but still help you accomplish things with your dog, it might be more appealing.
Therefore, training sessions should last no more than a few minutes, sometimes even less. Seriously. No more than that. Keeping session length short is crucial to keeping it interesting and a desirable activity for both you and your dog.
If this point sounds insignificant to you, or useless, you’d be wrong. The best way to achieve anything in life, and in dog training, is to take many, many small steps over a long period of time. Sometimes those steps will seem completely useless because they are so small. But our society has become enamoured with the thought of or belief that success is over night. The fact is, it is rarely if ever overnight. There is always some work being done that you cannot see that causes that success over time.
Make it a Habit
Schedule it in. Yes, you need to schedule it into your day so it gets done. You need to make it a habit.
Often, people say they don’t have enough time to train. Saying this is simply an admission of not prioritizing training the dog. There are other things you would rather be doing than training the dog. This is actually fine, but if it is the case, you should be OK with that and accept it as the reason that your dog is not behaving the way you would like and not that your dog is “misbehaving” or “stubborn”.
Scheduling your training sessions is just as important as keeping them short. Once you get into the routine of doing them at the same time every day, you’ll soon feel that it is just part of your day. Over time, you will see results that will surprise you, because you didn’t think you were doing anything much, and all the small steps seemed insignificant.
Have Everything Ready
One more thing. I have talked about his before, but often, even the thought of actually having to go through the rigamarole of getting everything ready to train will stop even the most dedicated trainer. I know it has prevented me from training many times in the past.
Make sure you have your training rewards in an easily accessible place and if you make your own, have them ready in advance. If you purchase your training rewards, keep a supply of them handy so you don’t have to go and buy some before you start, because this will most likely prevent you from starting.
Also, know what you are going to work on with your dog before you start, so that you won’t have to decide on the spot. Having to decide this first thing in the morning or after a long day at work is the last thing you need to be doing. Keep a record (training journal) of what you have been training so that you will be able to make progress towards each behaviour.
Since I have been using this particular method of accomplishing things, I have had some amazing results. I have also applied it to activities and goals other than training the dogs and have had success there as well.
So to summarize, take small steps often in the direction of your goal, even if it is just one step a day. Make it a habit. One step, many many times over, over a long period of time will help you reach your goals in dog training and in life.
And once you put these suggestions in place, you might even find that your training sessions end up being longer than you had planned. You and your dog might be really enjoying them and don’t stress about doing them anymore.