Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Got an Extra Minute or Two? Train Your Dog!

By Linda Cole

We miss so many opportunities to work with our dogs. Relaxing in the backyard or on the deck after work, waiting for supper to finish cooking, watching TV, waiting for your turn to take your morning shower or any other times where we have a few extra moments. Training a dog is important, but there's no rule that says you have to make a big production out of it, and there's no law that says you have to spend a certain amount of time doing it. Dogs are smart and more than capable of learning most commands quickly. One minute at a time is all it takes.

Dog training is all about reinforcing a desired behavior. Once most dogs have learned the basic commands, it's just like riding a bike, so to speak. I have to giggle here, because as I'm writing this, I'm listening to a dog training minute happening in the kitchen while supper is being cooked. We're working with our dog Keikei to teach her a new command – turn around. If your dog is like Keikei and wants to be with you wherever you are, the opportunity to work on their training is always there. Take advantage of it.

Dogs end up in shelters because of behavior problems their owner couldn't or wouldn't deal with. It's no secret that the best way to ensure you have a well mannered and happy dog is by taking the time to teach him how you want him to act. Training your dog is also one way you can help keep him safe. Teaching your dog doesn't require hours and hours of time, but it does require three important rules to follow.

1. Stay consistent with commands by using the same word or phrase each time. You don't want to confuse him. Pick one word or phrase and make sure everyone in the family uses the same wording every time.

2. Be patient and stay calm because in the beginning, your dog won't understand what you want until he's had a chance to learn. If you get frustrated, so will your dog. Dogs want to please us and if you make a sincere effort to teach them, they will reward you by doing what you ask.

3. Last, but not least, always keep it positive and fun.

Most dogs are quick learners. Short training sessions work well and you might be surprised how quickly your dog learns. Training is teaching by repetition and every extra minute reinforces a learned behavior (command). Grab a bag of CANIDAE TidNips treats and keep it in a handy spot. Next time you're watching TV, instead of rolling your eyes at all the commercials, teach your dog how to sit or lay down. You don't even have to get off the couch to do it. By the time an hour program is done, your dog can learn a new command.

Walking your dog can become routine, so use the time to do some training. Before crossing a street, teach your dog to sit. I had a dog years ago that also learned to look both ways. It wasn't something I had taught him. He learned it on his own by watching me standing on the curb waiting for cars to pass. This illustrates that even when you aren't trying to teach a dog something, he is capable of learning things on his own.

Teaching a dog basic commands isn't difficult to accomplish. One of the most important basic commands is “come” and it's probably the hardest one for some dog owners to teach to their best friend. Dogs will ignore you if what you're offering them isn't as interesting as watching a squirrel chattering from a tree branch or investigating a curious smell. However, when you call your dog's name, he should stop whatever he's doing and come. Use extra minutes to teach your dog he does have a reason to come and that you are more interesting than some old squirrel in a tree.

Have your dog sit or lay down before you set his food bowl down. Ask him to sit before you let him outside. Teach him to look at you on command so you have better control of him when you need to distract him from something. By taking advantage of a few extra minutes at a time, you can teach your dog basic commands or tricks as long as you stay consistent, positive and calm.

Photo by Zvi Kons

Read more articles by Linda Cole


  1. Those are some really good ideas, but sometimes it is hard to do it. Like if you are in hurry to get outside or something. But the dogs do enjoy being trained, at least mine do. It is like a game to them.

  2. Great article. I think the only thing I really train the girls to do is jump all over me when I'm laying on the couch. Three Labs, one couch, one me is not a pretty site and makes for a lot of elbows and paws in uncomfortable places. they know if I'm trapped I don't stand a chance. I'm dogpiled and I know it. It's all fun.

  3. You always and ever have valuable information here and I, among others thank you for that.

    Mom Carole

  4. I have been finding myself doing this more and more than have formal training time. With the Front Dogs being the in the kitchen and having counter surfing issues and such, while I am making dinner I began working with them since I was already giving them tid bits of the food I was fixing. I began using that food to help them with their behavior issues.

    They have went from being my most problematic dogs to the pretty well trained. And now I've been able to begin working with the Back Dogs in the same way.

    Great Post! There is a ton of freedom being able to do just a little at a time, spaced through the day then trying to set aside "training time." At least it works better that way for me.


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