Tuesday Training Tip: So How Do You Define Training?

Mama Sally:  Part of the problem that we have in working with our dogs, is how we define things.  We tend to think of defined “training times” and the rest of the time our dogs just exist and we hang out with them.  I think this is especially true when you train with a professional dog trainer.  When an owner knows that they have eight weeks of lessons on Tuesday night at 7:00, they will tend to think of that as their designated training time for their dog.

The problem with this approach, is that dogs, like people, are learning all the time.  All day and night long, your dog is watching and learning from you and your family.  Dogs are like little sponges…soaking in all of your habits and patterns and learning how life works at your house.  We often think our dogs are just not paying attention, because they are napping, but trust me….they are taking good notes all the time!

If we only think of specific training times for our dogs, we’ll miss out on wonderful opportunities to capture teachable moments all throughout the days and nights of our dogs’ lives.  And that can translate to having a dog that’s more difficult to manage at home and out in the neighborhood on walks.

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On a daily basis, I hear owners say, “Well, I forgot to bring my treats along on the walk.”  “I didn’t have a leash on my dog.”  “I just didn’t even think about using that as an opportunity to teach my dog.”  Many owners just don’t think of being prepared all the time so that they can capture those moments at the instant when they happen.

And to be perfectly truthful, until Rugby came along, I didn’t think that way either!  He’s the dog who has changed how I train dogs.  Many reactive and anxious dogs live life on the edge.  They are always responding to triggers in their world.  If I’m only training Rugby during set training hours, I’ll miss out on being able to help mold his day to day behavior.

It really comes down to thinking of training proactively….as an ongoing, daily event.  I try to keep the training aids that I will need in places where Rugby will be so that I can capture something at the precise moment when it matters.

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Just today, Rugby has decided that the washer is evil, and so he spent the better part of one load standing in front of it, barking, and barking….and BARKING!!  I’ve learned through experience that if I don’t nip this one right in the bud, this will be his typical response every single time I wash clothes!  It’s ridiculous, but that’s honestly who Rugby is.  He can be fine with a given sound for years, and decide one day that he doesn’t like it any more.  If I ignore it and hope that it goes away, it quickly becomes a nasty habit, and then it takes months of working through it.  So I’ll have to stock my laundry room with treats and a clicker, and spend some time training while I do laundry…right in front of the washer!  Hopefully, this will be a quick one, and he will soon figure things out.

This is life with my reactive, emotional dog.  I have learned that it really does pay off to take advantage of training opportunities all day long, because when those ugly behaviors are brand new, I have a good shot at working him through them very quickly, rather than seeing them drag out for months.

Be proactive with your dog!  Be prepared, and have the tools that you’ll need when and where you’ll need them!  Make it easy for your dog to succeed!  You’ll be doing yourself a big favor all at the same time!

Rugby James:  The Mama is right that doggers is watching and learning new stuff all the time.  If I can watch and figure out how stuff works at my house, it’s a whole lot easier!  At my house, the Daddy is a good Upright for begging, on account of he usually gives me sumping when I beg.  The Mama is purty tuff, and she doesn’t melt….even when I use my really drippy and sincere begging eyes.  Pfft!

But one fing that the Mama does, is she gives me chances to earn kibbles all day long for doing stuff for her.  She always gots lil stashes of kibbles in places and I never really know when she’s gonna pull sumping out and tell me “Yesssss” and give me a kibble.  It really pays to stay on my toesies, on account of the Mama likes me to learn stuff all the time.


I likesa bark.  And I likesa bark a whole lot!  Sadly, the Mama doesn’t really appreciate this quality, sos I gets scolded every day for naughty barking on account of I won’t stop.  So, the Mama tries to work wif me on those fings what makes me bark like crazy, to help me learn how to stay calm and quiet.  But she never does know when I’m gonna start, sos she gotsa be ready to catch me right when it starts sos I can stop easier.

For me, the best part is that I doesn’t get scolded as much, and I likesa spend time wif the Mama.  Plus, there’s food in it, so that’s a really good fing in my world!  I likesa have chances to earn extra kibbles and treats!  Try it wif your lil doggers and see what happens!!



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