For most people, life is incredibly busy, and the time you have to spare for your beloved dog is limited. You want to spend that time playing with him, not training basic obedience. But without proper training, your dog isn’t happy, and his inevitable bad behavior means you aren’t either. So how do you squeeze that essential training into your busy lifestyle? Here are five quick tips to help you take advantage of every opportunity to make training easy and fun.
1. Keep your training sessions short.
Although training classes are often one hour long, that’s not the goal for at-home sessions. For most dogs, short bursts of training are far more suitable. And if you think you must schedule hour-long intervals, you will never find the time. Five minutes per session is more than enough. Anything longer, and you risk having your dog become bored or frustrated. If you keep things fun and stop before your dog loses interest, it will help build enthusiasm for future training sessions.
2. Spread training throughout the day.
Short training sessions are far easier to fit in during the day. Every time you interact with your dog, you have an opportunity to train, even if it’s as simple as practicing “sit” before you let him outside to go to the bathroom. Before you know it, a few minutes here and there will add up to far more time than that hoped-for hour-long session.
To help make training part of your daily routine, keep rewards close at hand. Wear a treat bag around your waist, put a few pieces of kibble in your pocket, place treat containers in strategic places around your home, or put a tug toy by the sofa, so you are ready whenever you get the chance to train.
3. Take advantage of mealtimes.
A bowl of food is a huge reward. Why waste it by simply placing it on the floor? Mealtimes are a perfect way to schedule daily training sessions. At the very least, have your dog perform a desired behavior before you give him his bowl. Better still, divide the food up and get as many repetitions as you can. This is easiest with pieces of kibble, but even canned food or raw food can be doled out one spoonful at a time for each correct response.
4. Use rewards other than food.
Anything your dog is willing to work for is a reward, from going for a walk to getting a cuddle. So, if your dog thinks something is great, you can use it in your training. That means you don’t always have to have a treat in your hand. And that opens up a lot of training opportunities.
Anytime your dog wants something, consider taking a moment to train. Rather than handing over the good stuff for nothing, work on a few behaviors first. Tossing his favorite squeaky toy can be a wonderful reward for a “stay,” or opening the back door for access to the yard can be a perfect way to reward a “down,” for example. Having your dog earn a variety of rewards will help you fit training into your day-to-day activities.
5. Don’t let walks go to waste.
There are many rewarding objects out in the world. Just the chance to sniff the neighborhood fire hydrant is super exciting from a dog’s perspective. So, take advantage of all he wants and work a little training in with the exercise. For example, have him “sit” before letting him explore the boulevard or work on “leave it” with leaves and acorns. But be cautious when training new behaviors outdoors. Learning is far more difficult in an exciting environment, so be sure your dog has mastered the basics in a quiet location before adding the element of distraction.
The more that training becomes an everyday part of life with your dog, the more your dog will benefit. His mind will be stimulated, he will understand the rules of the household, and he will gain a sense of control over his environment as he learns how to earn what he wants. And you will benefit from a well-behaved family member. If you keep things fun and engaging, training time can become synonymous with playtime. Rather than thinking of training as something that is taking time away from fun and games with your dog, make it just another way to enjoy spending time together.