Karen B. London
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Finding Time to Train
One minute here, one minute there
Rich has Bugsy heel when returning to the house from the backyard.

Many people struggle to find the time to train their dogs, and with today’s busy lifestyles, I am very sympathetic to the problem. (Between my work with dogs, my writing, teaching at the university, being a wife and mom, coaching soccer and my running, I am always strapped for time. In fact, lately I have adopted a policy of, “If it’s not on fire, I’m not putting it out yet.”) And yet, I think it’s possible to find time to train our dogs. It’s a matter of squeezing in a minute here, a minute there, rather than trying to find those elusive big blocks of time. Of course, I’m in favor of more training over less, but it’s better to incorporate a little training into daily life than to do no training at all.

Just like flossing your teeth or working your abs for just a few minutes when you watch TV or a movie, dog training can be worked in little by little. Here are some ways to incorporate dog training into the day in a way that won’t take away from everything else you need to be doing.

  • Do a couple of repetitions of sit and down each time a commercial comes on TV. (For people with TiVo, it is still possible to work in a sit or two while you are skipping past the commercials.)
  • Ask your dog for a stay each morning while you are brushing your teeth.
  • Have your dog wait at the door each time you go outside, even when if you are just going out to get the paper or out for a walk together.
  • Practice a trick or two while you are out on a walk.
  • Do a minute of heeling practice when you are in the back yard for any reason such as to water the flowers, dump your compost, or to have a cup of coffee on the back porch.
  • Call your dog to come when you are about to go on a walk. (It’s one of the easiest ways to teach your dog that good things happen when he responds to the cue “come!”)
  • Have your dog heel with you each time you head to the bathroom.

The basic idea is to work little training moments into your life in ways that don’t take time away from other activities. Sure, it’s great to spend a lot of time training your dog, and I wish that everyone would do so. But if training seems to be eluding you despite your best intentions, try considering little ways to work in training moments every day. Even 10 minutes a day in little bouts of 15-60 seconds can make a tremendous difference. You’ll reap the benefits of a better trained dog, losing that feeling of guilt for not training more, and having more time to do what you really want, which hopefully includes exercising with and playing with your dog.
How do you work training your dogs into daily life?



Karen B. London, PhD, is a Bark columnist and a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist specializing in the evaluation and treatment of serious behavior problems in the domestic dog.

CommentsPost a Comment
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Submitted by SaraG | March 19 2010 |

Thank you for this important reminder. So often I think I need more time than I have and end up doing no training at all. Your tips have me thinking about being a little more creative with my time.

Submitted by Carolyn | March 19 2010 |

Sit, Stay, or Watch Me before the food bowl goes down. Wait to be released to eat. Target my hand to be allowed up on the bed. Really, anything you are doing with your dog, with a little thought, you can incorporate learning or reinforce habits. It just takes being aware of your dog and thinking creatively about what needs to happen for polite behavior.

Submitted by SmartDogs | March 19 2010 |

I'm lucky in that I work from home and most of my appointments are evenings and weekends. We live in the country so my dogs follow me around off leash while I work, keep house, garden and tend the chickens.

They've all got their own chores to do - fetching tools, carrying items, herding chickens into the coop (and off the deck) and working as my training assistants.

Because of this, I do very little formal training with my dogs. They learn most of what they need by osmosis.

Submitted by Jay | March 28 2010 |

I have an incredible busy schedule, but am fortunate that my dog can always come with me. Throughout the day, as we go through the motions, we make a point to interact with the dog. anything we can into a job for him or a sit, stay, go left, go right, get in the box (elevator) we turn into commands. Two and a half years later we have a very alert and involved dog.

There is something to be said for interacting with your dog on a regular basis.

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