“How long each day do I train my dog?”
Every moment is a training moment in the life of your dog. We are teaching and training all the time. Training skills within your typical daily routines in small increments (2-3 minutes) provides practice, repetition and reinforcement. Let’s look at training moments you can build into your day.
Practice “Sit”, “Wait”, and “Free” as you place the food bowl on the floor. Cue your dog to sit and to wait. As the bowl goes down if your dog breaks the sit/wait, the bowl goes up. Try again. It may only be a second or two that you can get the bowl on the ground and then use a release word. (I use “free” which lets the dog know they can proceed.) Since your dog eats at least 2 times a day, you can get practice and his food in the natural reinforcement. As you practice, the time they stay put becomes longer. It builds impulse control and develops focus and attention.
Any self-respecting dog will hang out in the kitchen when you are preparing food. This is a great time to practice “Settle on Mat”. Have a mat that you place in the kitchen area for the dog to practice a sit or a down. To jump-start the behavior see Settle on a Mat . When your dog is in the sit or down stay, reward them for the duration on the mat by tossing them a treat. I keep a small container with kibble that I can deliver to the dogs as I’m cutting up veggies for dinner. When they get the idea of the game, they go to their mat without you even cueing them. It’s awesome! Click/Treat!
If your dogs are like mine, they seem to have an energy spurt in the late afternoon or early evening. It is often called “The Zoomies”. During this time they be racing around chasing each other or playing tug. I like to engage them in “Doggie Olympics”. Five minutes of focused attention doing “puppy push-ups”, which is a sit/down, sit/down, wears them out. Some other games are puppy ping-pong. The dog is called from 1 person to another and rewarded for coming. If it is close to dinnertime, put half their kibble in their Snuffle Mat or do a kibble toss on the kitchen floor for seek and find. These are brain games that help work your dogs’ brains as much as their bodies.
Walk time is a great time for training basic manners like sit, wait, “let’s go”. Like the wait for their meal, your dog can practice wait while you put on their leash. Cue your dog to sit. Reach down to put on harness or leash. If they get off the sit just stand up and ignore them. Try again. Cue to sit, lean down to put on the leash, if they break the sit, just start over and just wait for that second where they are still enough for you to put on the leash. Don’t forget to reward/treat for staying seated. Tip: try sitting in a chair when you put on their leash or harness. (Some dogs consider a human leaning over them to be “creepy”). On your walk, break it up with sits, downs, recalls, and some play.
Does your dog have a bedtime routine? In our house, there is a “last potty call”. Where ever they are in the house snoozing, they come running and head out the doggie door to do their business. When they come in they are cued to their crate and up the stairs, they go, tucked in for the night.
Having routines is predictable for both dogs and humans. Have fun using any 3-5 minutes in your daily routines to practice, reinforce and build the life skills you desire for your dog. Happy Training!