Dog Training Without a Dog

Wait… Dog training without a dog? How does that work? Sometimes in training, the best thing you can do for your dog is to practice without him. Read on for the how and the why!

Good dog training starts with having a very clear mental picture of what you want your dog to do, plus a very clear mental picture of what you are going to do to elicit that behavior from your dog. Practicing the techniques you will use will help you be as clear as possible in communicating with your dog. Without clarity, a dog can quickly become confused and may even stop responding. The following procedure can lead to the clarity and consistency in communication that will help bring training success.

The Stuff

Gather the equipment. Clicker and food rewards are essential, as well the equipment for whatever training exercise you have decided to work on. For example, you may need a target stick, retrieve items, a head halter or front clip harness, or your dog’s settle mat. Additionally, if you use a device such as a cane or a walker, decide if you want to use it in this particular training session. (Your instructor can help you with options regarding assistive devices.)

Also consider where you want to keep the food rewards. A bowl nearby, a treat bag at your waist, or in your pocket are all possibilities.

 

The Brain

What exercise are you going to be practicing? What step of that exercise? What is the criterion (i.e. the clickable moment) you’re aiming for? What does the human need to do? Consult your Savvy Canines instructional handouts if you need to review the steps of a particular exercise. Be able to state in one clear sentence what your goal is: “In this session I want my dog to…”

 

The Practice

Put Buddy into another room with a chewy toy or a stuffed Kong. Now go back to where you’ve assembled the “stuff” and run through the motions of the exercise you want to work on. Do this a number of times until it becomes automatic. Imagine your dog with you and picture what you will be clicking. Remember that the click is like a “snapshot” of the exact behavior you want.

 

An Example

Let’s say you are working on the targeting exercise, and want your dog to learn to move a short distance to touch a target stick. You’ve decided to use a bait bag attached to your waist for this session.

The Stuff: clicker, food rewards, bait bag, target stick

The Brain: “In this session I want my dog to be able to take three steps to touch the end of the target stick.” (The one clear sentence.) In order to accomplish this, I will use the following criteria: I will click my dog first for just touching the stick; then for reaching out his nose for the stick; then for reaching a little farther for the stick; then for taking one step to the stick; then two steps, then three steps. I want him to be successful at least four out of five times before moving on to the next criterion. I need to click the instant his nose touches the stick.

The Practice: With Buddy in another room, practice holding the target stick as indicated on the handout or as your instructor has suggested, and imagine Buddy touching the stick in the steps you’ve outlined. Actually picture Buddy touching the stick, and click and pretend to deliver a treat. Practice this until the motions you need to do feel comfortable.

 

Putting It All Together

Now bring Buddy back into the picture and go through your planned steps. There may very well be unexpected things that occur in the training session, but with the baseline of a clear picture in your head, plus the no-dog practice you’ve put in, you will be able to problem-solve effectively.

This type of practice doesn’t take as much time as it might seem. In summary, ask yourself two main questions: Exactly what do I want my dog to do in this training session, and exactly what am I going to do to maximize the chances of that happening? Then decide if a little no-dog practice is in order.

 

Happy training!

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Our Clients Say

"Working with Sarah is the most important thing in my life. The gentle, positive training of Savvy Canines continues to increase the amazing bond between us. As my disabilities increase, Sarah is learning new ways to help me, both at home and out in public."—Susan N. and “Sarah”
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“Kay (our instructor) is terrific in helping people understand their canine friends. She has a real understanding of dog behavior and is able to quickly tune in to what is going on in a human-dog relationship.” —Pamela H. and "Molly"
“The clicker training technique Savvy Canines teaches is very simple, yet powerful. Dogs actually enjoy learning tasks their partners want them to do when the clicker is used properly.”—George and “Rover”
“The Savvy Canines trainers are knowledgeable, consistent, and competent and love dogs. Phyllis provides a flexible schedule, comes to my home, and the cost is reasonable and well worth it. The classes twice a month are great for Molly to meet other people and dogs and to show off what she has learned. Molly and I are very pleased with the training from Savvy Canines.”—Diane and “Molly”
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“Minnie and I have worked with Savvy Canines since its inception. From the first day Minnie has loved Phyllis and the training sessions with her. Minnie loves the challenges, the games (and the attention). The one service that sets Savvy Canines apart from other training programs is the individual attention to each client. They work around your schedule, find creative ways to get tasks accomplished, and do it all in a professional, caring way. Minnie and I LOVE the trainers and the time spent learning new tasks. Thank you Savvy Canines. You are pawsitively the BEST!”—Reva and “Minnie”
"We own and train Australian Shepherds, and when I became disabled, my wife thought I might benefit from a Service Dog. She made a call, and I was surprised when Phyllis Allen (whom I had seen on a TV program about service dogs) came to my house to tell us about the Service Dog training program. She explained the program, assessed my needs, and met the dog I intended to use for training. I was impressed that she would come to my home to meet us and to explain how the program worked. Phyllis is a superb teacher. Savvy Canines uses a positive training method called “clicker training.” Before I met Phyllis I had never used the clicker method, and I am now convinced that it is one of the best training tools for teaching a dog complex tasks. It is definitely a thing of beauty when your dog “gets it” and accomplishes a new skill."—Bruce and “Elwood”
Our trainer has helped us establish a fantastic rapport with our dog! The clicker training has been great. Our dog is attuned to our needs and anticipates my commands for helping close doors on the cabinets and the refrigerator, and thoroughly enjoys adjusting the pedals on my wheelchair! We have been especially pleased with our trainer's willingness to work around our schedule because of my medical problems.—Mr. and Mrs. Larson
“The positive reinforcement we get from trainers at Savvy Canines of Arizona is exceptional, always so patient and helpful. Chloe is a work in progress, but she does make life easier by picking up dropped objects. We could not have done this on our own.” —Susan and "Chloe"
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