There are lots of ways to work mini-training sessions into your day. These moments add up to increased reliability in the behaviors you’re teaching to your dog, and can help your dog learn to pay even more attention to you throughout the day.
Have treats available in places all around your house. Make sure your dog can’t get at them to help himself! (See below for a list of treat ideas.) If your dog has toys lying around the house, gather most of them up and put them away. You can keep a clicker handy by putting one in your pocket, wearing one on a lanyard, or using a retractable badge reel such as those available at office supply stores. A clicker is your best fashion accessory when dog training!
Think of the exercises you’re teaching your dog as a way for her to say “Please” for the things she wants to do during the day. Does Fido want to go outside? Then he must do a Sit before being let out. Is Fifi ready for dinner? Then she must do a Wait before being released to eat. Does Buddy want to go greet a favorite friend? How about a Down first? If Sadie is dying to play with her rope toy, how about a little Target practice? Two or three touches to your hand earns her the toy. In these types of situations, you don’t even need to click and treat first: access to the desired item or area reinforces the behavior that came just before. At random times during the day, go someplace where your dog can’t see you, and call her. Big party with yummy treats when she finds you! Going out of sight can be as simple as going into another room, or as challenging as hiding somewhere that will require real searching on the part of your dog.
Another way to get in little training times is to take advantage of natural breaks in the activities you’re doing. For example, do a little clicker training during commercial breaks while watching a show on TV. If you’re reading a book, take three minutes at the end of a chapter to practice some behaviors. Waiting for your food to reheat in the microwave can be a great time to do a few exercises with your dog. Training during little spots like this in your day can quickly add up to lots of extra practice.
The following are some ideas for dry treats you can keep around the house so you’re always ready for an impromptu training session:
- Your dog’s kibble, or some other type of kibble for a flavor variation.
- Your dog’s kibble, flavored with some kibble “gravy” (available in pet supply stores and feed stores). Make an un-messy treat by letting the gravy dry on the kibble.
- Any dry treat your dog likes, such as Charlee Bears.
- Chub-type dog food cut into small chunks and allowed to dry out.
- Many semisoft treats, such as beef jerky-type sticks, can be cut and allowed to dry out.
Don’t forget to treat yourself for all your hard work with your dog!