When should you train your dog?

You probably think that training only happens during a “training” session…

And while you are not necessarily wrong, training is actually happening anytime you are interacting with your dog! Your dog is constantly getting signals and information from you that are reinforcing behaviors or punishing behaviors.  A critical mental shift that you need (if you haven’t figured this out already) is realizing that since you have a dog you are a trainer; good, bad or otherwise.

So are you taking advantage of these little opportunities throughout the day or are you letting them pass by? The more repetitions of good behavior you can reward the stronger that behavior will become.

When you shift your perspective to “training can happen any time you are with your dog” you become more aware of your dog’s behavior throughout the day…which means you can reward them for all the good things they do! This also means you need to be more aware of your behavior throughout the day, which can be tough and uncomfortable initially.

Your dog chose to go lay in its bed in the kitchen without being told to, reward that. Your dog asked politely to go outside, reward that. Your dog easily went in their crate, reward that. So many things throughout the day can be rewarded but you have to be looking for them. If you want your dog’s behavior to change…your behavior also has to change.

Now you don’t have to reward them each and every time and oftentimes a reward can be as simple as a belly rub.

Here is a tip: if you have dogs who are very food motivated, consider having a small treat pouch with you most of the time or place small bowls or jars of their kibble or other tasty treats around the house (up high so they can’t access them when you aren’t around). This way you are going to be more prepared to reward them quickly when they do something good. And it should be within a few short seconds after they perform the desired behavior so they can make the connection.

Our dogs are incredibly perceptive of everything we do and sometimes it feels like they know us better than we know ourselves. So when they realize that we are paying close attention to them and they have frequent opportunities to be rewarded they may be more likely to do the “right” behaviors more and more often without being “told.”

Think about it this way, if you have kids, you are consistently providing them information and guidance, letting them know what is right and wrong, throughout the day when you are with them. And if you are doing a relatively good job, eventually they need a bit less guidance as they grow up and develop and they will make the correct decisions themselves. But this tends to only happen with consistency over time. Behavior change doesn’t happen overnight.

Our dogs, especially puppies and adolescent dogs are not much different. What is different is how we communicate the information to our dogs. But training or teaching our dogs is always happening.

So take advantage of every little training opportunity you have throughout the day. And remember, our dogs are only with us for a relatively short period of time so enjoy them and help them live a fulfilled and happy life

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