"I don't have the time."
Earlier this month, a lot of kiddos started another school year, which means band practice, sports, clubs, social events, school events, projects, homework, papers (the list goes on) are back in full force. It's very easy to say we don't have time to squeeze one more thing into the mix of all that - I know I've said it and I don't even have kids!
Our time and how we spend it is important to us and is - especially around times of the year like this - rationed out to only the most important things in our lives. As a result, things like dog training with our SideKicks can quietly slide to the back burner.
What if I told you, though, that dog training doesn't and shouldn't take hours of your time each week...? In fact, what if I told you that just five minutes a day could make a huge impact...?**
Spending lengthy amounts of time each week working on a behavior or a trick can make it boring for your SideKick. Imagine being forced to sit in a classroom for hours, answering questions from the multiplication table; even if you were paid handsomely and with your favorite currency (money, chocolate, wine, etc.), you'd get bored fast and start making mistakes, get frustrated, and super distracted. Boredom, frustration, distraction....these things do not make for a successful learning scenario and should make you wonder what your SideKick is really getting out of those lengthy sessions.
Instead, keep the formal sessions short, to the point, and fun! I often recommend grabbing a handful of treats and working on one or two behaviors until the handful is gone. Short, quick, fun sessions like this on a daily basis add up quickly! They leave your SideKick wanting more, looking forward to training sessions, and, most importantly, interested in engaging with you. Short, fun, full of rewards....these things keep your SideKick working, thinking, figuring things out, and learning - and that's our ultimate goal, right?
When you think of it that way...grabbing a handful of treats and working with your SideKick on a daily basis shouldn't be terribly difficult to fit in; after all, you have to feed your them, right? What if you grabbed a handful of food out of that bowl you were just about to set down and work on a couple behaviors before giving your SideKick the rest? Training session accomplished! Check that one off the list for the day.
On that note, your SideKick is ALWAYS learning from you, so there are plenty of times throughout the day that training opportunities present themselves. There's not always a need to set aside time specifically for a formal session.
Want to teach your SideKick to Sit before going outside on leash? Fantastic! Start looking for that butt to touch the floor before opening the door (and providing access to the reward - the great outdoors).
Wish your SideKick would lay on their mat off to the side while you're preparing dinner for the family? We can do that! Keep a little cup or pile of treats on the counter next to you and toss them to your SideKick intermittently (of course, if they're laying on their mat).
Is there almost any behavior you'd like to work on with your dog? You've got to go for a walk or play in the yard or get some exercise every day anyway; use those times to practice a couple behaviors a few times each.
Even if you're busy - scratch that - even WHEN you're busy, there are opportunities every day to get a bit of training in here and there. In the long run, those daily bits of consistent training will add up to a confident, happy, willing to learn, and well-adjusted SideKick!
**Disclaimer: This statement refers to most dog manners and tricks that we're looking to teach our SideKicks; other behavioral issues your SideKick may have can and often do require much more time, dedication, and persistence.