One of the things I’ve recently learned in my few years of dog ownership is that you are always training your dog — even when you think you aren’t. We train our dogs to do all sorts of things unconsciously. (For example, they keep barking and jumping at the exterior door, because I let them in whenever they do that. Bad human!)
But to help myself train a bit more consciously, I’ve been setting up what I call “training stations” around our house.
I’m sure you’ve been there before: Your dog suddenly behaves exactly the way you want her to, and you have nothing (powerful, e.g., food) to reward her with. Or your dog issues the movement you’ve been trying for weeks to capture, and you don’t have a clicker or a treat anywhere in sight. This seems to happen to me all the time.
Hence, training stations.
These are just little areas of the house where I have learned that I tend to want to work with the dogs, so I outfit those spaces with treats and a clicker and maybe a rewarding toy or two. All of this is put up in a place where the dogs can’t get to it.
In this area, on the console table in our dining room, I’m mostly trying to reward both girls for coming when called. They both have a habit of barking at our neighbors (at wee hours of the morning), which is not desirable. Now that I have this station set up near the door, I can quickly reward them for coming when called — and boy, has it been working! Both Pyrrha and Eden will come almost every time when I call them to come in from the yard. It’s still a work in progress, but having this station near the door has been so helpful.
I also have a training station in a basket in the basement, where we do more movement-intensive training (like working on our stay, go to mat, or leave it cues). We also do most of our grooming down here, so the basket is filled with treats, toys, clickers, and grooming supplies.
Finally, I also have a tiny training station in the dog room, where they have their crates. Both girls have their “go to your house” command down pretty solid, but we still like to intermittently reinforce this. Because these treats live on the windowsill, the door to their room is often closed if we haven’t put the treats up and out of reach.
It may seem silly, but having these little stations has certainly improved the likelihood of me training and reinforcing good behavior, as well as just encouraging me to do some training on the fly.
What strategies have you adopted to make training easier in your home?