How do you stay motivated to train your dog?

Confession time: I am a really lazy dog trainer. All of the rest of you put me to shame (at least, from what I can tell by reading your dog blogs).

Ready to play at sunrise. #pyrrhagramI get even lazier about training Pyrrha when we have fosters. A lot of energy is expended just teaching the fosters basic things (simple house manners, crate acclimation, walking on leash, etc.) that Pyrrha’s own training usually gets lost in the shuffle. We get a few “puppy push-ups” or exercises of pre-learned behaviors, but that’s it. I mean, how often are you guys training a day? From the sound of your blogs, it sounds like all the time, like hours and hours every day. I feel embarrassed at the tiny amounts of time that I actively “train.”

Having the treat bag has helped a lot, actually. Keeping it stocked and in an accessible place reminds me to keep training and keep Pyrrha engaged.

Waiting for someone to drop some food. #pyrrhagram

Lately, we’ve just been working on little things:

  • Leash reactivity with other dogs. This is a new-ish behavior (started exhibiting maybe in February of this year), and it’s not entirely consistent (some dogs don’t bother her; others do), and I am a little overwhelmed and unsure of how to fix it. I think I need to re-read Control Unleashed. I have also signed her up for a small, individualized reactivity class (“Feisty Fidos”) with our trainer at Canine Campus, which will start in the early fall. So I am looking forward to that as well. I am grateful to have been in touch with our trainer about this issue.
  • Baby steps toward off-leash recall. We have a long-ish driveway, and so every night now, Pyrrha comes with me to get the mail on a loose slip-lead. When we turn back toward the house, I drop the lead, and she gets to saunter or run back to the front door. She’s been doing very well at this, and if she strays too far, I call her back and she returns to my side. Baby steps toward off-leash recall! I am not eager to try anything more adventurous at this point. This is a safe space for her to learn this behavior (and the fact that she still has a lead draped around her neck means that she can’t get TOO far ahead of me).
  • Improving her relationship with Guion. For reasons that are still unclear to us, Pyrrha’s relationship with Guion has regressed since Rainer left. She seems more scared of him now than she did six months ago. I’m really not sure why this is. I think part of it, frankly, is that Guion just doesn’t engage with her even a fraction as much as I do. I feed her all of her meals, I’m the primary trainer, I groom her, I walk her… he just needs to get more involved, and I think he knows this. We were much more vigilant about it when we first got her, and we recognized that she was afraid of him (mainly because he was male), but we’ve been lazy about it, and she’s regressed, so it’s time to step up our game.

So, how do you stay motivated to keep training your dog(s)? Do you write down lists of what you want to teach them? Do you have a daily training schedule? How can I stop being so lazy about it??

As always, eager to hear and learn from each of you.

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15 thoughts on “How do you stay motivated to train your dog?

  1. My biggest motivation is reading, going to seminars and watching videos of dogs doing cool stuff, lol. Every time I see something new/exciting, I get uber pumped to train with my dogs. Like a couple weeks ago I went to my very first herding trial, when I got back I was revamped to buckle down with my training with my own dog. If I watch a cool youtube video of a dog doing a neat trick, same thing. Or if I read a book about training I always want to immediately go and try one of the exercises out with my crew. 😉 I tried to make lists before but honestly that just overwhelmed and depressed me! I also keep a training journal that I write in everyday (or try to) to keep myself pushing forward. In the journal I keep track of what my dogs are eating, what their body language is saying during training, how long we trained, what we worked on, what we need to improve and the progress we’ve made. That has really helped me stay up to date with my kids! And I definitely don’t think you need to train hours a day, honestly, that might be a bit much. I like the rule of 5 short sessions a day, maybe the sessions are only 5 minutes (if you’re working on something new) or 10-15 minutes if it’s a behavior you’re just brushing up on. Lots of breaks, I was just reading about breaks: http://stalecheerios.com/blog/training-tips/breaks-improve-training/

    My herding trainer encourages lots of breaks, for both physical and mental well being of the dog, so I’ve always used them, but it’s good to see that it’s getting more popularity!

    1. Thanks for sharing! This was encouraging to read. I’d like to keep a more accurate journal of Pyrrha’s activities, especially her behavior and training. And thanks for sharing the blog Stale Cheerios; looks like good reading!

  2. I definitely go in phases – sometimes, we will have little training sessions every single day for weeks. And then? I just get too lazy and tired to think about bringing treats on walks or doing much of anything after work. Right now we are searching for a good class to get Rufus more exposed to new people and dogs as he seems to be regressing more than I’d like. Ugh..it’s really a lifelong thing. Rufus and Alex still have moments were Alex feels as though Rufus doesn’t “respect” him as much as he should, but I tell him that it is totally his fault. I’m trainer, treat giver, meal provider, and I do 99% of his exercising by myself. I mean…can you blame the dog??

    1. Yes, that sounds like me too. A lot of Rufus’ behavior also reminds me of Pyrrha’s; you are right about the “regressing” thing. Pyrrha has been falling back to some old, fearful behaviors; it’s both perplexing and frustrating. And just further motivation to keep working! (And you’re right, too; she is WAY more bonded to me, probably for the same reasons that Rufus is to you.)

      1. For Rufus, I think it comes out most in moments when he feels threatened. Alex ADORES him, but can come on too strong. As soon as I coach him on how to approach Rufus, they seem to do much better. Sometimes it’s all about conflicting personalities.

  3. We don’t actively train too much once they’ve got the basics down. I’m not usually the one that does walks, but when I do, I bring the treat bag and reward for things like walking past another dog quietly, sitting off the road when a car passes, and ask for “sit” or “look” at various time. We use a large number of our commands in their daily routine. They have to sit to go outside, stay in their rooms while we prep meals, wait for the “okay” to eat, “get outta there” if they come into the kitchen uninvited, speak to go outside, etc. I’ll do a 5 minute real training session anywhere from a couple times a week to once every couple weeks. If Gambit is at the lake and no other dogs are there, we practice recall in combination with playing fetch. Having Guion do the feedings at minimum could help reduce Pyrrha’s fear of him.

  4. I’m not only a lazy trainer, I’m a bad trainer too. But when we had our severely shy foster dog, Cherie, I saw how much Honey enjoyed training. I wrote the following post to help motivate myself: http://www.somethingwagging.com/10-top-dog-training-tips-you-can-use-every-day/

    For me the biggest helps are having treats everywhere so I can do just a few moments of training throughout the day. And the other one is doing training while we’re walking.

    Lately, I’ve been teaching Honey how to weave between my legs on a walk to keep her focused on me after deciding she’s not ready to go back in the house.

    I wouldn’t beat yourself up too much. No one does everything they think they should do.

  5. I really only stick to a schedule when we’re working on something specific or when we’re enrolled in a class. Otherwise… I just try to do little things throughout the day, like waiting to be released to run out the back door, high five, or whatever. Although, you have me thinking about what I need to start really working on next!

  6. On a normal day, training here happens as part of our daily routine. They sit and have good manners before I put their food bowls down, Flattery is learning to wait at the door. When Morgan gets amped up by people walking past the house, I have to stop what I’m doing and work with her.

    Other days, when Küster is training, are a different story. His training requires a lot of planning. I need to stop and lay a trail on the way home from work sometimes, or we need to be at a certain place at a certain time. His training is a lot more deliberate and planned out.

    I’ll be honest, though, most of the time, there are not hours dedicated to training at my house!

  7. It’s really hard to stick to a schedule on your own. If a training club isn’t an option (and they are a big time commitment) – try finding a training buddy. Maybe someone in the rescue group?

  8. This is a great topic!

    I’m a lazy trainer, too. If I try to set aside defined chunks of time to do formal training, I generally fail. I’m much better interspersing small training sessions in the course of normal daily activities. We have a long walk every evening, so it’s easy to do 30 seconds of heelwork, or a couple of ball tosses where I ask the dog to wait, or a sit or down before I throw the ball, etc. We have some recall games we play, which are fun for both of us.

    My dog is in charge of all pre-dishwasher plate cleaning, so that’s a good time to ask for a wait, for a position change from a sit to a down, for him to recall past the waiting plates, etc.

    I like to mix in trick training as well, which makes it more fun than work. Mine knows weaving between legs, walking with his front feet on top of mine, “spread ’em” for a patdown, twist & spin, jump over my leg, sit up, wave, etc. etc. For some reason, trick training is always lighthearted for us, which keeps it fun.

    It helps, too, to be a bit organised with treats. I chop up small bits of cheese, sausage, liver cake, etc. on the weekend and bag up training session sized baggies, then keep them in the freezer.

    We’ve done so much training since he was a pup that I find he is often the instigator. We’ll be out on a walk, and he’ll leave the interesting smells to come put himself in heel position, which is his way of saying “can we do some work?” I’m always charmed by this, so it always works!

  9. Even if it’s just every 4-6 weeks, scheduling official training days with the trainer helps a lot! It keeps us accountable. My husband even takes a notepad and pen with him and writes down the things we’re supposed to work on for the next session.

    However, I’d say that we work with Bella on basic pet manners almost every day – but in very small ways…sitting at the front door while I open it for a walk, sitting at every curb before we cross the street, leash reactivity on walks, bringing the ball to us in the backyard so we don’t have to chase her down like we used to, etc. We also try to work in commands before we feed her, before we give her a dental chew, or anytime she’s extra treat-motivated.

    The more complicated Schutzhund behaviors take a lot more effort, so those are the hardest to remember to do. But, we’ve even done things like tying her long leash to a tree in the front yard and making her do an extended down-stay while we do yard work just a few feet away. The front yard is a big distraction area for her with all of the neighborhood happenings and dogs walking by, so working on this has coincidentally really helped with her leash reactivity issues. We just keep treats and a clicker with us on the front porch and reward her every 2-10 minutes for staying in her down command. If we see someone coming closer with their dog, we grab the treats and start giving her basic obedience commands to give her something else to focus on besides the other dog.

    We also make an effort to take her to Lowes or Home Depot with us every so often to work on her agitation issues around crowds and unexpected noises.

  10. Oh, I’m a lazy trainer. Justus has the basics; recently, he’s become very vocal…to me, this says “hey! I need some attention, too!” So, we are back to walking daily with the treat bag and reading how and where I should go in his training. Most of the others get the basics (oh, the Coonhound girls need it bad!) and then, hopefully, move on to homes…I needed this post as a kick in the pants, so to speak :).

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