The Best Time to Train Your Dog
What is the best time to train your dog? There is actually more than one
best time to train your dog…there are five!
Best Time #1: First Things First – The 3 “E”s
There are three things dogs want to do in the morning: Eliminate, Eat
and Explore (the 3 “E”s). Simply ask your dog to sit, lie down or stay
before granting her desires. This category is related to #3,“Throughout
the Day Cues” but is especially important so it has it’s own category.
Best Time #2: Throughout the Day “Captures”
Capturing the behaviors that your dog spontaneously performs is one of
the easiest and quickest methods you can use to train your dog. Simply
watch him and whenever he does something you want, praise him and toss
him a treat. Over time, he will start offering the behaviors more
frequently. Then it’s simply a matter of weaning him off the treats.
The six “Capture” behaviors we stress in our classes are: sitting, lying
down, going to a bed, picking up a toy, walking by your side and the
most important, the “check in,” that is, whenever your dog glances up at
you before doing anything.
Remember to jackpot the “aha” moment when the dog finally “gets” what
the game is. For example, when a guest walks in the door and your dog,
without being asked, pauses, lies down and looks at you. Super praise
and multiple treats should rain from the heavens! That’s a jackpot.
Best Time #3: Throughout the Day “Cues”
You don’t want to have to carry treats around with you for the rest of
your life. Thus the importance of asking your dog to do one of the
behaviors that you’ve been capturing throughout the day and using “life
rewards.” Life rewards are anything your dog wants that isn’t food. Want
to go outside? Sit first. Want to chase the ball? Lie down first. Want
to get on my bed? Go to your bed first. Want to sniff the fire hydrant?
Walk 10 steps by my side first. Want to go for a ride? Get me a beer out
of the fridge.
Best Time #4: Sixty Seconds Immediately
Following an Unwanted Behavior
If a dog steals food off the table, runs out the door or jumps on you,
it indicates one of two problems, the behavior has not been properly
managed/prevented or you haven’t taught the dog an appropriate
substitute behavior. Prevention and management refer to the proper use
of tethers, baby gates and exercise pens. Substitution simply entails
teaching the dog what you’d like him to do instead.
Sixty Seconds Immediately Following an Unwanted Behavior is the perfect
opportunity for training – it’s fresh in your mind and in your dog’s
mind. Taking 60 seconds to teach your dog to “leave it” when food is
placed on the table or to lie down and stay when the door opens helps
both of you become more aware. In short order, the new behavior becomes
Best Time #5: Witching Hours
Parents often call the time between 4 o’clock and 9 o’clock in the
afternoon the “witching hours” because they notice a real energy uptick
in their child’s behavior. In the canine world, this is called the
“crepuscular” time. Think of it as a time of day where Mother Nature is
screaming in your dog’s ear, “your ancestors were wolves! Go hunting!”
The trick is for you to harness your dog’s sudden burst of energy and
use it as a training opportunity. Take your dog for walks or runs, play
hide-n-seek, play fetch, proper tug and teach your dog to hunt treats
around the house or yard. All of these are easier when your dog is
already geared for action.
How do you turn the switch off? Just because you’re ready to stop
doesn’t mean your dog is. The easiest way to teach a dog an off switch
is to say something like “that’s it,” or “all done,” and have them run
to their bed and lie down. Then go get a long-chewing treat like a bully
stick or treat-filled Kong. The dog’s chewing will actually help
dissipate that last bit of energy.
* * *
Consider the flip side. If you don’t do these things, your dog is likely
to become “self-employed.” To keep themselves busy, they’ll become
gardeners, home decorators, clothing designers and official protectors
of the castle. It’s much easier and fun for both of you to teach them
what you want them to do rather than trying to take their job away.
Go With the Flow
Reliable behavior is built on a solid foundation and The Five Best Times
to Train Your Dog does exactly that with a go-with-the-flow training
model that makes the education process part of a person’s everyday
routine. And dogs thrive on routines!