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Sharon Empson provides some tips to help busy clients fit dog training into their daily routine

Finding time to add dog training into a busy family routine can be challenging for clients

Cueing dogs to sit for their food is a simple way to train the behavior, as well as build up duration and distance


© Can Stock Photo/sonyae

usy school schedule for the kids, dishes in the sink, soccer games, doctor appointments, working outside the home... In our busy, fast-paced world, setting time aside to train our dogs sometimes seems impossible and, as a dog trainer, I understand the frustration my clients experience when I add one more thing to the lives they juggle - dog training homework. Even though my clients do their best to carve out a few minutes every day to practice their homework, when class ends, training time seems to fade off into the sunset. As a busy dog mom with my own dog training business, I understand my clients’ emotional response to the thought of adding one more thing to an already hectic day. I started to wonder what I could do as a professional dog trainer to help them develop consistency with practicing the behaviors they have learned in class. Just as you keep up with things at home by doing a little bit each day, you can apply the same practice to your dog’s training by working training homework into your daily routine. The first order of business is to figure out what your dog considers a high-value reinforcer, i.e. something the dog really loves or desires. One type of reinforcer is food. My dogs’ favorite meat treat is bacon, leftover steak, chicken and hot dogs. I cut them into pea-sized bits, store them in a baggy and keep them in the refrigerator so when I need them, they are ready to go. If you use dry treats, I recommend keeping a few treat jars around the house in the rooms you frequent, giving you easy access to a reward when you need it. I also like to mark my dog’s behaviors with a clicker. For convenience, I keep a clicker attached to a stretchy band around my wrist. If you have a sound-sensitive dog who doesnʼt like the clicker, use a voice marker like “good” or “yes” instead. My 28

BARKS from the Guild/March 2017

© Can Stock Photo/kittimages

clients often ask me if they always have to use a clicker. The answer is, “no.” Once your dog learns a behavior, you no longer need to use the clicker, just your cue. Another powerful reinforcer is the Premack Principle, which is often called Grandma’s law, i.e. “When you eat all your peas you can have ice cream.” I like to use the Premack principle with my dogs whenever I can. I make it my job to find out what each of them loves to do. Collectively this is to charge out the back door and down the stairs, each trying to be the first one in the backyard, so I use this as a reward for responding to a sit cue. When training this behavior, I cue the sit before I open the door; if they get up, I close the door. They have learned if they want to go out, they must sit first. Here is a snapshot of the whole scene: My dogs ask to go out, we go to the back door, they sit, I open the back door, give the release cue, and off they go running wildly down the stairs and out into the yard. They do what I want, to get what they want, and they love it! Remember, it is your dog that decides what is reinforcing.

Practicing Sit

Here are the different reinforcers I use when practicing the sit cue in my daily routine. I cue sit before: • Feeding time: Reinforcer = the dog’s food. • Attaching the leash: Reinforcer = going for a walk. • Going outside: Reinforcer = going outside, and in my case, my dogs racing each other to the backyard. • Playing, throwing a ball, playing tug: Reinforcer = toy, playing with you. • Going into the crate: Reinforcer = high-value treats or a

BARKS from the Guild March 2017  

The bi-monthly trade publication from the Pet Professional Guild covering all things animal behavior and training, canine, feline, equine, p...

BARKS from the Guild March 2017  

The bi-monthly trade publication from the Pet Professional Guild covering all things animal behavior and training, canine, feline, equine, p...