A Crafty Way to Train Your Dog

I have a new puppy! Well, she isn’t actually totally new, she’s just a little bit new. Kip is a 6 month old lab. That means lots of ENERGY and lots of FUN. It exciting, but there is a lot to train your dog on in the first few months.

train your dog
But sometimes it can be overwhelming…….because she’s a PUPPY!

It can also be overwhelming to try to figure out what to teach Kip and to remember what we last worked on. There are so many things that a new pup needs to learn. I consider certain behaviors “foundational” because they are the things upon which other behaviors are built and they are core to developing good manners in the home and with people. Some of the skills that I consider foundational are Loose Leash Walking, Sit, Down, Focus, Target Go to Mat, Crate and Recall.

Ah! That’s a lot of things to train your dog on, especially when there are other life things that invade my time with Kip, as well as other dogs in my house to train.

Here are a few secrets to success: 

1. Break up the time to train your dog into multiple brief sessions. I aim for two minute sessions with Kip.
2. Have a plan to train your dog. My plan is based upon Sue Ailsby’s Training Levels which focuses on introducing these foundational behaviors and then building on them incrementally, in very small slices, such that neither of us are overwhelmed.
3. Make notes so that you’ll know where to start to train your dog next time.
4. Work short sessions into your daily life such that you are training your pup “as you go”- sometimes in the laundry room while you are starting your laundry, sometimes in the kitchen before or after doing the dishes, sometimes in the bathroom when you go to brush your teeth.
5. Plant visual reminders around your house so that you are gently prompted to train as you move throughout your typical day.

Visual Reminders to Train Your Dog

Here’s an example of one of my visual reminders – I use craft sticks. I write one behavior per stick and I place the sticks into a coffee mug in my kitchen. The mugs sit on my counter. I pass in and out of my kitchen all day and the mugs are easily visible and remind me of something that Kip and I need to train.

train your dog

For example, I just went into my kitchen to start dinner. There they are! My training mugs, right in the center of my table. I grab a craft stick and read “loose leash”. Since I keep Kip’s sessions brief, I have time for a 2 minute Loose Leash session in my kitchen. As we finish our session, I move the “Loose Leash craft stick” to the other mug. After i get dinner in the oven, I grab another stick which reads Sit. I spend about 2 minutes reviewing Sit and then move that craft stick to the other mug.

My gentle visual reminders scattered all around my house ensure that Kip and I train at various times of the day, in various rooms of the house, building on a variety of foundational skills, and keeping our sessions short and fun. The reminders are really helpful when you want to train your dog.

Most importantly the craft sticks keep me from feeling overwhelmed.

Are there ways that you plan training for your dog that are helpful? Do share. I love to hear new ideas!

Rachel Thornton is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge Assessed, a graduate of the Karen Pryor Academy of Animal Training and Behavior and Owner of Cold Nose College Natchez Trace located in Hamilton, Alabama. She’s also well-known trainer and mentor in the service dog community. Rachel offers force-free training and behavior consulting to clients in the tri-state area of Alabama, Tennessee and Mississippi. 205-412-3612; www.coldnosecollege.com


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