Take 5 Minutes to Train

Rocco, a Boxer
Rocco, a Boxer

You can get a lot of training done in 5 minutes –

If you train your dog for 5 minutes a day, every day.  In five minutes, you can get in 50 click/treats (if you are on top of your game!) and train a new behavior quickly.  In reality, your dog is learning all the time about how to get what he wants, and to avoid what he doesn’t like.  Why not spend just a few minutes a day rewarding the behavior you want, putting it on cue, and reinforcing your dog’s response to that cue? 

What to do?
Where to start?  Start small.  Decide on one thing you would like your dog to to, and break down that behavior to the smallest parts possible.  Decide to reinforce a simple behavior of self-control like sitting, whenever it occurs.  You don’t have to give the behavior a name, you can simply click and treat behavior that you like, and it will occur more frequently.

Here’s how:  have your clicker and treats ready, your dog near you inside the house.  Wait for the dog to sit, click and toss a treat away.  Your dog will eat the treat and probably come back to you.  Wait for a sit again, click and toss another treat.  Make sure you have attractive treats, so the dog will want to work to make you click.  This can become a fun game for you and your dog – if you want to exercise your dog, you can get him excited and moving quickly, or if you want it more leisurely and relaxed, you can keep the action low-key.  Either way, you are increasing the likelihood that your dog will sit when they approach people – a desirable behavior.

Other simple ways to increase attentiveness:  when you are out on a walk with your dog, click and treat when your dog offers eye contact (on leash), or voluntarily comes back to you (off leash).

What if you want to train a complex task?
If you want to train something more complicated like retrieving a ball or toy, spend some time analyzing the behavior you want to train.  A retrieve is a chain of several behaviors linked together.  Decided exactly what you want your dog to do, and write down the sequence of behaviors in the   chain.   What do you want the dog to do when you throw the object – wait at your side, or chase the ball?  How do you want him to bring it back?  What does he do when he gets back to you?  Define that.  It is best to back-chain:  teach the end of the behavior chain first, and work back to the beginning.  But you still work on the chain bit by bit – and you can get a lot done in 5 minutes.
Set yourself up for success
Make it easy to do mini training sessions at home by having clicker and treats in cabinets, drawers, or containers in several places around your house (covered and out of reach of the dog!).  I have a clicker and treats stashed in my kitchen, in my living room, and in the office.  I have a clicker in the glove box of my truck.  If I had a table or shelf near the front door, I would have training supplies there too.  If the tools are ready to hand, it is easier to get started 🙂

Finding those 5 minutes – Think about your lifestyle and when you already interact with your dog.  When I return home from work, I like to play with my dogs and wander around in the backyard with them.  Training is just another form of play for us.  My partner likes to have time alone when he gets home from work and doesn’t want to interact with anyone – not a good time for him to train.

Here are a few ideas for finding time to train:

Use part of one of your dog’s meals for training

During a walk – bring your clicker and treats along and mix it up

Just after you come home and let the dog out

In the backyard while you are doing yard work that does not involve machines like mowers (or sharp tools)

In the kitchen while you prepare a meal (makes treats easily available too)

While you watch TV (especially during commercial breaks)

Instead of Tweeting or Facebooking (or train first, and go to social media as your reinforcement

Whenever you catch your dog doing something right!  So often, when the dog is being calm and quiet in a difficult situation, they are ignored and don’t get reinforced for being good.

When that triggering event happens – the mailman arrives, the garbage truck stops,  the school bus arrives.  I recently switched internet providers and the installers were at my house for a few hours working inside and outside.  I put my young dog, Deagan, in his crate before they arrived.  Each time one of the cable guys came inside, I presented a spoon with peanut butter on it to Deagan.  He got a lick and learned that person coming into the house = a tasty treat for that good dog resting in his crate.


© Dawn Gilkison Positive Solutions Dog Training

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