Posted by: Linda Trunell | November 3, 2013

You DO Have Time for Training!

“I didn’t have time to train this week.”

I hear this all the time when I ask my students how their week was.  Most of us have busy schedules and feel like there are not enough hours in the day to do everything we want to do.

What they may not realize is if they have spent any time at all with their dog they have been teaching something!  Remember that rewarding = reinforcing = increasing a behavior and removing rewards = punishing = decreasing a behavior.

Max 4 Yrs. Old

Every interaction is teaching something – but is it what you want your dog to learn?

If you ask for a sit or down and wait before you put the food bowl on the floor you are teaching self control.  If you just put the bowl down when your dog was out of the room, you missed that opportunity.  If your dog was there barking at you or jumping up when you placed the bowl on the floor, you just reinforced that behavior.

Did your dog come when called and stand still to have the harness and leash put on before going for a walk?  If so, you reinforced the recall with the reward of a walk.  If  you chased him around and struggled with him to put on the harness and leash and then took him for a walk, you reinforced that behavior.

When you were walking did you really pay attention to each other or did he pull you along as you talked on your phone?  If you stopped moving forward when he pulled you “punished” that behavior therefore decreasing it.

When you are playing tug and you ask your dog to drop the toy and then praise him and return to the tug game when he does, you have reinforced the drop cue.

When you ask your dog to wait before you open the front door, gate, or car door, or before you cross the street you are teaching impulse control.

There are so many more examples I could give, but I’m sure you’ve got the idea.

“Formal” Training Sessions

When you are teaching a new behavior, you want to have your clicker and treats (primary reinforcer) and work in an area with minimal distractions.  Keep the training sessions short and fun.  Quit while the dog is interested in continuing so that he will look forward to the next session.

Hint:  While watching TV, have a little training session during the commercials by asking your dog to come, sit, touch, down, stay, etc.

Reinforcing & Generalizing

Once a behavior has been taught you should continue to strengthen it by marking and rewarding.  You can use a vocal marker (“Yes”) and reward with praise, affection, play or other “life rewards” such as a walk or car ride or interactions with people or other dogs.

Help your dog to generalize by asking for behaviors throughout the day in different locations.  You can reinforce with food or “life rewards” but it is important to mark and reward all the behaviors you want.

I think that reinforcing behaviors is like making a deposit in a trust account with your dog and not reinforcing is like making a withdrawal.  Don’t let your account be overdrawn.

Never take your dog’s good behavior for granted – let him know you like it!

Here’s to being our dog’s best friend,



  1. If we have “no” time for training we do a little bit besides, that’s not the best, but better than nothing :o)


  2. Agreed! People can develop the good habit of letting dogs know they like and appreciate good behavior. 🙂



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