Sarah Wilson

Dog Expert

Dog Training: Please Do Not “Practice”


Make training = fun and you'll have a trained dog!My clients, motivated and interested, always want to know how much they should “practice” a day. My answer is the same: please don’t “practice” if you mean a 15-20 minute long session.

Normally this results in puzzled blinking at me. I explain. When you coach kids on manners, do you sit down and practice “please” and “thank you” for 20 minutes a day?

The answer to this, so far, has been “No”.

Exactly, you simply make it a part of the day. You coach and encourage them to use good manners then smile and praise them when they do. When they don’t, you calmly insist that they go back and try again.

That is exactly what I want with dog training.

Use what your dog knows where and when you will need it. If you train in special sessions, you get obedience in special sessions. If you train it in life, you get it in life. The exception? Teaching a new skill/behavior to your dog. That often does need to be broken out but then it is added in to your “use it in life” work as quickly as possible.

So, if you want your dog to be a more responsive, even better companion, skip special “practice” sessions and make training  a part of your day-to-day life with your dog.

Have your dog sit before meals (that’s 2x a day), before you open the door for a walk (4-6x more), before you praise and pet him (10+ x), have him down during your meals (3x) or before each belly rub (?x). Pretty quickly you find a dozen or so chances to practice a day with each moment taking only a few extra seconds, if that.

This way, like manners, listening and responding becomes a part of life, in fact one of the best parts of life. Listening becomes the way to get the good stuff – your attention, a walk, food. And when listening is linked to those things, every dog’s tail starts to wag.

Recondition yourself to think of training as a joyful chance for you and your dog to connect. Share your joy in his response and, if he doesn’t respond, simply help him to get it right then try again. No biggy.

You do those three things for three days:

  • Link listening to you to everything good.
  • Share your joy in your dog’s response when he gets it right.
  • Calmly help him get it right if he doesn’t respond then try again.

And I am betting you will have a dramatically more responsive dog in 72 hours.

Try it.

Then come back and tell me. I’d like to hear.


Like these blogs? Check out some of my books:
How to Train Your Dog to ComeMy Smart PuppyChildproofing Your Dog,


  1. Hi Sarah! Thank you for this post. It confirms what I have always felt worked best with my dogs. The only time it seems not to is on walks with my mixed breed dog. He seems to be a terrier of some sort- we’ve been told Corgi mix (who knows?). He seems to be very visually motivated. Once he smells someone (person or dog) from afar (before we see them) he is straining on the leash in a state of excitement and fully alert!! I always know I will shortly see whatever it is he smelled, or heard. He is very strong, especially across the chest, and he pulls mercilessly, paying no heed to me or his own discomfort on the leash. Since we live in an apartment community with lots of walkers and dogs, this occurs all the time. It is rare when I can get him to walk on a looser lead ( notice I didn’t say loose). To complicate it, I have Lab that is also walked at the same time. Any suggestions??

  2. Great info! I’ve always believed in this but it seems a little difficult with three OTHER adults in the house all doing different things with our dog and even letting him “cheat”!

    He’s quite obedient with me but gets away with not listening to the other family members sometimes since they aren’t the authoritative ones. Will this change or will he continue to obey only those who incorporate this daily routine/habit with him?

  3. Disagree from Experience. Owned,trained,handled Cairn Terrier 3 phases of Obedience, Canine Good Citizen, TDI (Therapy Dog) all walking on a crutch. Practice twice a day early on,Gabby ribboned,responded to hand signals no voice and was a joy to all he visited. Also handled,trained golden/chow stray who knew and understood my disability and her training as well. Clickers a joke

    • Congrats on your accomplishments!

      If training to walk around a ring, then train by walking around a ring. This blog is for pet people and, for them, adding training into every day life is effective and easy. Wouldn’t get them a CDX but then, they aren’t aiming for one.

      And NO way to use a clicker with a crutch for most people and not necessary to do so. Decades of training happened before any dolphin was ever clicked. 🙂

  4. I think this is a real great blog post.Much thanks again. bbcddckcdd

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