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,


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