Keeping up the consistency of training your dog at home, when you don’t have a dog trainer looking over your shoulder or need to be top of the class can be hard!
Let’s be honest, there is a lot of other stuff we do at home, and sometimes training our dogs takes a back seat, to you… know ALL THAT OTHER life stuff!
But training relies on keeping things consistent and interesting; there aren’t any shortcuts, honestly. Dogs learn through repetition and being rewarded for things we want them to do, but we have to be persistent and keep at it.
Here are our top tips to make at-home training fun as well as consistent:
Set up treat stations
Having jars of dog treats hidden around your house or apartment means no fumbling around or looking for treats when your dog does something you’d like to reward. It also means you can reward things spontaneously without your dog knowing ‘oh you’ve got your treat bag, we must be doing a training session’. Time to get sneaky!
Teach different things
Training the same thing over and over again is going to be boring for you, and it’s also going to be boring for your dog too.
Think about five different simple behaviors you might want to teach – here are our suggestions for easy things to teach which will be useful AND interesting!
- Sit – add distance and move away from your puppy while they’re in a sit
- Hand Target – excellent fun trick for teaching nose to hand targeting and works great as a recall too
- Middle – teach your dog a go behind and sit in between your legs
- Go to heel – teach a flashy finish at the end of the recall, by having your dog come to the side of you, or you can use it for your dog to come into the side for heelwork.
- Sit on recall – teach a reliable sit on a verbal cue. Then start to use it as your dog is coming towards you.
Keep training sessions short and sweet
Do 3 or 5 repetitions of a behavior and then take a break. Imagine how tiring it is when we do multiple squats (ouch, thigh burn!) and then what does that look like in dog terms? Avoid long repetitive sessions of things like sits and downs.
Try using different rewards
Don’t stick to using the same food treats, mix up what you’re using so sometimes your dog gets a piece of their daily kibble rations, and sometimes they get a juicy soft treat.
Look for play or life rewards your dog likes, like tug, fetch or stroking, whatever works for your dog.
Set reminders to train your dog
Phone reminders? Apple watch? The calendar on your computer? Good old-fashioned checking the clock and training on the hour? Whatever works for you to stay consistent in training your dog is the way to go.
Get the family involved and share responsibilities
Training a puppy can be exhausting if it’s all on you to do it. If you have family members living with you, give them certain times of the day that they’re responsible for training the puppy, and yes this includes toilet training!
Petrina Firth is a Dog Trainer and Certified Animal Behaviorist of over 10 years who now mainly specializes in Separation Anxiety (CSAT) and also creates content, lessons and articles for the Zigzag puppy training app and website. Petrina is a member of the PPG, the head of marketing and board member for the APDT UK, and a member of the CAPBT committee. She is also a tech and gadget enthusiast who enjoys city living with her rescue French Bulldog and partner.
Zigzag* is a puppy training app with a difference, rather than focusing solely on obedience we take puppy guardians on a journey through Life Skills and important developmental stages, to hopefully give them happy, confident and well-behaved puppies, with an understanding that puppies and dogs aren’t robots, they have big feelings, and that’s ok!
*Available in the UK and coming soon to the US.