INSIDER TRAINING: Mastering the Fundamentals of Routine and Consistency to Get Your Pup Off on the Right Paw!
Congratulations on the new addition to your family! Zack and Sam, two of our trainers, also recently adopted new pups. The experience reminded them that training feels different when it is life-long learning rather than an hour-long session.
In our new series, INSIDER TRAINING, our trainers will offer insights for forging a great relationship with your dog. In the first article, Experienced Trainer, Zack Turner, shares how mastering the fundamentals of routine and consistency gets your pup off on the right paw.
Routine, Defined: Remember: Your “little baby” is still a dog. And dogs are more social than we are as humans. Their lives revolve around social relationships and pack dynamics. So, yes, it’s true they need routine and consistency to thrive – but Zack encourages members to shoot for routine in the broadest sense of the word.
Some pups need stricter schedules than others. Mostly, dogs just need to get the same cues from you – the person leading them through specific situations – each time they engage in a specific activity. Going for a walk? You probably (unconsciously) grab your shoes before you grab the leash. That’s the pup’s “cue” to dash to the door. As Zack puts it, your pup remains “on the ball” as long as you keep these same touchpoints each time.
The “Rule of Three”: Zack often sees how pet owners get caught up in the “moment-to-moment,” rather than looking at the “big picture.” Ask yourself: “What do you want your day with the dog to look like, once she is a well-functioning adult?” Break that answer down into steps or behaviors that can be done now, balancing training needs with integrating the pup into your lifestyle. Too often, pet parents make the mistake of accommodating to the pup’s lifestyle. A good rule of thumb: Don’t make more than three major changes.
So, what do dogs perceive as major changes? Moving a coffee table out of a puppy’s reach when he keeps jumping on it is a major change. Do too many of those and Zack said you’ll be adapting to the dog – not the other way around.
Consider: Pups view change through the lens of “familiar” and “unfamiliar” situations. Visiting a dog park is a positive unfamiliar situation. Moving furniture around to get the dog to stop jumping on it is a negative major change.
You Are What You Read: Myths abound when the rapidly-evolving field of canine training collides with abundant online content of varying quality; for instance, Zack mentioned the “movement” in crate training to let misbehaving dogs “cry it out.” If she doesn’t get better, too bad for the dog! Instead, Zack familiarizes canine students to crates in one- to two-minute increments working up to five- to 10-minute stints. That way, they’re more comfortable with the crate, which should be a safe space – not punishment. Even when used as a “timeout,” crates are a low-stress, low-stimulus environment for your erratic or hyper dog to calm down.
Think: Consistency Before Routine: No, you do NOT have to feed or walk your dog at exactly the same times each day. Dogs only tell time in a rudimentary way; i.e., it’s morning, afternoon or night. So, it’s more important for behaviors or events to occur in the same order within the same wide time ranges consistently. Stick to the same schedule as best you can. Make tweaks one at a time, or as small as possible. Baby steps are key.
Next in our training series, we’ll explore ways to set your maturing pup up for success. Remember, slow and steady wins the race!