The ONLY Time You Shouldn’t Train Your Puppy | Pupford
June 29th, 2023
Filed under Podcasts
There is only one time when you shouldn’t be training your puppy…
When he or she is asleep! 💤
And while that may seem far-fetched or unrealistic, let me explain why this mindset will vastly improve your puppy’s behavior!
Let’s get to it ⬇️
LISTEN TO EPISODE
I had the opportunity to live in the Philippines for two years and try my best to learn the local language.
When I first arrived, I was completely overwhelmed and confused. So, I decided to set aside an hour per day to study the language and all of its intricacies.
I did this for about a month or so and saw some success. But I was still far from where I wanted to be.
Then I had a friend give me life-changing advice. He told me I was always learning the language.
While the “book studies” were important, I hadn’t focused enough on the real-life learning opportunities.
With your puppy, you’ll often focus on “training sessions”. Those dedicated blocks of time are invaluable for improving your pup’s behavior.
THAT is when real learning often takes place. Let me explain 👇
THE TIME YOU SHOULD NOT TRAIN YOUR PUPPY
The moment your little (or not so little) buddy is awake, it’s time to train!
This does NOT mean you need dedicated training sessions for 10-12 hours per day. That’s ridiculous.
But, it does mean that as long as your pup is up, learning will happen.
Here’s an example.
You’re sitting at your table reading some emails. Your pup walks up to you and barks.
You look down at your pup and say something to him or her.
While you weren’t in a training session, you just taught your pup that when they bark they can get attention. Is that what you wanted to teach? Not necessarily, but that’s what happened either way!
Or, you hear a knock on the door.
Your pup goes wild with excitement.
How you respond next is going to teach your dog something (whether you like it or not 😀). You have a couple of options.
You open the door, your pup bolts out to greet the person enthusiastically including jumping up on the door knocker.
You direct your pup to their bed and give them a top-notch treat or chew. You then wait for them to relax or at least stop barking, and THEN open the door with your dog behind a baby gate (and ideally still on their bed/place).
In both instances, your dog learned something. Let’s break down what was learned.
OPTION #1 (opening the door)
Your dog learned that when they bark and are acting wildly, doors (literally and figuratively) open up for them.
The door opened, they got to experience a new and exciting moment with a new human. And I bet your dog loved that, why wouldn’t they? (And why wouldn’t they want to act the same way next time someone knocks on the door?)
They also jumped up on the guest, and likely got either pushed down or interacted with in some way.
Meaning, they’ll do it again next time.
Here’s the alternative 👇
OPTION #2 (using place)
Your dog learned that when someone knocks on the door, good things happened on their bed/place. They start to learn that their place brings about tasty consequences.
Additionally, the door opened only when they were calm (I know, easier said than done but you get the point here). So, they learn that being calm and listening to you is how good things happen (like seeing a new human).
And by having a baby gate keeping them from the person at the door, you never even gave him or her the opportunity to jump up on a guest. Which means they weren’t unintentionally reinforced for jumping (like in Option #1).
Which option do you want for your puppy?!
Whenever you’re with your puppy, you have an opportunity to teach and they have an opportunity to learn.
And just like in our example above, simple choices lead to wildly different results and learning.
So, how can you be more prepared to effectively teach at any moment? Here’s how ⬇️
HOW TO BE MORE PREPARED TO TEACH YOUR PUPPY AT ANY MOMENT
The best way to make these impromptu moments of learning more effective is to be prepared with the right tools! And that means reinforcers!
So I highly recommend keeping treats readily available throughout your home. Of course, out of your dog’s reach!
Additionally, any time you go outside your home with your dog you should have treats with you. It’s just the smart thing to do! 🤓
RECAP OF THE ONLY TIME YOU SHOULDN'T TRAIN YOUR PUPPY
While dedicated “training sessions” are vital for your puppy’s behavior, the moments outside of that time block are often the most important!
If your pup is awake, learning is likely occurring!
So, stay prepared with treats and as much dog training/behavior knowledge you can gain.
Expand your dog training expertise with Pupford Academy! You can get access to over 15 courses covering behaviors like impulse control (ie Option #2 from our example above), trick training, barking solutions, and so much more!
TRANSCRIPTION OF PODCAST
Devin Stagg: This is The Perfect Pup Podcast, helping you build a better relationship with your pup, presented by Pupford. Hello, pup parents, and welcome to today's episode of The Perfect Pup Podcast, my name is Devin. In this episode, we're going to talk about the one and in my opinion only time, you shouldn't train your puppy. So let's get right into it. Before we start on, when you shouldn't train your puppy, I need to tell you a quick story. So I had the opportunity to live in another country for two years. And before I left, I had a small window of time to start learning the language of where I was living. I was living in the Philippines and I had a small period of time where I was being taught the language. And when I got there, I was like, "Wow, I'm going to be ready. I've done all this preparation. I've been putting in this work."
And of course, as can you guess, I couldn't understand anybody, I would pick up every one out of 10 words or so. I had dedicated time each day where I was saying, "You know what? I'm going to sit down and I'm going to study the language. And I'm going to learn about how to write sentences correctly and I'm going to learn about conjugations and when to pronouns and all those things, the more technical side of learning language." I was going to have dedicated time each day. And in my brain I thought, "If I do this, if I take the time every single day, I'll see improvements certainly." And I did for a while, a month or so, and it was helpful and I was making some progress, but then I started to realize, I need to change the way I was thinking about learning the language.
I was looking at it as, Hey, I'm going to take this dedicated time. I'm going to really dive in and study the intricacies of the language and memorize words and use quiz cards and the whole lot. And then I started to realize, Hey, I have opportunities every single day to be learning the language. I am immersed in people who are speaking this language. I am immersed in the culture. I am living here. Every opportunity that I am outside, interacting with someone is in reality, an opportunity to better learn the language. And as I retrained my brain to say, you know what? The studying and the specific set aside time for learning the language is important, but I need to remember that every single day there are opportunities. And with our dogs, it's very similar when we approach training. We get a puppy and we start to think, "You know what? This is overwhelming. There's problem behaviors. There're these challenges. I need to take dedicated time every day to be training my dog."
And we often think, as long as I'm just doing these dedicated training sessions, I'm going to be okay. I'm going to be able to work on the more technical things, work on sit and and work on getting my dog to come to me and all, whatever it might be. And we forget that every single moment that we are with our dogs and interacting with them and they're interacting with their environment is an opportunity to train. So on that note of, when we shouldn't be training our puppies or dogs, in my opinion, and of course there are caveats to this, but generally speaking, the only time you shouldn't be training your puppy is when they're asleep (even if that means ).
When your puppy is asleep, there's not learning happening right now, right? They're resting, they're growing, all that good stuff. But when your puppy is awake, every opportunity that you have is an opportunity to train. And it's a little bit of a mindset shift where you go from, "I'm going to do these dedicated training sessions. I'm going to take 20 minutes a day, and I'm going to work on X, Y, and Z problem behavior, or challenge that I'm dealing with, with my puppy." And those dedicated sessions are important and it is important to have goals around that and say, "I'm going to take time to do this for a certain amount of time per day." But when you retrain your brain to think every moment is a chance for training.
And let me tell you this as pup parents, we often think about training a lot when we're in the beginning stages, especially that first six to 12 months of a puppy's life, we're thinking, "Okay, I got to be training. I've got to be training. And once I'm done, or once I hit this level of behavior for recall, or once my dog hits a certain age, I won't have to train as much." That is a mistake in my opinion. And it is something that I fell into, I had that trap mentally, my wife and I, we thought, "Okay, let's just keep working on these specific behaviors. And then we'll be able to not have to train as much, or we don't need to do these dedicated training sessions." And you know what? I do think over time, you will do less dedicated training sessions with your puppy or dog, but it's important to remember that every moment you have an opportunity to train. So there's a couple ways you can make those opportunities more valuable and be able to succeed with the opportunities that are presented to you.
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The first thing is, it's a very good idea to have treats throughout your home and on your person, as much as you can. Of course, you want to keep the treats out of your dog's reach, but we have a big mason jar full of treats on our main counter in our kitchen. And what that does is it allows us to, Hey, we hear someone coming to the door or my dog is barking, or X, Y, and Z thing is happening. I have the opportunity to quickly say, you know what? I'm going to seize this opportunity. Use it as a moment to train my dog, who is over four years old, one is five, and I'm still finding opportunities to train throughout the day. And finding times to say, "Hey, this isn't a dedicated training session, but I am using this opportunity to teach behavior." Because really with how our dogs learn, a lot of it is, if you want to boil it down to beyond how basic it actually is, it's, Hey, how many times can you reinforce the right behavior that you want to have happen?
And so if you have treats available and on hand, if you walk in by your dog and they're laying on their bed calmly, you can give them a treat and even start to say, good place or good lay down, or good settle or whatever you're using. Right? And you're having these training moments, even when you're not "training", right? Another thing that you can do, and of course that goes as well for when you leave the house. In my opinion, if you go outside with your dog, it's a good idea to have treats with you. Even if you're not going on a training walk, it's good to have that in your arsenal of tricks to use, to get your dog's attention and gain focus, and reinforce behaviors. And the other thing to think about here of finding those opportunities on a daily basis to train your dog, it's the real life moments is when the training matters the most. You can work on teaching your dog to go to their place and settle for hours and hours and hours, and have all this repetition and all this reinforcement.
But if you never practice it, when someone actually comes to your door, or if you never practice it, when your dog hears something outside your door or outside the window, then you're not really training the situation that it is causing the problem, if that makes sense. So that's why I think it's so important to take our minds and say, training sessions are important for puppies, they're necessary, it's good to focus and learn on new behaviors and practice and do tricks and work on the things that are most challenging for your dog. But remember that every day and every moment that you are interacting with your dog, there is a chance to train. And I will say one word of caution on this, that our dogs are constantly learning, right? Just like us humans, we have experiences.
We have things that happen in our environment situations, and we create these associations, or we are reinforced or there's some type of punishment, every action has a consequence, that type of thing. Just like with us humans, it's the same for our dogs. So be aware that even when you're thinking, I'm not actually training my dog, or I'm not in a training mode right now, your dog is going to learn from you. And sometimes that can be not what you want. For example, if you're laying on the couch and your dog barks and your response is to give attention, you may have just inadvertently reinforced the barking. And although you're not thinking, "Oh, I'm training my dog right now." You just in essence trained your dog, that, Hey, I bark, human gives me attention. You may have just reinforced that in a way you didn't want to.
And now your dog may associate barking with being able to get your attention and then demand barking may start happening more and more frequently. So it's something to think about, and I don't want it to stress you out because life is stressful enough and being a pup parent has its challenges, that is for sure. But if you can trick your mind, just like I did with learning a language from, Hey, I'm sitting down, I'm reading books, I'm trying to actually understand these things versus every moment I have opportunities to learn how people are saying certain words or learning the order that you're using or learning what the correct responses to a given situation. If you can have that mindset like I did with learning a language with your dog, you're going to see improvements, because you'll be able to realize that you have a chance so often in so many instances and in so many different cases to reinforce good behavior, redirecting correct behavior and just [inaudible] help your dog learn effectively.
So I hope you found this episode helpful. I hope you're thinking of ways that you can reapproach your mindset of how you train your dog. And again, keep treats at hand, keep them out available, where you can get to them relatively easily throughout your home, out of your dog's reach. Take them with you, when you go out on walks with your dog, when you go to the park, when you're even getting in the car with your dog, whatever it might be going to the vet, have some treats available because it does make a difference and you need reinforcers for your dog that are going to be strong enough. And many times we think, oh, just praise and that for some dogs, it works okay, but for many dogs, they need that strong reinforcer that comes with either treats or play. So I hope you found this episode helpful. I hope you are thinking of ways that you can better approach training your dog and how you are interacting with your new puppy or dog on a daily basis.
And really thinking, you know what? When your dog's asleep, you don't need to be training them then, but every other time, your dog is awake, it's an opportunity to be training your puppy or dog. If you found this episode helpful, please share it with a friend, a pup parent friend, someone who just got a new puppy, whatever it might be. And if you have not already, please leave a review on Apple Podcast, I read all of them. If you have recommendations, ideas for episodes, people you'd like me to interview, please leave a review and let me know. And other than that, we'll catch you on next episode.