The Puppy Training Podcast

Episode #81 Training Mode vs Everyday Life

October 13, 2021 Baxter & Bella Puppy Training Season 4 Episode 81
The Puppy Training Podcast
Episode #81 Training Mode vs Everyday Life
Show Notes Transcript

There are three main areas I want to address today on this topic of training mode vs everyday life.

First, why training mode? What is it and how does it develop? 

Second, what do you want your dog to do? What are your goals for your dog?

And finally, how can you use what you have taught your dog to make everyday life easier for both of you? 

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Training Mode vs Everyday Life

Hello everybody. Thank you for listening. Your dogs are so lucky to have such great caring owners who want to learn and be better. It is so fun to be part of a training community where we can support each other and learn from one another. 

This past week I spoke with Katie about her dog Ilah. She had a concern that her dog only listens when it is training time and wanted to know how to carry that over into everyday life. For the podcast today, let’s talk about it. I think many handlers have this very same question. I know I can relate to this feeling and thank you Katie for bringing it up! 

There are three main areas I want to address today on this topic.

First, why training mode? What is it and how does it develop? 

Second, what do you want your dog to do? What are your goals for your dog?

And finally, how can you use what you have taught your dog to make everyday life easier for both of you? 

Let’s start with why training mode? What is it and how does it develop?

When we first get our puppy, we set a daily routine. We establish a schedule so our dog knows what to expect and it helps them relax into their new life. This often includes several dedicated training sessions daily where we teach our dog new skills. They do not know English and it takes time to teach them behaviors, then put them on cue. So we practice. It is recommended we practice these new skills several times a day, and repetitions are needed for the learning to take place. 

Day after day we follow the routine, practicing things like sit, down, stay and come as part of these set aside training sessions. To prepare for these sessions, we put on our food pouches or fanny packs, load them up with rewards our dogs love and have a few fun toys on hand as well. We are ready for training time. 

What I just described is truly awesome. It is needed and important. We must set aside time to focus on new behaviors and help our dog learn what we are asking of them. It is only fair to them. Doing this day after day turns into what many of us refer to as training mode. Our dogs know when it is time to train. They know we have rewards and toys on hand. They are excited to learn - hopefully - at least that is my goal with dogs. There is nothing better than a dog who is happy to work with you - tail wagging, tongue out, happy dogs! We go through things they know already and spend time teaching them new things. This is training mode. 

The problem comes when the session ends. We trained, now it is time to go about life as we all have things we need to do to keep our households running, our businesses successful, families functioning, etc. Our brains turn to other things naturally and it is easy to turn OFF training mode. Today I hope you come away with a few ideas of how to stay IN training mode or keep it ON so it meshes into everyday life and becomes a new way of thinking when it comes to living with our dogs. 

It helps that our dogs need downtime and we help them by putting them in their space - whether that is a crate, pen or other room in our home for parts of the day. This is an important time for our dogs to learn to be alone and how to entertain themselves AND it gives you a time to take a training break.

When our dogs are done with downtime and they are out of their space and with us, we really need to be thinking as we do in training mode. We want our dogs to think every interaction with us is training time. How do we do this? How do we get our dogs to show good manners on their own? How do we get them to choose to listen outside of the dedicated training sessions?

To start, it is vital you think in terms of what do you want your dog to do? What goals do you have for your dog? These are individual and vary from household to household. Do you want your dog on the furniture? What do you want your dog to do when guests arrive? What does dinner time look like? What is your dog doing while you eat? 

If you don’t know what you want it to look like, neither does your dog and they will do what dogs do in the given situation. Dogs do what works for them and they try to get things they want as fast as they can. This is where meshing training mode and everyday life is super helpful. 

Let’s take guests arriving as an example. If I am NOT in training mode, it may go something like this. The doorbell rings. Kids and dogs rush to the door all excited. There may be running, screaming, “I got it!” and barking from the dog. The door opens, the dog is very excited and jumps on the guest to say hello! While some may enjoy this, many do not. But because it isn’t training time and we are not in training mode, our dog is left to do what they want to do naturally and that is say hello with a big friendly-to-them jump! 

Take a step back and let’s go at that same scenario again, but this time we have meshed training mode with everyday life. This is an opportunity to use skills my dog has been practicing. Side note - recognize your dog does need skills to handle these kinds of situations so those training sessions are important! We will assume in this case you have worked on a down stay or go to bed behavior and have practiced it to the point we are ready for a guest to enter the scene. I could spend an entire podcast discussing how to get to this point but for now, let’s just say your dog has some basic skills. Time to mesh training mode with everyday life. Really it is a matter of thinking in my brain, I am in training mode. First I set my dog up for success. I have them on leash. I have rewards in my pocket or a toy handy. These must be done BEFORE the door opens. I have instructed my family members what to do when the doorbell rings. We need to cue our dog to go to bed and someone must be near them to reward them for good behavior. With our dog on their bed and a leash attached we are ready to open the door. The guest walks in, we pay our dog for staying in their place making it worth it to them. If the guest would like to say hello and our dog would as well, we can then say, “OK” and help our dog interact nicely with the guest by encouraging them to sit or show the guest some tricks to keep our dog’s mind off of jumping and on a task. I find after the first few initial minutes, our dogs calm down as the excitement levels come down. Now we have taken something we taught in a training session and incorporated it into everyday living. 

Yes this takes work and thought. It takes planning and effort. But doing so is how we mesh the world of training mode with everyday life. It starts simple. We don’t want to jump from level one to level ten right away or our dogs will struggle. Instead we practice a down stay while we brush our teeth, or a sit stay while we tie our shoes; a go to bed while we eat breakfast as that meal is much shorter than a longer dinner. We start with simple short moments and as our dogs mature and get better at the behaviors we teach them, we start to increase the distractions, duration, distance and difficulty level of the everyday situations. 

The final thought for today is to focus on things that will make life easier for you and your dog. In our online puppy school we have over 75 lessons and things you can teach your dog. Do you need to do all of them? Nope! Do what works for you and your household. Before teaching your dog to do something, think, will we ever use this? Is this important to our everyday life? Is it necessary? This is a way to simplify your training experience and focus on what really matters to enjoy living with your dog. Once you’ve identified those things you have a clear path and steps to work on. You know what you want to teach your dog, you know how to practice it starting at level one and working your way up to what we call a proofed behavior and then you have harmony in the home.

Also, it is always okay to manage situations and prevent unwanted behavior in this process. Use a leash, use the crate or pen for times when you truly can’t mesh training mode and life together. Totally fine, especially with new puppies who are just learning. As they gain skills we start to practice them as described earlier. Training a dog is a process. It takes time, patience and consistency. Doing the little things on a daily basis makes a big difference and you see as the months progress training mode mesh into everyday living. It’s a beautiful thing. But you have to think about it and find those times to practice what your dog has learned in situations where you actually want them to use it. If we just teach our dog to sit, but then never use sit for times when it would help, why did we teach it? 

Think of everything your dog cannot be doing if they are sitting or lying down. They can’t lick the dishes in the dishwasher, they aren’t barking out the window, digging in the yard, jumping on guests, etc. Using the skills we teach our dogs is important! Give them a job to do at times like these. 

Absolutely there will be downtime. Our dogs need daily rest. I’m not saying that it is your job to entertain your dog all day long. Nope. Instead, they learn to entertain themselves but for moments when you feel they might do something unwanted, use the training you’ve taught them to help them focus on appropriate behavior. 

Thanks for tuning in today. Hopefully that all made sense! I LOVE talking dog training and my team of trainers are happy to help you however we can. Sit down this week and talk about what goals you have for your dog. Then make a plan to do it. We can help! I’ll talk to you next week.