Our special topic this month is “backyard training” and, instead of including a bunch of training tips or exercises for training in your backyard, I’d like to be an advocate for training every day (whether in your backyard, front yard, side yard, basement, or the neighborhood park).
My puppies eat 3 meals a day until they are 4-6 months old. That’s about 6 minutes a day I can train a puppy. By the time my puppy is 6 months old I’ve spent 570 to 660 minutes of training my puppy.
That’s 10-11 hours of training, without stressing the puppy, without ever dropping below maximum excitement levels.
After the puppy is 6 months old I have 6-9 months before we being trialing.
That’s another 12-15 hours of training time, all done at mealtime with minimal interruption of my work or life.
So mealtime training — frankly ANY daily training regimen — enables the handler to condition lots of different behaviors with an excited, energized puppy.
If I take my puppy to a weekly class I probably spend less than 10 minutes out of any hour actually training my puppy. I would have to attend a class for years to get in the same training time I achieve through daily training at mealtimes.
An additional benefit is the delivery of the food reward (or toys, or tugging, whatever reward system I choose to attach to positive behaviors) from my hand.
My working relationship with my dog, whether it’s my 8-week-old puppy or my 2-year-old rescue, can develop very quickly when all rewards are delivered from hand — and when every day involves fun, exciting training with huge rewards.
Bud and I are often asked to help solve problems — performance errors, relationship disconnects, or confusion. My first question is always, “what does your daily training look like?”
Set aside 4-6 minutes a day, at mealtimes, to fully engage your dog in training games. Work on obstacle skills, self-confidence, or self-control.
Put one jump in your basement or your backyard and work on sends (“go on!”) or crosses (front-crosses, back-crosses) or whatever — invest the time and be amazed at the results!