The Savvy Trainer | Nothing in life is free |

The Savvy Trainer | Nothing in life is free

Carla Brown
Special to the Sun
Training sessions are most effective when they are short, fun and your dog is motivated to work.
Courtesy | iStockphoto

Repetition and practice are how we and our dogs learn new skills.

In group classes, I encourage students to practice at home every day, and we spend time during class taking each new skill to the next level. In the final class, each dog/handler team completes an obstacle course where they demonstrate their skills to the group.

Often, the owner with the most unruly dog in the first class amazes us all with their skills by week six. I suspect this is because these students were the most desperate and were motivated to work hard and practice every day!

For most of us, it is hard to find time for one more thing in our already over scheduled days. Training the dog takes a backseat because is seems optional until Rover develops some horrible behavior that is really hard to correct.

Finding a way to create good habits from the beginning will save you time and frustration later. It is not hard if you just do a little planning ahead of time.

Dogs are pack animals. They need social interaction and structure to thrive. The “Nothing in Life is Free” method makes our dog work for every reward they receive. Rewards can be food, attention, playtime or anything your dog enjoys.

If I make my dog “Wait” before going out the door, I don’t have to give her a treat when I release her with an “OK.” Getting to go out is the reward. The easiest way to train our dogs is by integrating it into every single interaction we have with them.

Training sessions are most effective when they are short, fun and your dog is motivated to work. For most dogs, hunger equals motivation! Measure out half of your dog’s daily ration of kibble and put it in a baggie. Use this as training “treats” throughout the day. I love this method because it keeps me honest! If I don’t train, my dog doesn’t eat.

Here are examples of how training can easily be integrated into your day:

Wake up and go out to potty: “Wait” by the door to go out. “Good Dog” when they go.

Breakfast time: Practice some cues before eating. (Sit, Down, Watch me, Shake, etc.)

Time to eat: “Wait” for the food bowl to be put on the floor and “OK” as a release to eat.

Morning walk: “Wait” to go through the door. Say “Walk with me” if walking on leash. If Rover is off leash, periodically call him back to you and then release with “Go play.” Stop periodically and give your dog a cue (Sit, Down, etc.)

Time to get in the car: “Load up,” “Wait” and “Unload” can be part of this common routine.

This kind of schedule creates structure, rules and allows you to train as you move through the day. If you are lucky enough to live in a multi-dog household, these routines are even more important. You will be amazed how quickly your dog learns to follow the rules and you can stop feeling guilty for letting yet another day go by without training.

Carla Brown, CPDT is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer and owner of The Savvy Dog in Truckee. She can be reached at