When I first meet with clients, I find they are often worried about the amount of time they will spend daily following my treatment plan. I attribute this to their prior experiences with dog trainers who employed older, less effective, training methods which did in fact require a lot of time to achieve the desired outcome. Sadly, many people were not only dissatisfied with the results but frustrated by the whole experience.
Within the first hour of meeting with someone I like to break down my approach to any plan I put in place so I eliminate any worrying preconceived notions. I explain that I look at training strategies in 2 different categories: passive homework or management, and active homework.
Passive homework and management is setting the dog up to succeed. I discuss appropriate toileting schedules according to the age of the dog, as well as utilizing crates or baby gates depending on the circumstances. This eliminates the need for corrections which are time consuming. Any solid treatment plan is about not allowing the dog to practice the unwanted behaviors. What they practice is what they get better at, just like actors rehearsing for a play. It makes sense to prevent the dog from practicing undesirable behavior whether it’s toileting under the piano or chewing up a nice leather couch. This vital part of the plan takes no extra time out of the day once it’s set up, and in fact gives the family more freedom to live their lives while the dog is learning from experience.
Active homework is exactly what it sounds like. I assign training activities in the form of concept games (see previous article titled “What is Concept Dog Training”), teaching preferred behaviors and the associated cue words, and showing the dog better strategies to get what he needs from his family. Maybe this part of things sounds like a long and arduous list, but I assure you it’s not because part of my job is not to overwhelm you and only give critical, very targeted games specific to your problem. Without owner compliance no improvements are possible which is why I make my plans extremely accessible and easy to achieve. Each family is left with about 20-25 minutes of active homework a day. This period usually lasts about 3-6 weeks depending on the age of the dog and the training struggles we are working to eliminate.
Many times, in that first session, I let people decide if they want me to focus on the passive homework, or if they want to include the active homework as well. Some people are first time dog/ puppy owners so they just want the passive homework/management to start. The active homework can wait until subsequent sessions. Others get excited and want to keep going into the active homework phase right away. I’m happy to do either; the choice is yours. I am always interested in whatever you feel will help you have an awesome relationship with your sweet pup.