Trainable Moments 

Every moment of every day…


I received a training inquiry the other day that sparked a moment for me. A young couple bought a herding breed puppy from a farm. They chose their puppy from the litter based on pictures they saw taken hours after birth; their puppy had such pretty colours and markings, and they just knew that their puppy would be perfect for them.

For a number of reasons they got way more puppy than they bargained for, but I give them a lot of credit; they’re working hard to make it work. Early in our consultation they asked me “when do we start training our puppy?” This question went on a bit, describing how their puppy is destroying their house even with them present, but that’s not the important part of the question.

So, when does training begin?

In a perfect world, training would begin before the search starts for a dog. The prospective owner would take some time to reflect on what they want their relationship with their dog to look like – is the dog allowed free reign of the house? Is the dog allowed on furniture? Where will the dog sleep? Etc. They would take an honest appraisal of their own life and that would shape the type/breed/temperament of dog that they look for – do they want a companion? Light duty jogging partner? Do they have a desire for dog sports like agility, or French Ring? Do they want a cat in a dog’s body? Do they want a vocal dog? All of these things shape the mold of the dog best suited to them, but a lot of people skip this step. And that’s okay, but it makes for a little more work down the road.

Training begins the moment you first interact with your dog, and occurs every moment thereafter. Just like life doesn’t only happen scheduled between 9-5, training is also a 24/7/365 thing. Yes, formal training is important; this is where YOU learn how to work with your dog. Your classes should also give you the tools to create a lovely-to-live-with companion, no matter what your desire for your dog was. **side note: if you feel your classes are not giving you the tools you need, talk with your instructor. **

Look for the trainable moments. Every time you feed your dog, that’s hundreds of trainable moments going down in that bowl. Every time you come to a doorway/stairway/hallway, those are trainable moments. Every meal you prepare and eat, those are trainable moments. Every trip you take in the car, those are trainable moments. I’m sure you get the idea, but just in case, trainable moments are every moment of every day. If you know that there’s something you don’t want the dog to do, set your dog up to succeed in that. The most common example of this is house training; we don’t want out puppies to void in the house. So we use clocks, crates, gates, and umbilical leashes to prevent it, all the while praising the dog when they void in the appropriate areas.

So what’s happening with the young couple mentioned above? They have an active puppy who has learned over two dozen commands in a matter of two weeks. They loaded a clicker and have been working with whatever she offers, putting cues on her behaviours. She is going to be a fantastic performance bitch, which isn’t at all what they wanted. They liked to laze around on their days off, and they had no interest in hiking or the outdoors, but they faced reality.

Embrace life; embrace the trainable moments

© Shari Joanisse 2023