Beyond Your Backyard: Training for Everyday Life

Dog running in grass with blog title to left
Wee Beasties trainer with black and white dog

Written by Rachel McGuire

We worked hard with our pets this past month!

(See posts one, two, three, and four to get started.)

Some of you may have tried to take your newly taught skills on the road…and discovered that your pet seems to have no idea what you’re talking about!

“What’s this ‘sit’ thing?” they say with a head tilt (or a goofy grin…).

What’s up with that?

It’s all about context, my friends!

Have you ever seen or had someone play a trick where they move the furniture just an inch or so to the left or right?

Whoever lives there will run into the furniture again and again until they catch on to the trick!

This is because they learned to navigate their home (a behavior) with one set up (a cue), but if the set up changes, they start to mess up the behavior.

It’s the same with our pets. 

You train in one room, and they can’t do the behavior in another because it’s different.

You train inside, and they can’t do it outside because it’s different.

The good news is, you can fix this!

Once your pet is doing a behavior well at least eight out of ten times a session, try the behavior in a new room.

You may have to back up and play the training game that you used before to teach the behavior. Your pet should progress through the game much more quickly than before.

Sometimes, you’ll even see the lightbulb go off over their head! Ohhh, you want me to do that!

Practice in that room, and then try a new one next session. Repeat this process wherever you need the behavior to work. Usually, after you do this in lots of places with several different behaviors, your pet will start to catch on even more quickly, until you only need a warm up rep or two before they figure it out.

Take Your Training on the Road

Training field trips with your pet can be fun, especially if you plan ahead. Always make sure it’s legal and okay with the people in charge of a location for you to bring your pet with you. Also, make sure it’s safe for your pet to go out—make sure they have all their vaccinations up to date, are microchipped, and are wearing a secure collar or harness with your contact info.

Be sure to bring plenty of your pet’s favorite treats, your treat pouch, a clicker if you use one, water and water bowl, and waste pick up bags.

If your pet is uncomfortable being outside or around other pets and people, just train around your home. Your pet won’t learn much if it’s stressed, and neither of you will have fun.

Note: For dogs, if you have to take them out (like a dog going for walks or to the vet), and they bark and lunge at others, contact a trainer to help you develop a plan to help your pet become more comfortable with others.

I also make sure I’m not in the way of other people trying to use the space for its regular purpose (ie, don’t stand in front of aisles where people are shopping or block sidewalks or trails, etc.). An out of the way, quiet spot is better for training anyway!

The last thing you need (besides your pet of course) is a plan!

Decide ahead of time what you’ll be working on while you’re out, so you don’t waste any time trying to figure it out on the spot. Then just take your time and train!

Don’t forget to keep your sessions short. You can accomplish this by training for a few minutes, and then walking your pet and letting them sniff around, and then stopping and training again.

Taking your training out can be a lot at first, but once you get into a rhythm, it’s really enjoyable. Plus, the benefits are amazing—think of a dog who can sit while you pay at the register or walk nicely on a leash!

Remember to always end on a happy note to encourage your pet to come back for more training later, and don’t forget to have fun yourself!

As always, if you’d like one-on-one help reaching your pet training or behavior goals, please contact me!

Happy Training!

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