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Can trainers teach your dog to sit? Can trainers show you how to teach your dog to sit? Is there really a difference?

  The answer to all three of those questions is YES!

  Is this really important? YES! A trainer could probably teach most dogs to sit in relatively short amount of time, but that is not the trainer’s purpose. The trainer is there to show you how to teach a particular cue or get you through a behavioral concern. We do not train the dog for you! When you contact a trainer and sign up for a class or individual lessons in your home, you’re hiring someone to show you how to train your dog. The few hours you meet with that trainer will NOT be enough for a dog to learn any particular task. No matter how many hours of training you sign up for- your dog will never learn what you’d like them to if you rely solely on the time that you, your dog and your trainer spend together!

    Think back to your own schooling, did you learn everything you needed during the school day? Of course not, you went home and worked on homework! 

  The “homework” your trainer assigns is meant for you and your dog to complete together. In between visits with your trainer, you should be working with your dog in multiple, short sessions to practice what the trainer showed you.  These short sessions will help keep your dog’s attention, should always end on a positive note, will help strengthen your bond with your dog and will get you closer and closer to your training goals. You’ll have additional questions come up as you’re working with your dog and that’s good, we want to be able to address them as you progress with your training goals!

  If you don’t do your homework, your dog’s progress will be slower than what you’d like. In certain cases, much slower.

  Here are some tips to keep in mind as you work through your homework: 

  When your dog is learning new things, certain tasks will go quicker and smoother than others and these will vary from dog to dog. For example, a “sit” and a “down” might be much easier than a “come,” so plan on some tasks requiring more time than others. 

  Also, don’t assume your dog has learned something because she’s doing it right. Truly learning something takes lots of practice in varied contexts. Once you change one aspect of an exercise (such as a stay in your living room where you walk 5 feet away from your dog vs. a stay in the park where you walk 5 feet away from your dog), it’s a whole different exercise to your dog! He won’t be able to “stay” in your living room, the park, your driveway, in front of the dogpark and in front of the lady handing out treat samples at the store surrounded by 50 other dogs if you have only practiced stay in your living room.! You’ll need to practice “stay” in your living room, the park, your driveway, in front of the dogpark and in front of the lady handing out treat samples at the store surrounded by 50 other dogs if you want him to be able to stay in all those contexts.

   As you change the degree of difficulty, make sure to vary only one variable at a time (i.e.: setting or distance, not both! Your dog is much more likely to succeed this way.   

  Also, be prepared to go backwards. Dog are not perfect; they will have set-backs. It won’t always get better and better, sometimes it will get better and better and then a bit worse. This might happen when you vary location or distraction, etc. In this case you might have to work through some basic steps you’ve already gone over in the new location or with the new distraction present. Take the stay example: in your living room, you might get 5 feet away, but you find that in your driveway you can only make it one foot away before your pup’s right by your side! That’s okay! Go back to your basic steps and work up to the 5 foot stay in the new location.

Remember, just because you’ve just taken your first driving lesson in an empty parking lot doesn’t mean you’re expected to drive as a stunt driver for the next blockbuster action movie an hour later either!

  Most importantly as you’re working through all this, don’t be afraid to ask your trainer questions about how you can get the most out of your homework, it’s what we’re here for! If something isn’t making sense, don’t be weary of asking for clarification.  The times you spend working with your dog one on one are just as important as those you spend with your trainer.  While you’re with your trainer, they’ll explain how to work through a particular task, show you examples, describe all the little steps in between and let you have at it. While you’re away from your trainer, you’re working through all the information your trainer supplied you with. This is a great time to make note of any glitches that come up, any questions you might have, any fine-tuning that will need to be done.  The next time you see your trainer, the best way to take advantage of them is to ask about all those questions and concerns, that way you can always build on the previous week’s tasks.

  Oh yes, and one more thing, while you’re not graded on it per se… YES, we will always be able to tell whether you’ve done your homework!

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