Dog 101: Schedule, Food, & Obedience
During the month of May, the Canine Consultant will address various questions and concerns related to your new family member. We reached out to our community to see what you’d most like to learn about, and we put together a schedule of blog posts and corresponding Instagram Live chats. Reference this post to see what our schedule looks like.
This week’s post will focus on three key points: the importance of creating a schedule for your new family to aid potty training and sleeping habits, how food cultivates your role as the Provider, and basic obedience tips to follow. These rules can apply to dogs of any age, purebreds from a reputable breeder, and a rescue pups of any background. It may vary based on the dog’s overall personality and where their motivation lies, so it’s important to pay attention to who your dog is and how they respond to the structure in place. To set up a virtual training session to address these topics, please reach out to us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. Create a Schedule
This may be one of the most critical elements in setting up your dog for success. On average, puppies sleep over 16 hours a day while adult dogs need 10-12 hours of sleep. Our dogs look to us to create a schedule that will allow for proper rest. In doing this, they will also catch onto potty training and house rules. Be consistent with your dog. For puppies, the crate is a guarantee that they are getting the sleep they need, staying out of trouble and away from something that may harm them, and building up their bladder for potty training purposes.
At TBM, we offer clients a schedule to start with and then alter it based on what their dog’s needs are. For larger breeds, they are likely quicker to catch onto potty training and have an easier time holding it longer. But it doesn’t mean they get more freedom in the home; they need their sleep and the same structure a small breed puppy needs. With a rescue dog, the crate may vary based on their past but I would not rule it out as an item altogether. Often times rescue dogs crave a safe space to call their own so creating the crate to be their den -- where all good things happen like meals, quiet time, special bones, etc -- will increase their ability to both trust you as their new parents and provide them with a peace of mind that their environment isn’t tumultuous or ever-changing.
Potty training is not about preventing accidents; potty training is about teaching your dog what it is you are asking of them. If your dog wakes up at 8am, immediately go outside, give time to eliminate, assign a word to praise them for it (“good business” or “let’s go” or “potty”, etc), and head back inside. From there, they get a limited time of intentional interaction by you where you can lie with them, practice some commands, or ensure they are staying nearby to chew on a bone. Once this time is up (can be 30 minutes, can be 2 hours depending on where they are with their potty training schedule), it’s back to the crate for their morning nap until you wake them 3-4 hours later to repeat this same schedule. The key is consistency. They will catch onto the structured schedule you have assigned to them. Regardless of being home or not (since many of us will WFH indefinitely), your new family member should have time apart from you to rest, really rest, and get the sleep they need.
A tired dog is a good dog and a good dog is a happy dog -- they love to please their people so it’s on us to teach them what would please you. We aren’t here to train military dogs -- I couldn’t begin to tell you how that happens -- but I do know that whether we’re raising a family dog or a soldier dog, it starts with structure and routine.
2. Food Motivation
Food goes a long way with our dogs. Most dogs (though not all) are food motivated, which makes training a lot easier. The value of structure when it comes to food can be used to your advantage, both as the dog’s provider and to play a role in their mental stimulation.
Set Time. In the wild, animals don’t make a kill and graze on it throughout the day, so take advantage of their natural instinct to eat at a set time. Let them see you as the provider of that food. They get 5-15 minutes to eat then remove the bowl and that meal is complete for the day regardless of how much they ate. Or take 5 minutes to work them for their meal: practice the basics like sit, stay, come (check out this week’s Thirsty Thursday tips on teaching these three commands). Or sit with a fearful or anxious dog and let them eat from your hand, taking your time to feed them with a soft voice and gentle movements.
Treats. Kibble can be used as treats. You do not need to purchase 10 different bags of treats for your dog. At the start of your relationship, you will want to find out what your dog likes/can enjoy: some dogs will do a backflip for a peanut butter treat whereas others only want a chicken flavored treat; some dogs may have an allergy to a certain protein; some dogs won’t be motivated by a treat at all, so will it be about a piece of cheese or a lick of peanut butter or maybe the sight of their ball will motivate them. I have yet to see a dog not like a liver treat, of course, likely because the smell is so strong so this can be used as their "high-reward" treat. But we don’t want to devalue kibble as a means to work our dogs so pay attention to how often you’re using a treat to fill them up because we do want our pups to like their meals.
Crate Meal. While there are varying trainer opinions out there on crate meals, I do see value in using a high bonding tool (food) to make the crate a positive experience. Depending on your dog’s view of the crate and their own food motivation, you can leave the door open while they eat in it or you can close the door to give them their set time to consume their meal. If necessary, you can sit by the crate if they get distracted easily or have anxiety around being left (more so for the rescue dog over a young puppy). Regardless of how you kick this off, food time combined with crate time is an effective way to have good things happen in the crate.
3. Basic Obedience
When you have a set routine for your dog and you place structure around meal time, basic obedience training is a whole lot easier. If your dog gets to run all over the house throughout the day, chew on items that aren’t theirs, and eat whenever they please, it will prove a lot more difficult to train them. A rested dog wants to learn. A hungry dog wants to learn, and a dog that understands the rules definitely wants to learn. Please be patient with your dog -- they only know as much as you are willing to teach them.
Start small. Most dogs learn “sit” first. So go over that numerous days in a row until your pup actually associates the word with the command. Then you can go onto the next state of “stay” or “lie down” and so on. Puppies are ready to learn; rescues are ready to please: it’s never too early to build your language with your dog.
Broken record. When teaching our dogs, pay attention to how often you’re saying a command: “Burger, sit, sit, sit … sit, hey over here, sit.” That’s not helpful. Instead, use the word once, and place their booty down then say again as you give the treat. Do it again, “Burger, sit” -- put booty down with treat near his nose -- “good sit” as treat goes in his mouth. Once your pup catches onto the word, we still want to use the command once, wait 3-5 seconds while maintaining eye contact (I mean what I say when I ask you to sit). As soon as his butt goes down, “Yes, good sit,” or if he doesn’t listen after waiting, place Burger into the sit command while saying “sit” again to remind him you mean what you say. Treat or no treat, once the dog learns the word associated with the action, we want to follow through with meaning what we say. My rule of thumb is only repeat it if you are going to require the action, whether that’s saying it a second time because they didn’t hear you or were distracted before you got their attention or because you are going to guide them to follow through with the command.
House Rules. If a dog can not respect the space given to them, they have too much freedom (or liberty, as Clarity K9 referred to it in our IG Live last Wednesday). When a dog comes back from their morning walk with you, unclipping the leash and letting them have free range of your home is not going to result in good decisions. They don’t know any better. An option: keep the leash on them, let them walk around the house a bit with you, then settle in to practice some commands or provide one of their chew toys. If you can not give them attention (and this doesn’t mean direct attention in as much as it means the ability to have teaching moments) then your new pup should head back to the crate after a few minutes. Think of it this way: If you were heading to work after their morning walk, they’d go to their crates until TBM arrived late morning to get them on a walk. Just because you are working from home doesn’t mean that needs to change much, especially in order to prevent separation anxiety (see our post on separation anxiety) or an unsafe situation (i.e. dog chews an electric cord, dog eats a pest bait box, dog eats a sock that lodges in their intestine). Make the decision for your new dog until they know how to make the decision for themselves.
If you stay consistent with their schedule, your dog will naturally understand what you expect of them. Using food and treats will strengthen your bond as their provider and their teacher. Following through with the obedience training you want for your dog will result in a dog that understands your expectations and, therefore, will be a very happy dog.
To sum it up: be the leader your dog needs you to be.
Onwards we go,
Wednesday 5/13 @ 6:30pm-- @teamTBM IG Live with Cunucu Rescue. We will touch on the value of foster families and forever homes.
Thursday 5/14-- Kara’s Thirsty Thursday happy hour tips (posted to the @teamtbm IG Story between 5-6pm). She will be addressing how to teach and follow through with basic commands.