The 20 Minute Trainer
By Keith Fallon – Master Trainer & Canine Behaviourist
“…. but I don’t have hours to train a dog”
A comment made frequently by dog owners who do not realise that they only need 20 minutes a day.
Yes, 20 minutes a day is all that you need, and not all in one slot. Everyone has little bits of time when they are doing nothing, just waiting for something else to happen.
Consider, what do you do when you have just put the kettle on to make a cup of tea? Most people just stand by the cooker waiting around for it to boil. So why not grab a few treats and practice some sits, recalls or walking on a loose lead – just whatever you are currently working on?
If you add up all of those units of just a few minutes you will be surprised how much time is available for training.
✅The key is FOCUS. Give your dog your full attention for each short session and you will be surprised how well your dog will respond. Short sessions of quality training will achieve more than one 30 minute session where your mind is focused elsewhere.
Much of your training can also be done as part of the daily walk – this will make the walk more interesting for both of you. Even a walk along a street can include loose lead exercises, sit, down and stay. A quiet road might also provide opportunities for recalls and stays.
I use a STEP PATTERN which grows as the dog’s heelwork improves. When you can take 2 steps with the dog in the correct position you can have the dog SIT – DOWN (whichever you want to improve). From the Sit you can practice the Recall or Stay, returning to your dog to praise & reward him then repeat the exercise and begin again. .
✅The 3 week 20 minute a day training improvement program
Follow the training program below and see if you can improve your dogs training with just 20 minutes a day. Train wherever you happen to be , the house, the garden , the street it doesn’t matter.
Waiting for the kettle to boil? Do some training! SIT, STAY or COME
Sitting and relaxing? Practice COME or DOWN
Dog out in the garden or in another room? Practice the COME or WAIT
Have a kitchen island? Practice loose lead walking around the island !
The point is you are regularly doing some training!
Aim for 20 minutes per day spread out over the day whenever you have a spare moment.
The key to training is regular reinforcement which is often why one weekly session at your local dog training class doesn’t always yield the results you are looking for if there is no practice in between.
Remember that FOCUS is the key for each short session.
I will be concentrating on the following basic exercises:
✅ SIT, STAY, WATCH ,WAIT, and COME.
SIT – Direct the command to your dog saying “(dogs name) SIT“. Try and say the “T” quite clearly as often this is the only sound the dog hears. At the same time raise a hand starting by the dogs nose and ending straight up (like a policeman Stop hand). If the dog sits praise/reward.
WATCH ME – Hold a treat or your dogs ball / favourite and getting his attention quickly bring the reward up to eye level saying “WATCH ME” As soon as you get any eye contact reward / praise.
DOWN – With your dog in the SIT position make a fist and put a treat just inside. Let your dog have a good sniff of your fist and when you get his attention bring your fist down and forward. The idea is that your dog should follow your fist down and forward and naturally go down. If they do lie down ay clearly “DOWN” and let him have the treat. Some dogs achieve this exercise quite easily others will do a half down with their rear in the air. Persistence is the key here. Gentle pressure on the dogs back or rear will sometimes get the message. Once in the down position try placing a few treats between the dogs paws to keep them busy and stay in the DOWN position.
STAY – With your dog in a SIT position say clearly in a low voice “(dogs name) STAY” Always turn your back away from your dog and keep a hand up behind you with an open flat hand. Aim for one or two steps and return to your dog. Praise/reward
COME – Say your dog’s name followed by COME. Encourage your dog with open arms or the bear hug position where you crouch down and open your arms in a welcoming gesture
WAIT – As with STAY but this time call your dog to you (COME) When your dog is in front of you put them in a SIT. Praise/Reward
HEEL – Your dog needs to understand what HEEL means. This should be the place you want your dog to be in when walking to heel. Ideally his shoulder should be level with your knee. Left or right side it doesn’t matter as long as you are consistent. With your dog in their position clearly say in a low voice (dogs name)”HEEL”. Try and have your lead quite loose not holding it tight against you. Aim for 1 or 2 steps on a loose lead. Praise / reward
Equipment required: collar and lead, harness (preferably the Walk your Dog with Love front leading harness) treats (small tasty and quick to feed, I use a quality dog food )
*Note on treating and rewarding your dog. Alternate food treats and praise.
Golden Rules: Say each command ONCE . Correct quickly (30 seconds of saying the command)
✅Correct as follows: SIT – if not sitting gently put your dog in the SIT position. Do not reward if you have to do this.
STAY/WAIT – Dog following or not staying. Gently take your dog back to the start position and start again. If very persistent then put the lead on and hook it over a post or dog tie out, or ask a helper to stand behind and put a foot on the lead.COME – if dog is ignoring try a squeaky toy, rattle a small box of dog kibble or biscuits, show favourite toy, hide, turn and walk away or lie flat on the floor or ground. DO NOT repeatedly call if dog is ignoring. When your dog comes over to you ask them to SIT . Touch your dogs collar then praise / Reward.
✅20 minutes per day. 5 sessions per day of 5 minutes each
Note* With HEEL only increase the steps if the dog is walking on a loose lead. If they start to
pull then reduce the steps back again
- HEEL + SIT – Aim for between 2 to 5 steps between each SIT.
- HEEL + SIT + WATCH ME – Hold attention for a few seconds then praise / reward
- DOWN – Stay down for a count of 2 or more. Praise / reward
- STAY – Aim for 2 – 5 steps away from your dog. Return to dog praise/reward
- WAIT – Aim for 2 to 5 steps. Call dog praise/reward
- COME – Call your dog preferably when they are looking towards you. Praise / reward
Release your dog to play / run around / relax after each 5 minute session
✅20 minutes per day. 5 sessions per day of 5 minutes each
Note* Aim for between 2 – 5 steps for HEEL , STAY & WAIT
- HEEL + SIT
- HEEL + SIT + WATCH ME + WAIT + COME Praise / Reward
- HEEL + SIT + WATCH ME + STAY Praise / Reward
- HEEL + SIT + WATCH ME + DOWN Praise / Reward
Release your dog to have a run around / play after each 5 minute session
20 minutes per day. 5 sessions per day of 5 minutes each
If things have gone to plan and your dog has achieved the exercises in COMBINATION WEEK then it’s time to increase the steps and times.
Aim to double the steps and times. If things slip backwards return to the steps or time that worked previously.
This is an important step in dog training. Your next stage is to repeat the exercise but in a totally different environment. If you have been training in the house then move into the garden. From the garden the park, street or local field.
This can be the most frustrating phase for the dog owner as sometimes it seems as if your dog has completely forgotten everything!