A member of our dog training forum wrote to ask me, “I was wondering if you would give us an example of a typical day with your dog. For example what games do you play with your dog throughout the day? What is involved in training sessions? How long do you leave your dog alone during the day? How often do you give your dog a time out or rest period? Anything else that you can think of to add. Thanks in advance.”
The answer– like so many things in life– is: It depends.
My rituals for pet/companion dogs is different than if I’m training a high drive sport or working dog. In addition, the age of the dog will factor in, as well. The one commonality you’ll find is that dogs crave a consistent schedule, so I try to keep things as regular as possible: Feeding times, exercise time, play time, training, etc… Yet, we also keep in mind that the dogs are here to please us, and not the other way around. So, if something important comes up, I don’t let the dogs’ schedules interfere with mine (within reason).
Dog #1: Here are some sample daily rituals for an older dog who is already trained and has low exercise requirements:
6:30: Wake up, let the dog out to urinate.
7:00: Have breakfast and watch the news on TV. The dog is required to stay on his “place board”, which is next to the sofa.
7:30-8:00AM: Get dog (and myself) ready for our power walk. Dog must hold a sit-stay while I put his collar on, and a down-stay while I put on my shoes and jacket. Take the dog for a 1/2 hour walk. Dog must walk on a loose leash the entire time and wait at certain curbs. Upon return, I let the dog out to defecate.
8:15: Feed dog. Let dog out to potty, again.
9:00: Start work. Dog is allowed to lie around the house where ever he desires.
11:00-11:15: Dog will come outside with me to check on the chickens and watch me fill up his water bowl. He’ll usually chew on some grass then go lie down and sleep in the sun.
12:00 noon: Break for lunch, dog must stay on his place board.
12:30 – 3:00: Office work. Dog is sleeping.
3:00 – 3:30: Sit-stay while I get car ready. Dog then rides in back of SUV while I run errands, if weather is cool or if I’m going somewhere I can bring the dog. For example: Home Depot, where he’ll hop out of the truck and walk alongside me on a loose leash. We’ll also practice sits and downs while putting stuff in the shopping cart or waiting at the checkout. The dog usually gets a lot of attention so I make him hold a sit-stay while people pet him.
3:45 — Pick up the mail: Dog must sit while I get the mail from the mail box, then it’s his job to carry the mail back to the house.
4:00-5:00 PM: Wait in the entryway for the UPS man to visit.
5:00 – 6:00 PM: Hang out with Carla in the kitchen while she prepares dinner. Occasionally get a piece of cheese in exchange for doing a trick.
6:00 – 7:00 PM: Hold a down-stay while he watches us eat, or stay on the place-board.
7:00 PM: Dog gets to eat.
7:10 PM: Outside with the dog to let the chickens free range. During this time, I’ll work the dog through a training regimen, just to keep him sharp. That lasts about 15-20 minutes. Then I’ll play fetch with him for half an hour.
9:00 PM: Carla will give him a half a tortilla to eat, then spend 20-30 minutes cuddling with him.
10 PM: Lights out. The dog sleeps in our home office, across from the master bedroom. He doesn’t move all night.
Dog #2: A younger dog who is not yet trained:
Pretty much the same as above, but I will add at least two additional training sessions of 10-20 minutes a piece. One in the morning and one in the afternoon.
Since younger dogs typically have more energy, I will also add a 20 minute treadmill session in the late morning, usually around 11:00 AM. While the dog is on the treadmill, I’ll be sitting next to him with my laptop, tablet or phone so that I can work while the dog is burning off excess energy.
When I have two or more dogs at the same time, I will use the presence of the additional dogs as a distraction for the dog I am training. This is a big help as my system is built around using as many different distractions as possible during the proofing phase. For example: When we have three dogs staying with us, two of the dogs will hold a down-stay while I throw a ball for the third dog. Then I switch and let the second dog chase the ball, then the first.
The other thing I do differently with a young dog or a new dog who is in training is that he does not get the free time around the house to choose where he can lie around: Either he will be on a place board in my office or else in the crate.
For dogs that are high drive or excessive chewers, I will typically give the dog a chew toy to play with while in the crate or on the place board. If I’m going to be out of the house for most of the day, I’ll do something similar to what Larry describes, here.
On weekends, we’ll take the dogs out for an activity, like a long walk around the marina and then lunch at a restaurant with an outdoor patio. We like to use several of the games in my report: Games To Play With Your Dog, when we have the time.
I should note that when I’m working with a new dog, I will write down my training goals on a piece of paper. During the formal training session, I will teach the exercise. Then, throughout my day, I will practice randomly to reinforce the behavior while I’m puttering around the house. For example: If I need to get a book from the book case and the dog I’ve been teaching the sit-stay to is with me, I’ll make him sit while I get the book, then give him the release command when I’m ready to return to my office.