How can you find time for dog training? I have two tips on that today.
That question came to me as a comment on my review of Nicole Wilde’s excellent book, Don’t Leave Me, which is on separation anxiety. It led me to an AHA moment, which I’ll get into further down. First, here is the comment:
I borrowed a copy this book from a friend of ours. It’s a great resource and very comprehensive. My ONLY criticism is that – as is the case with most training guides – it doesn’t allow for owners whose lives are necessarily short of time. Most of us have to earn our living; some, like me, are lucky enough to be able to work at home, but even so, there is often a very full day’s work to be done, and working at home demands a very rigid and rigorous discipline. How then do we fit into that work schedule the multitude of desensitisation and familiarisation exercises that Nicole prescribes, so that on the occasions when we do have to leave our beloved hound at home he will be content and secure in the knowledge that we’ll be back before long?
Or have I misunderstood it all?
Like Marty who asked that, I too work at home and I too need to keep a strict schedule and am challenged to find enough time for the dog training I want to do. Both my dogs have some level of separation anxiety and I would especially like to do some of those exercises with our 6-year-old Rottie, Lola. When we leave for several hours, we crate her because several times when she had the run of the house, she pulled books off the bookcases and destroyed them. Being myself a librarian and book publisher, that was much less acceptable than the sofa cushions she used to chew up when we left! (Happily, she doesn’t mind being crated with the fun toys we always include.)
No, Marty, you have NOT misunderstood in the slightest. It takes time to do anything and even more time to do it in detail. Very few of us have a lot of spare time… heck, very few of us have any!
My AHA Moment
I will make two key points in this article, but first allow me a moment of your time to explain my AHA moment… It happens that I used to teach time management. I did some corporate consulting but mostly I taught continuing education classes and did private consulting with individuals. So I have quite a few ideas on time management and living with dogs. Also, much as I enjoy writing about dog training, I am no expert on it. So maybe Marty’s question points me in a direction where I do have a unique contribution to make!
So here are two ideas for finding time for dog training:
Tip #1: Plan a Time and Write It Down
Do you have to-do lists? Or a calendar that you make appointments on? Then plan some times for dog training. Your first appointment with yourself might be to think about what you want to do, order supplies if any are needed, and to set up a series dates. You don’t need to make long dates; even 10 minutes 3 times a week will get you and your dog moving forward. There is something daunting about starting a new project, but if you chunk it down to small bits you are much more likely to get going. And once you are into it, it may more easily expand if you want it to.
And that bit about writing it down is really important. Study after study has shown that people who write things down are much more likely to get them done. I use an online list-making website and I love the facility with which I can reorganize, postpone, and check things off! There are quite a few websites of this sort. But you can also just write things on a piece of paper on your fridge door.
Tip #2: Apply the 80-20 Rule, Even When You Aren’t Sure How
The 80-20 rule, also called the Pareto Principle, is a really key part of how I get things done. The idea is that if you have a group of things that you want to do, 80% of the value of the things to do is in 20% of the things. For example, 80% of the dirt tends to accumulate on 20% of your floor area. Right there, you know something about how I do my housework. (Now and then I do the rest of the floors, honest!)
So applying this to training a dog to have less separation anxiety means that you don’t need to do 100% of the exercises in that book. It means that something like 20% (it’s a rule of thumb, not an inflexible universal law) of the exercises will yield close to 80% of the value of them all.
So how do you figure out which 20% to do? Start by noticing which things you were drawn to in the book, and try them first. We all have a much more powerful intuition than we usually take advantage of. If those things don’t work enough, think about which ones seem like the best ones to try next.
Each dog is different. Each person is different. And by using these tips, you can work out something that works the best for you and your dog.