Mini-Lessons? What’s that?
So you’d love to have a well-trained dog, but setting aside an hour a day – or even a half hour – just won’t work in your crazy busy daily schedule! Training with Mini-Lessons can solve that problem! Just because you have a lot on your plate, like most of us, doesn’t mean you can’t have a well-behaved family dog.
One more thing. From your dog’s point of view, a lesson that lasts an hour is way too long. He’ll simply stop learning after about ten minutes. That’s normal. A five-minute lesson is ideal.
But wait! What if you could teach your dog more in two minutes, or one minute, than you could in a long, boring, repetitious training session?
In addition, suppose these quick mini-lessons were the fastest, most powerful way to teach your dog anything?
Start. Get it done. Finished. That’s it!
How do Mini-Lessons work?
Every Mini-Lesson must meet these requirements:
- The purpose of the lesson is to work on only one specific skill, such as: “sit instead of jumping up”.
- Have the reward you’ll give the dog ready at hand: treats, toy, freedom, etc.
- You are mentally prepared so that you know exactly the one thing you want the dog to do and exactly how you will reward the dog.
- Be clear about the method you’ll use to set your dog up for success.
Let’s look at a few examples.
You’re busy with your morning routine, getting ready for the day. The one skill you want to work on is getting your dog’s attention when you call his name. You decide to use the “Cookie Toss Game” as your method and tiny soft treats as your rewards. When your dog is attentive to something else besides you, you’ll call your dog’s name. When he reacts by paying attention, you’ll toss him a cookie. He doesn’t have to come to you – the one thing you want is just his attention. Praise him. Pause. Wait for him to look away. Repeat the game. You can repeat this game three to five times in a minute or two, all while you drink your coffee and continue your morning routine uninterrupted.
Let’s say you want to stop your dog from jumping on you. The method you’ll use is called “counter conditioning”. That’s a fancy way of saying that you’ll teach your dog to do something that is the opposite of jumping on you and make that new thing more appealing to him than jumping.
Hint: If you react to your dog after he has already jumped on you, it won’t stop him from jumping on you again the next time. You have probably already figured that out!
The opposite of your dog jumping on you is your dog having four feet on the floor. But let’s make it even more precise so that your dog will understand exactly what you want him to do. His opposite behavior will be to sit. It’s easier to teach a dog to do something than not to do something. So, if you work on a really quick response to “Sit” in a variety of situations, you’ll be able to get your dog to also sit before he jumps on you.
Be proactive and take advantage of the many opportunities you already have to get your dog to quickly sit for you to earn something he wants.
- Does he want you to throw a toy so he can chase it? First, ask for a sit. His reward is chasing the toy.
- Does he want to go outside? First, ask for a sit at the door. His reward is going out.
- Is he excited when you are preparing his food? First, ask for a sit. His reward is that you put down his bowl of food.
You can come up with a long list of opportunities when you can ask your dog to sit and which take only seconds to accomplish. Sit before petting, sit before putting on his leash, sit before getting a biscuit or treat, are just a few things to start your list. Now you can also ask your dog to sit before jumping on you! His reward is your attention and receiving petting from you while he is sitting.
Why are Mini-Lessons so powerful?
Learning is stressful and exhausting. We’ve all been there. Remember how you felt after a long class when you had to learn complicated new information? Worn out and in need of a break.
Learning is stressful and exhausting for dogs, too. Asking your dog to learn something new by solving a problem uses more energy than physical exercise. Physical exercise keeps your dog fit and healthy and can increase his enjoyment of exercising. On the other hand, mental exercise can drain your dog so that he needs to rest and be recharged.
Short, frequent Mini-Lessons take advantage of the times when your dog is feeling mentally alert and receptive to training. Because a Mini-Lesson is so brief, your dog is learning at his peak performance level. The lesson is completed while he is still mentally engaged and wanting to learn more.
Since you always end on a positive note, you’ll find that starting the next Mini-Lesson triggers your dog’s enthusiasm right away. He will even anticipate the next Mini-Lesson and offer behaviors before you ask for them!
Mini-Lessons are your secret superpower!
When you scatter brief and powerful training experiences throughout your normal day, you leverage the time you are already spending with your dog. Rather than settling for frustrating results that undermine your relationship with your dog, you can make excellent use of opportunities instead of missing out on them.
Find out more about the awesome power of Mini-Lessons in my free eBook,
The potential for using Mini-Lessons is simply unlimited.
All it takes is mindfulness of opportunities and investing tiny moments of time with a purpose.
The return on that small investment will amaze you!