5 Tips to start training your dog (or cat!)


Did you know that you can train just about any animal? Yes, you can train cats. Or your kids. Or your husband. Or yourself!

It’s free Friday from Cynthia from You Signed Up for What?, Courtney from Eat Pray Run DC, and Mar from Mar on the Run and the  Friday Five this week, and I’m going a little rogue again. Bear with me.
Use a clicker!
One of the biggest problems with trying to teach your furkids tricks is that by the time you say “good boy!”, the behavior you wanted to capture is already over. Let’s say you want to train a sit (always a great thing to train first!).

You get them to sit and exclaim “good boy!”. No doubt they’ve already popped up into a stand by the time you do — which means you’re marking the wrong behavior (the stand) and making it harder on both of you.

That’s where the clicker (not an affiliate link — and by the way, you can loop at small hair tie around that tab and just put it on your finger) comes in. It’s a very unique sound. And once you get the hang of it, you’re able to click a behavior much quicker than you would be able to get the words out.

Gizmo sits up on command (food might be involved)

Figure out what motivates your furkid
Different animals are motivated by different things. I’ve been blessed to have animals that are extremely food motivated, and that makes training them relatively easy.

Not all animals are food motivated.

Maybe your dog lives for a squeaky toy. Or your cat loves some petting (or following a toy). Sometimes the behavior itself is rewarding enough! Lola, for instance, loves running our little indoor agility circuit so much that she’ll do it whether she gets treats or not (although I’m pretty sure she likes it better with treats).

It works the same for you and keeping your fitness going: what motivates you? Figure it out, then reward yourself to keep yourself motivated: cute clothes, mani/pedi, massage, lattes — whatever works for you!

Break tasks into baby steps
Are you getting frustrated because your furkid doesn’t seem to be getting it? Break down the task/trick into even smaller steps.

Let’s say you’re trying to teach spin, for instance. You might:

  • Click when they look in one direction
  • Click when they get up while looking in that direction
  • Click when they take a few steps in that direction
  • Click when they make it all the way around

This applies to running, too: we forget when we start to run, or when we’re coming back from an injury or time off,  that our bodies just aren’t conditioned to run.Sure, our bodies are meant to run, but when we spend years not running, we get out of condition — in more ways than one! So take it in short bursts — in fact, C25K is great for that (and so is run/walk even after you’ve been running a while).

And speaking of breaking things into baby steps, you don’t go out and run 10 hill repeats or mile repeats until you’ve started with just a few hill repeats and maybe speedwork involving 200 meters first.

Agility_4 011
Clickers helped with agility training

Make training sessions short
15 minutes is usually plenty. In fact, at first 15 minutes might be too long. Try just 5 when you’re first starting out. You’d be surprised how calm a furkid can be after even a very short little training session!

You know the saying a tired dog is a good dog? Mental exercise can be just as exhausting as physical!

So keep sessions short and sweet so neither one of you burns out. And try to end on a high note with lots of treats.

When you’re not motivated to run, just go for a short run. Promise yourself 10 minutes. You’ll probably want to go longer.
Don’t get frustrated
Sometimes it seems like they just don’t get what you’re asking them to do. You know what? They don’t! And it can be frustrating. See about breaking it into baby steps above and keeping training short above.

But training should be fun. If they don’t get it, don’t assume they’re stupid or bored or trying to make you angry. Just assume they don’t understand what you want. Warm them up with something they know how to do, or switch to something they know how to do. If you really find yourself getting angry (hey, we’re human — it happens!), just walk away.

Don’t forget this should be fun — for both of you.

The principles of clicker training can be applied to just about anything in life. Running should be fun, and of course sometimes we get frustrated with our performance, but for the most part we have to remember we don’t have to run, we get to run.

One principle I forgot to mention, and it’s the granddaddy of them all: reward good behaviors, ignore bad behaviors. This works in all areas of life!


 Have you ever heard of clicker training and clickers?

14 thoughts on “5 Tips to start training your dog (or cat!)

  1. I have but I have no interest in training my cats. Plus, it takes time which I prefer to use in other ways (running, socializing, etc.)

    I love cats but I will just have to settle for their cuddles and purring.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Training really takes almost no time at all. It’s fun! I’ve also had more than one occasion where it actually came in handy in the real world — like the time Gizmo ran under our car outside & I was able to lure him out with the clicker.


    1. As I was telling Darlene, it’s actually come in pretty handy at times.

      I was able to break up fights between Simba & Gizmo using the clicker.

      We actually haven’t used the clicker in yrs . . . I keep thinking I should. They love it!


  2. I have heard of clicker training and I used it to train horses. My dogs both went to obedience school and one of them won the class championship. Go figure because he’s the biggest tool at home.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Both Chester & Lola got their Canine Good Citizens at a pretty young age. Considering the way Lola usually likes to dance and growl at other dogs while on leash, it IS kind of funny.

      There’s definitely a difference between training & being at home & they know it!

      Although Chester & Lola are s different. I dropped a baked fry on the floor yesterday while transferring it to my husband’s plate. Chester would have snatched it up so fast it’d make your head spin (unless I told him to leave it).

      Even when I told Lola to take it, she was very hesitant — probably because it was so hot — that never would’ve stopped Chester. She did eventually eat it.

      Then she spends most of her days trying to help me “clean up” the floor . . .


  3. Allie’s trained, but she’s got me trained too. She knows when I’m putting my lunch together and I’ll give her some chicken. She sits patiently on the edge of the kitchen, staring at me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. They know when I’m making my tuna waldorf salad, they know when I’m making popcorn, they know when we’re finished with our dinner after grilling steak — and they’re there staring. 🙂


  4. I actually had heard of clickers before, but darned if I can get my kitties to do something like that. Although may I just say they react really well to my tone. Okay, well, Meep won’t sit up on command, but he will give me a kiss on command, and isn’t that the most important thing, hehe. At this stage in the game, I wouldn’t know how to separate Meep (4) and Sheba (13) from a fight, although I would love it if that would actually work. Got any tips? Meeps is 100% inside… and Sheba is outside/inside and never the aggressor.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What we did for the boys was have them go to a mat. It’s easier if you use a clicker, but you probably could do it without. Of course they have to like their mats (catnip mats can be handy for it).

      You can start by just having 2 mats out, and putting some treats on them. And keep putting treats on them while their on them.

      When they get familiar with that, you start pairing the command with the treats.

      Eventually you just give the command.

      You have to make sure you have some really yummy treats, and patience — it’s definitely not a one & done thing, you have to keep working on it.

      Liked by 1 person

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