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.
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.
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?