I do a huge amount of training in my house. I do that because it’s quiet, it’s familiar to my dog, and it’s convenient for me. That is very much a winning proposition, and the convenience allows me to get in several tiny sessions per day if I wish to do so.
Unfortunately, after a reasonably short amount of time, I will have taught the behaviors that my dog can learn inside. Sit, down, stay, pick up an object, etc. I can add proofing, and I can add in fun little games, but at the end of the day…
I need space.
I need space to create behavior chains. The way I get off endless cookies is primarily through behavior chains, and there are relatively few that I can do in my house.
I need space for play. I like to build energy for work with toys, and I’m not willing to play tug or fetch with a 50-pound dog in my bedroom on hardwood floors.
I need space to bring joy to the work. Dogs like to move their bodies. If you want flow in your training, so that you and your dog begin to ‘feel’ the work, then you need to free up the dog to move and express themselves. You can’t get that in your bedroom.
I’m not talking about the generalization of skills. It can be your own backyard or a local training building for all I care. I’m talking about movement; the joy that comes when the work becomes more interesting, and that includes running and movement. Expressing joy.
What if you have no space? You live in an apartment and there are no training buildings nearby? The weather outside is consistently too horrible to train there?
I don’t know.
I’m serious. I would give you suggestions if I had them, but at the end of the day, if your goal is to get into any sort of competition with a freed up dog who finds joy in the work, you need to allow the dog to move so that it becomes part of the dog’s training habit.
I find it incredibly hard to get off a fairly continuous stream of reinforcement if I cannot move around freely with my dog. How you do that in your house? Well, like all things you can be super creative, but it’s not the same.
Personally, I like to incorporate movement into my training early on, with a puppy. I do it in my own training yard so that they will be comfortable, but it doesn’t change the fact that by the time a puppy has been here a week or two, a decent percentage of their training actually takes place in the yard.
Precision skills? In the house. Probably for the rest of their lives. Flow? Freedom of movement? Games? Fetch or toy play? Developing a love of training independent of cookies? Mostly in the yard or in any larger training space. A space with good footing for running. Space where the dog isn’t always within 3 feet of a wall.
Give some thought to the percentages of your training which take place in an open space, and the percentage which take place in a closed space. Then consider what you use each of the spaces for.
Think about creating a plan to bring those two together. If you do not, if you stay in your small home space and work endlessly on precision skills, you might find it extremely difficult to get off of the cookies and use the joy of flow, movement and training later on, when you want to go into competition.