Training outings (taking the dog out for training practice somewhere other than your home0 can be one of the most fun parts of dog training! They can also be really helpful for all your long-term goals. Here’s how to plan and make the most of a training outing.
Determine your goals for the outing. It’s best to pick 2 or 3 things to concentrate on for each outing. That way you can really focus on what your dog needs! Things you might choose to focus on could be loose-leash walking, polite greetings to people, obedience in distracting locations, “settle” at a café, etc.
Decide where you’re going to go. The place you go should have access to all the things you want to work on. So if I wanted to practice squirrel distractions, I’d go to a park. The more novice your dog is, the easier you want to make the location. So if it’s the first time out of the yard practicing loose-leash walking I’d pick a neighborhood, not NW 23. But for a dog who’s become more experienced with the leash and needs a good challenge, then anywhere downtown is good!
Bring all your supplies. Bring more treats than you think you need; the last thing you want is to run out of treats when your dog is offering tons of reinforceable behavior! Bring a toy, bring water.
Don’t stay out too long. Novice dogs especially can quickly run out of steam while out and about. Long periods of loose-leash walking and distraction work take a tremendous amount of work and concentration for the beginner dog, and they can fizzle out quickly. 30 to 60 minutes is usually plenty of time for your outing.
Remember, this trip is about the dog – not you. If you’re going to be practicing loose-leash walking, don’t stop first for a Starbucks – you’ll need both hands for training. If you’re on a training outing to Petco, don’t suddenly start shopping and price-comparing while your dog hangs out at the end of his leash, getting into trouble without any feedback on his behavior. Stay focused on the dog.
Assess your success. How’d your dog do? Did you find anything else you needed to work on? Use this information to determine your next training outing: If your dog did poorly then your next outing should be at an easier location; if your dog did well then you can try a harder location; if your dog did so-so then you can repeat the same location next time.