September has always been one of my favorite months! I love the cooler weather and the way it ushers in the fall and then holiday season. With the start of each new season, it's a good idea to think about "next season's" training needs. For example, now that it's Fall, next comes Winter. What training needs might I have in Winter? For example, am I going to have lots of people over for holiday parties? If so, I'll need to start working on and reinforcing good manners. But since I'm thinking about it ahead of time, I'll have the entire Fall season to work on it! No more guiltily saying to my Christmas guests, "Yeah, I keep meaning to train him..." as he drools into their laps, hoping for some tidbits. (Guests usually figure it out that you've been saying that for the last five years, and no change yet.) In my experience, here's some of the main "winter" training issues that might be good to start working on now: 1) Guests! Visitors! For some people, Thanksgiving through New Years is a non-stop parade of people through your home. What will your dog be expected to do? At the very least, having a "Go Lie Down" or "Settle" cue, teaching the dog not to jump up on guests, and teaching the dog "Leave it" can all be started now. 2) Leash-walking: Yes, I know it will be cold and rainy and you might not be going out for your multi-mile Columbia Gorge hikes every Saturday. But Portland has a tendency for those VERY cold freezes -- ice storms, even! -- and a dog who pulls on a leash can be a huge safety concern any time there are frozen, slippery steps and sidewalks. Yikes! If you need any further inspiration for those sometimes tedious Stop/Back/Resets that are par for the course in leash-training, just imagine yourself in the dead of winter, on an icy sidewalk! Hope that gives you some motivation! 3) "Indoor" exercise: Dog daycares do a brisk business in the wintertime, with all those cooped-up, cabin-feverish dogs needing an outlet. But did you know there are other options to give your dog some good mental stimulation and exercise, right in your own home? Clicker training, especially the technique called "shaping" is a fun puzzle to your dog that often results in exhaustion (the good kind) and K-9 Nosework is something that you can do in any house, even a small apartment. Get started on these now, and you'll be beating the winter doldrums all season long! 4) Housebreaking: Admit it, that tiny little Yorkie-Chi-Weenie-Malta-Poo (is that what they're calling them these days? :) is only maybe, kinda, sorta, housebroken. After all, it's so small. You can barely even see a little puddle of pee, and you just vacuum up any solid messes. Fast-forward to winter though, when your windows and back doors will be closed all season long, and those tiny pee-spots will start to accumulate and smell. Winter is such an unpleasant time to housebreak a dog; think of all that standing around outdoors, waiting for action. Add to that the problem of some dogs, who aren't fully housebroken in the first place, who will see the rain outside, think "Naah," and scoot off to get busy underneath the dining room table instead. Nope, don't wait for winter! Polish up your housebreaking NOW!
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