Like most of us, you’re probably wondering how long it’ll take to train your Miniature Schnauzer. ‘Cause you’re busy, right?! While we can’t set a fixed time, (just like we can’t predict how long it will take a child to learn to read) there some things we absolutely know are going to speed up the process. And no, they don’t involve practicing for 2 hours a day (please and thank you!).
1. Motivate Your Miniature Schnauzer
One of my favorite sayings is, “No motivation, no training.” Basically, we aren’t going to get anywhere in dog training, or in anything, if there isn’t some sort of motivation. Would you go to work every day if there was absolutely nothing in it for you? Of course not! And we shouldn’t expect our dogs to be better creatures than ourselves. So we have to find a way to motivate them to work for us. A dog’s primary motivator is food. Every dog on the planet is motivated to work for food. As pro dog trainer Jean Donaldson has said, “The dogs who have no food motivation are already dead.” Using food in dog training is going to speed up the process tremendously. In the dog’s mind, good manners becomes connected with basic survival and food acquisition instincts. And that’s where we get rock solid obedience.
So what food do we use? It depends on what we’re asking our dog to do. Every dog has different foods that they value more than others. For example, in the economy of most dogs, freeze-dried beef liver is worth $100, and dry kibble is worth maybe $5. So imagine this, someone says they’ll pay you ten bucks to run a marathon. Would you do it? Probably not…. BUT if someone says they’ll pay you $100 to walk to the mailbox and back, you’d definitely be on board. In fact, you’d probably be hanging around that person hoping they had another job for you to do. That’s how motivation works in dogs. We have to find out what motivates them to work in what situations, and use that knowledge to get the awesome behavior we want. Instead of begrudging the fact that we have to “pay” them at all.
So make a list of the things your Miniature Schnauzer loves, putting the things he absolutely adores at the top, and the things that he just likes at the bottom. Use the stuff he absolutely adores for teaching new behaviors or working in a highly distracting area like the park. You can use the stuff that he just likes to reward behaviors that he already has down pat, or in lower distraction areas like the guest bedroom in your house.
2. Motivate Yourself
We tend to forget that dog training is a team effort. The human half of the team (that would be you) is going to be working even harder than the dog to make success happen. So you need rewards and motivation to keep at it, just as much as the dog. Just like you did with your dog, make a list of things that motivate YOU – be it chocolate, cherries, or cheese dip! Or it could be an activity you really enjoy. Rank your list according to what things are most valuable to you, and use the most valuable things to reward big successes. Like walking 20 feet without your dog pulling, or keeping your dog calm and polite while greeting a stranger. Or maintaining a sit-stay for 1 minute. Be sure to reward smaller successes along the way too!
3. Recognize that your dog (& you) are individuals
Every dog and every dog owner is uniquely, perfectly, one-of-a-kind. That means you’re going to totally crush some areas of dog training, and others you’re going to flop, at first. And that’s okay. Seriously. There are so many different factors that we know affect a dog’s speed of learning (and even more that we don’t know about). Just a few of them are the dog’s age, personality, previous training, methods used, handler skills, home environment, and more. Know that you and your dog are going to have good days and bad days, huge successes and some setbacks. And it’s all normal.
4. Keep up the good work
We hear it all the time, but it’s well worth repeating – stay consistent! Establish new boundaries for your dog and stick with them. It’s not always easy to catch yourself being inconsistent with your dog (been there, worn that t-shirt!). So video yourself working with your dog and ask your trainer for feedback. Keeping clear, consistent communication with your dog will go a long way toward speeding up the training process.
The initial time invested in dog training can seem like a lot, but we know you can do it! Remember, dog training is a journey. Get out there and enjoy it!
One of the first steps to successfully training your Miniature Schnauzer puppy is socialization. Check out our article on how to socialize here.