Spring is here and for many of us that signals the start of fun spring and summer activities. More time outside in the yard or on walks, more time going on adventures with our dogs, more picnics and backyard hangouts with friends and family and our dogs. More of these activities often results in adding more training items to our to-do list. Maybe you realize you want to spend some time working on leash walking skills or helping your dog relax on your patio. Or perhaps you encounter a behavior issue that requires attention. But how do we decide what to tackle first when there are multiple things we could be working on?
Here is how I like to think about “spring cleaning” my training to-do list to prioritize what is most valuable:
1 – Safety and Welfare Come First
Safety and welfare must always come first. If there are training and management tasks that increase safety or promote welfare then those will always take the top spot on our priorities list. This means safety not only for our own dogs but for other pets and for people too. We want our dogs and others to remain safe as well as feel safe as often as possible – emotional safety matters too!
Prioritizing safety could look like setting your dog up in a quiet room with a special chew when you have company over. It can look like finding quiet spaces to walk away from others where your dog can sniff to their heart’s content. It could also mean acclimating your dog to a basket muzzle or other equipment that helps keep them and others safe. Safety always come first!
2 – Impact on Daily Life
What items on your list most impact your daily life? What items could reduce stress for you and your dog if you tackled them sooner rather than later? These will be different for everyone! Look at the items on your training to-do list and pull out the ones that you think will have the most impact on your day-to-day life and stress levels. This could be housetraining for a new puppy, centering enrichment and decompression for a nervous or anxious dog, or focusing on leash walking skills if you don’t have access to a fenced yard. What you choose will depend on you, your dog, and your life together!
3 – Include Fun Stuff Too!
Okay, so real talk – training can be hard, especially when we’re working through emotionally taxing behavior issues or doing a lot of troubleshooting or new learning. So make sure to include some fun training tasks too! Teach your dog a fun new trick, incorporate small moments of training into a play session, or just spend time being silly with your dog. Adding some fun helps make big training tasks feel less daunting.
Remember, you don’t need to train all the things all the time. If your spring training list is feeling overwhelming don’t be afraid to take a step back and prioritize just a few items. What are the things you need to focus on right now? What can you put on your “for later” or “manage for now” list? Choose a few things to focus on – the rest can come later.