When Is the Best Time to Train My Dog — Before or After a Walk?

Puppy walking on a leash

What is the best time of day to train my dog? Should I train him before or after his walk? My problem with training him before walking him is that he is too excited to pay attention, but I worry that he’ll be too tired after.

Getting to go on a walk is often the most exciting part of a dog’s day, so it’s no wonder your dog is exuberant when walk time comes. It’s essential, however, that he display calm behavior before he is rewarded with a walk and that you teach this behavior throughout the day, not just at walk time.

We like to think that we are the ones training our dogs, but they are often training us at the same time. Dogs learn from experience what works to get what they want. If barking, whining, pawing, jumping, spinning or other excitable antics result in a walk, your dog is very likely to repeat this behavior in the future when he’s ready to hit the pavement. In this way, many dogs have inadvertently been trained to be hyper, because that’s what gets them the most attention, while calm behavior goes unnoticed — and is thus less likely to occur.

Use the “Learn to Earn” Approach

One of the most critical concepts a pet parent can teach her canine is that calm behavior will ultimately reap the biggest reward. To do this, many dog trainers advocate a “learn to earn” approach: The dog must do basic behaviors to receive a reward, whether it be attention, praise, play, treats or walks. This approach works well for highly excitable dogs because it allows a pet owner to reward calm behavior and ignore unwanted behavior, such as pre-walk hyperactivity.

Training begins the moment you and your dog get out of bed in the morning. For instance, when you let your dog outside to potty in the morning, ask him to do a “wait” at the door rather than bolting outside (but keep in mind that if he hasn't been outside since bedtime the night before, he may really need to relieve himself and may have a harder time waiting patiently, so make this a very short wait). He also can be asked to sit before you pet him, which may cut down on jumping. Anything your pet wants to do or have should be given only after the dog displays calm behavior.


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