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SG Susan Garrett
SG This week, I’ve put up a social media post with my puppy doing some cavalettis, and I got a question
on that post. It is probably the most common question I get, and that is, “Susan, how many hours a day
do you spend training your puppy or training your dog?” Super common question. And I thought that’s
going to make for a great podcast.
Today I’m going to answer that question by walking you through a typical day in the life of one of Susan
Garrett’s dogs or puppies. Hi, I’m Susan Garrett. Welcome to Shaped by Dog. And if you’re watching
this on YouTube, let’s make our relationship official. Will you help out? You just hit the subscribe button
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YouTube, you’re going to be the first to know.
Right after I saw that question, I put up a poll in my Instagram stories. And I asked the question, how
many hours a day do you interact with your dogs? And I gave several different options, like less than
an hour, more than an hour, et cetera, et cetera.
70% of the people answering and there was almost 1900 people saw the post, and 605 people actually
replied to it. The vast majority, more than 70%, said that they interact with their dogs more than three
hours a day. And I thought, I was surprised, I was pleasantly surprised, but I was surprised. And so, I
thought define the word interact.
Now, if you’re listening to this for the first time and you didn’t see that question, how would you answer
that question? How many hours a day do you interact with your dog or puppy? And how would you
define the word interact? Now I would personally use that word interaction to be like, how do you define
your relationship with your dog?
Esther Perel has this great quote, ‘The quality of our relationships defines the quality of our life.’ I think
that’s so true. And so, then think about how would you define your relationship with your dog? Actually,
asked that on Instagram as well. One word to define your relationship with your dog. Is it like combative
on one end, or is it cooperative at the other end? Like where, where do you lie there? Is it a dictatorial
leader, or is it a compassionate and curious leader?
What is your stance on how you interact with your dog? And if I asked your dog, what one word would
your dog use to define your relationship? Those are really valid questions to ask ourselves. And I am
getting to the dog training, and believe me; I think this might be one of the most important podcasts that
I ever put out that isn’t specifically about any part of dog training.
It’s actually about the training between the training. Kind of like the thing before the thing. Susan Scott
wrote this book called ‘Fierce Conversations’ and I love this line in it; it’s right near the beginning of the
first chapter. And I think I’ve quoted it before. She says, “the conversation is the relationship”. And
that’s why I say the interactions with our dog is the relationship. If you are a parent or you have
coworkers, what kind of interactions do you have with them?
And this goes back to people who said I interact with my dog more than three hours a day. Does that
mean you’re in the same room with your dog? You’re watching TV, and he’s lying down beside you.
So, your interaction with your coworkers is it that you say hello and then you kind of silently eat your
lunches and you don’t ask about how was your day or if you’re a parent you don’t ask really probing
and interesting questions to your kids.
Like what is that interaction like? So that would have been my answer. I interact with my dogs more
than three hours a day. Now I recognize some of you may not be home that much because you have to
work and maybe you work two jobs, maybe you’re farther away, and I’m hoping somebody comes in
and let your dog out in between. And so, then you go to sleep.
Right. So, there might not be as much as three hours a day, but you have Saturday. So, on average,
what does it work out to. The conversation is the relationship, those interactions, those are the
relationships. And if we want that relationship to be “we’re seen as a compassionate and curious
leader,” we have to rehearse that.
And the way to rehearse that is to be intentional with your interactions with your dogs. And I think that’s
one of the biggest differences between myself and a lot of other people who own dogs but don’t think
of dog training in the same way that I do. Every interaction is a rehearsal for the relationship that I want
to have with my dog.
If I’m curious and compassionate, then that helps me to rehearse being curious and compassionate
with people in my life. And I think that congruency for me personally is super, super important. Now you
might think, “Well, I don’t have time to be intentional about everything, and I just want my dog to be a
dog.” But I just want to remind you that dogs are always learning. They never take downtime. And it’s
the same with people. Every interaction, every conversation we are either growing and deepening a
relationship or we’re distancing a relationship. And it’s so true with our dogs.
So, are you putting money in that relationship bank or are you withdrawing? Now you know you could
say, “Well, like at night we’re just sleeping in the same room.” Well, you’re not really interacting, then
are you. So, I’m talking about interactions; whether they’re intentional or not, they are still either
growing or eroding a relationship. So let me walk you through what typically happens around my house
and how I get the training done before I have to do the training.
I wake up generally between 4:30 and 5. It’s really just how, whatever I wake up, if it’s you know,
around 5 I’m good with that. And the first bit of training happens immediately in that my dogs are
expected to do absolutely nothing. I have five dogs in this house. I wake up, I go about my morning
routine and none of the dogs even raise their head. They keep sleeping where they’re sleeping. They
don’t go, “Hey, Hey, good morning.” They just keep sleeping where they’re sleeping.
And how does that happen? It happens because when they’re a puppy, I wake up at five o’clock, I take
them out on leash. I don’t say anything to them. I let them do their business. I put them in their crate, in
my bedroom, and then I will lay down for maybe, I don’t know, five minutes, and then I’ll get up. Now
during the night, especially when I have a puppy, I will make sure that I get up at least once in the night
to go to the bathroom so that the puppy learns I get up, I leave, I come back.
I get up; I leave, I come back. And so, I grow that time that I leave until they can chill in their crate for
two hours. And my puppy This!, she’s eight months old, and she’s now for the last three nights, got to
sleep loose in my bedroom. And sure enough, when I got up at five o’clock, she did not stir from her
bed. She kind of looked up at me and then put her head back down to sleep.
That five to seven in the morning is my time when I go through my routine. So, I’m intentionally not
interacting with my dogs. Now let’s talk about what happens next. I will go and let my puppy out of her
crate. In order to have training between the training, you have to be ready with reinforcement.
And so, reinforcement number one could be the obvious, a cookie, a toy. So that’s one and two could
be a cookie or a toy. Number three could be praise, “Good dog!” “Oh, how cute!” Or your attention, just
you looking and smiling. It could be glaring and yelling; that’s still attention. That’s still, you know,
reinforcement to some dogs. Number five could be permission to do something else. So that could be
Number six could be just a game with you, like a game of chase. So just physical interaction with you.
So those are the six biggies. Food, toys, praise, your attention, permission to do something, and
interactive play just physical, maybe chasing or rassling with you with no food or toys involved. So
those are six basic ways that I might reinforce my dog.
Now around my house, I have little tiny dishes with a mixture of different value dog treats in there. And I
have one here in my office. There is one at the bottom of the stairs here, which is right near the two
main doors that we go in and out of, there’s a little bowl of food at each one of those. I have one in my
bathroom, and I have one in my bedroom, and there’s one in the kitchen, and there’s one downstairs in
the gym. So those are where the little pockets of food are that are handy. Now I often wear hoodies like
this where I have treats in the pockets. So, any time I want to catch my dog doing something amazing,
I’ll generally have reinforcement on me.
Now I can still reinforce them if I don’t, but I generally do. So, first thing in the morning, if I’m going to
get like my puppy when she was sleeping in her crate, I will open the crate door, release her.
Permission is the first reinforcement, and then I know she’s going to stretch. So, I will have a clicker
with me because I have been capturing the behavior of stretching. And I’ll give her a cookie, and then
we kind of go make our way to the front door. And there’s the next reinforcement.
The first dog, when I say, “okay guys, we’re going outside.” the first dog to the front door in a sit gets a
cookie. And if Tater Salad actually comes with one call, he gets a cookie too. Tater is not a morning
dog. He would prefer he didn’t have to go outside before 10:30 in the morning. That would be his
preference, but I digress. So, they go outside, and they get reinforcement and they come back in and
the next event that happens is I give Swagger his pills.
And that’s kind of a team event because anytime you’re going into the fridge to get out food, you have
a collection of volunteers to take the pill. And so, if you go to a location, anytime I go into the dog
fridge, if you go to a location that is away from where I’m preparing food, you potentially could earn
And so, when I’m getting the pills ready, some dogs will adopt a position in a dog bed. Others will go
into a kennel. And if you don’t give me sass by barking at me, then I will give you a cookie when I’m
giving Swagger his heart medication. So those are opportunities to earn reinforcement. It’s not
mandatory you go in the crate, but if you’d like to earn reinforcement, possibilities there for you. Right.
An hour later, I’ll be preparing food. Now, these are days I’m defining when I don’t have Kim and
Chelsea here because the way my life works right now, I have two people who work for me who really
help me out with the dogs, but it hasn’t always been that way. Many, many years I did exactly this the
same way. Now, this is my routine when I’m here alone.
So, I’m preparing food. The same rules happen. If you’re in your crate, I’m not saying every time I feed
my dogs twice a day I give everyone cookies, but I might every three meals walk by and just throw a
little cookie in their crate if they’re in their crate and their dog bed. It just keeps dogs out of the area. I
don’t want dogs crowding around the food when I’m preparing it. Somebody might say something
about someone’s army boots, and then you know, we could have an incident. We don’t have incidents.
Everyone’s in their spot.
The next rule about food preparation. If you give me sass, if you bark at me telling me I’m not doing
things to your liking, I just drop the spoon and leave the room. I’ll go do something in the kitchen. I’ll
probably be in there, I don’t know, five minutes and then I’ll come back. Right. Because I don’t want to
build the thing before the thing, podcast episode number 16 here on Shaped by Dog. I don’t want to
build in; you get fed if you bark at me. I want to build in if you bark at me; ah, you’re asking me to leave
Now, the rest of the dogs are gonna probably be shooting that dog really dirty looks. “Would you please
keep it zipped?!” I don’t know what they say to each other, but I do know I’ve given you lots of
reinforcement for being in your crate and being patient or waiting in your bed and being patient. If you
lose your patience with me, I’ll just leave.
After breakfast, one dog, it’s generally Feature the oldest. I’ll ask her to pick up the bowls for me so she
can earn reinforcement for delivering bowls. Same way, on Thursdays, I’ll ask Swagger to go to the
end of the driveway and bring me the paper. So, these are just little opportunities. Sometimes I give
Swagger a cookie. Sometimes we play with a toy. Sometimes we kind of tug with a newspaper. He
wishes that we got the paper every day, but we only get it on Thursdays.
Throughout the entire day, there are these opportunities for my dogs to earn reinforcement. Now I don’t
want you to think my dogs go through the day going, “Oh, can I get here? Can I do this? Can I shape
this?” No, most of the time, my dogs are chillaxing in their beds. Sometimes Tater and This! are
rassling each other. Sometimes Momentum and This! are rassling. Occasionally Feature and
Momentum are rassling. But most of the time, they’re chilling in the room that I’m in. Right. So, This!
right now, the puppy and Swagger are in the room while I’m doing this podcast.
Throughout the day, my dogs will have opportunities to earn reinforcement. And it could be that they
jump in a Hot Zone when I go in the kitchen if I’m preparing food and they’re in a Hot Zone and the
younger they are, the more likely they’re going to get rewards because the older dogs really, they just
know they just don’t come in the kitchen when I’m preparing food.
But you’ve got to think now if you’re making your sandwich at lunchtime and your dog’s sitting around,
staring at your cutting board, drooling and trying to catch food as it falls from the cutting board, that to
me is a pain in the bum. But you decide what’s a pain in the bum. You don’t go by my rules. You go by
what is comfortable in your home. But just look for the opportunity to catch your dog being wonderful
and use one of those six ways to reinforce them.
When I’m preparing my meal, of course, they’re in the Hot Zone. When I’m eating my meal, they’re
away from my table. If the Amazon delivery comes, they need to be upstairs and not near the door.
And my dogs can bark at the front door, but when the door opens, they ‘Okay. I’ve opened the door.
That means every.
Now I personally don’t watch a lot of TV. I’ll watch my Raptors on television, and when I do, my dogs, I
don’t mind if they come up to me like Momentum or Swagger will sit in front of me and look at me and
say, “Can I come up on the chair with you?” And I will invite them up. They don’t just say I’m coming
up. They don’t come up and whack my hand. But honestly, if they did, I probably wouldn’t care
because I don’t watch TV that often.
You decide what your rules are based on your life as long as those rules are okay all the time. So, if
you have friends over and they’re watching TV and your dogs just jump on their lap, that’s got to be
okay if you let your dogs on the furniture. You decide. My dogs, they have to ask for permission to get
on the furniture. And even then, they can only go on somebody’s lap.
Then the training happens when I take the dogs out for a walk. I’ll do things like group sits and group
downs, or I’ll call one dog, and the rest of the dogs can ignore me and do what they’re doing. I’ll call
one dog and reinforce them. I don’t let the puppy walk with a group of dogs yet. And so, when the other
group of dogs is out, I will give her something, either an enrichment toy or a stuffed toppl or something
to keep her busy while we’re out with the other dogs.
When Chelsea or Kim are here, and they can take the other dogs out, I will do intentional training with
her. And this week, I’ve been working on a duration hold that she holds different items in her mouth
when the other dogs are out walking. If I didn’t do that, she would run from window to window to
window, watching all those other dogs outside. That’s just not a good thing for her to rehearse in my
So be present to what the rehearsals are and how you can change those rehearsals. As we go on,
there are things that my dogs will get reinforced for during the day. It’s all about making good choices.
So, if I see them, like another dog comes by and takes a toy out of their mouth, I will praise and likely
reinforce with the cookie the dog who got ripped off for the toy. And then I’ll go to the other dog, and I’ll
take the toy out of their mouth, and I’ll give it back to the first one.
If you call a dog and they, in the midst of coming to you, they body slam another dog, I’m not going to
reinforce that—the thing before the thing. So, I might pat you, thank you for coming when you’re called
but look at your poor brother plastered against the wall. Yeah, I’m talking about the big Bulldog.
Sometimes he used to get a little bit carried away. Much, much more careful now.
Think about the thing before the thing all day long when you’re rewarding your dog. If they are howling
at dogs outside your door, outside your window, and you call them to you and give them a reward
because they came, think about what they were doing before you reward them—the thing before the
So that’s the intentional training that happens all during the day. So, when somebody says, “How many
hours a day do you train your dog?” To me, it’s like going up to somebody and saying, “How many
hours a day do you parent your children?” Like a couple? Or do you have a time where you just like,
“Okay, you’re on your own, and I’m not looking at what you’re doing. You just, you know, no rules. Go
crazy.” That’s nuts.
You should always be present to the lessons that they’re learning with or without your permission or
blessing and guide them towards good choices so they can grow up to be a responsible part of your
family. And that’s exactly what I do.
The actual formal training for my puppies, I would say if I had to take a ballpark, 75% of my puppy’s
training happens when I’m not training. The 25% happens in a formal way where I will go to the
building, and I’ll train them. It might average 30 minutes a day. My adult dogs, I would say 95% of their
training happens when we’re not training. And then the other 5% happens when I go to the building.
So, depending on their age. You know, Feature might get a big adventure time, but she won’t
necessarily get formal training. Maybe some Frisbee throws during the day. Where Momentum will get
more than this, so that’s the way it works. Most of the training happens when I’m not training. That’s it
for Shaped by Dog. I’ll see you next time.