The legendary animal trainer Bob Bailey once said, “Training is a mechanical skill.” While it seems like it shouldn’t be complicated, it can be surprisingly tricky to juggle a leash, treats, clicker, and anything else you might need in a training session. Because learning happens fastest when consequences are clear and occur quickly after the behavior, we can end up confusing our dogs if we are fumbling, dropping treats, and delivering rewards late.

Before a training session, it is a good idea to make a plan. Think about how you are going to hold the various equipment, decide how you are going to deliver treats, and make sure the training environment is free of unplanned distractions. As silly as it sounds, professional trainers also practice their mechanics without the dog present, making sure we can reach for a treat quickly, and deliver it to a human helper, plastic cup, etc. smoothly and efficiently. Troubleshoot any awkward mechanics first – it is much harder once you have a dog in front of you. That extra preparation time will save you plenty of time and energy in the long run.