Three Ways to Help Clients Do What You Want

We’ve been in our new (at least new to us – it was built in the 1970s!) “snowbird” townhome in Sun City AZ for a little over a month now.  Because the living space and amenities are different from our primary residence in Denver our routines have been modified as well.  Here, we have a townhome with a patio and in Denver we have a detached home with a yard.  Although there is a dirt/sand space on the patio for Coral to relieve herself, she much prefers to be walked, an activity she sees as time to find and stalk Gambel’s quail, which are everywhere. 

gambels-quailThe biological functions ultimately get done, but our total daily time spent walking Coral here is greater than her one daily walk in Denver.
The “gym”/health club we use in Denver is a 5 minute drive or less.  Here in AZ, the rec center is at least 10 minutes away.  The commute to our bi-weekly steel pan rehearsals with the AZ band is significantly longer than to our rehearsal location with our band in Denver.  All the stores we frequent from the grocery to home improvement to pet supply are also farther away. 

The point is that there seem to be fewer hours in the day to get our work done.  We go to bed later, but we also get up later.  We’ve been here since just before Christmas, but it’s only been in the past week or so that we are starting to figure out how to adjust our routines and manage our time more effectively.

So what’s the point of this story?  We started thinking about how our difficulties adjusting to a new routine could apply to the issue of client compliance.  When we think about it, we often ask pet owners to find anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour or more extra in their day to work with their dog.  Our assignments could require them to drive or walk to new locations, carve out time for a class, or find a time to get several family members together to set up a behavior modification exercise.

With most families already over-committed time-wise, when we ask them to do one more thing, they will have to make a change in their routines to carve out more time to work with their dog.  And we just had first-hand experience knowing how hard it is to shift routines and adjust time schedules to new requirements.  It look us a month to get it figured out!

We’d suggest three ways to make it easier for our clients to do what we ask.  The first one, and we think the most practical, is to try and create training exercises that “fit” within the existing daily interactions with their dog.  In other words, it’s not doing MORE, but doing a lot of things differently.  Help clients think of each interaction as a training opportunity. 

Second, help your clients get really really good at reinforcing as many instances of spontaneously occurring good behaviors as they possibly can.  Make it a contest among family members to see who can get the most reinforcements delivered during a week.  Leave them with a tracking sheet to put on the refrigerator. 

Last, if some training goals MUST require carving out extra time for a special exercise, brainstorm with clients how to successfully include that into their day.  Is there something they could stop doing with their dog or change another routine (maybe TIVO an episode of a sitcom instead of watching it live) to free up that extra 30 minutes needed. 

We think it’s not that clients don’t want to follow through, it’s just that changing habits and routines doesn’t happen overnight.  We know that from juggling our own lives the past month!


  • evelyn haskins

    Reply Reply

    I know EXACTLY what you mean!

    Sometimes the logistics can just get too complicated.

    I like to use my ‘computer time’ for training, as well as always making the most of dinner time ๐Ÿ™‚

    Yes, these all add time, but in dribs and drabs which make it easier to put in the training necessary ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Gitta

    Reply Reply

    I think the competition with old, well-established, well-travelled ruts aka habits and running most of our days on auto pilot is the bigger hurdle. It means developing new habits, repeating them often enough for them to become new habits for the owner. Thinking of the human brain and its circuits.

    A leash on a hook in the hallway may only be 15 seconds away – and may as well be on the moon. A leash on the kitchen counter or refrigerator door may make a huge difference. It is a constant visual reminder and right there. Making procrastination and forgetting harder.

    Plus, the more advanced the training, the more time consuming it becomes. Finding new locations, new distractions.

    Maybe we do need to also look and see what can be taken off the owners’ plate for now and added back later. Instead of just adding and adding suggesting the owners just need to find more creative ways. I often think we are not careful enough not to overload the human end of the leash. We may also assume the owner shares our view of how important a certain task is.

    We may also be on a different page when we thing the owner wants a certain result and is willing to invest the time and energy. The “want” may be far from strong enough. It may be more a “it would be nice”

  • I ask them to practice during TV commercials, while they are brushing their teeth and other things in the bathroom, and generally just squeeze out a few minutes here and there.

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