Join Club

Local Woof: (The Right Kind Of) Practice Makes Perfect

Local Woof logo

Editor’s Note: The Local Woof is a column that’s sponsored and written by the staff of Woofs! Dog Training Center. Woofs! has full-service dog training, boarding, and daycare facilities, near Shirlington and Ballston.

Do you “practice at your performance?”

I’ve been talking to a lot of clients about practice lately. People hate practice. Do you remember being forced to practice the piano? What about sports drills? It seems to be in our nature to want to get better at something but to hate the process required to get there. Dog training is the same way. We want our dog to be well behaved but we find it challenging to put in the time it takes to make that happen.

One of the biggest mistakes people make in training their dogs is that they try to practice in the exact environment where they are having trouble. I call this “practicing at your performance.” Have you ever had to give a speech, or a recital? How many hours did you spend practicing in a quiet room by your self? What about in front of a friendly audience in you living room? Do you decide to run a marathon and wake up one day and run 26 miles? I doubt it. Accomplishing these goals can take hours, weeks and months of practice before you ever take the stage.

The same applies to training your dog. Say for example your dog is out of control when you encounter another dog while walking on leash. Your dog barks and lunges and you generally have to drag him off in another direction. You would like to replace this behavior with a dog who can sit quietly while another dog passes within 10 feet.

This is a reasonable goal, but you cannot start by practicing this behavior while out walking your dog. Asking your dog to perform a behavior they have not had sufficient practice on is unfair and often results in the handler being disappointed or even angry when the dog cannot deliver up an expert performance. You will need to start by making sure your dog can sit quietly with a dog 25 ft away, then 15 ft away then 10 ft away. This could take weeks or months of practice before you ever attempt it out on a walk.

But practice doesn’t have to be a chore. Keep in mind that it will take time, but the more practice sessions you do, the faster you will achieve your goal. Here are some tips to help you achieve your training goals!

#1: It doesn’t have to be a process. One of the biggest hurdles to practicing is getting started. We tend to think we need to spend a lot of time getting organized, cutting up treats, clearing a space, etc. The truth is you can sneak in a little practice at any time. Have some leftovers? Practice a few behaviors before feeding them to the dog. Time to eat? Ask your dog to do some tricks before putting down the bowl. Better yet, get them to work for their meals.

#2: Have treats everywhere. Purchase some attractive containers and place them strategically around the house. Remote treats should be non-perishable, not too stinky, but still something your dog is willing to work for. Freeze dried treats are a really good option in this case. This allows you to reward good behavior any time you see it.

#3: Reward for everyday activities. All out practice sessions are great, but training that is integrated into your daily life is the most effective. Need your dog to sit when he sees another dog on a walk? Start training sits all over your house. Before going out, before coming in, before going up stairs, before getting out of the crate. The more automatic the behavior becomes, the easier it will be to use out in the real world.

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of

Recent Stories

2023 Scripps National Spelling Bee Finalists, photo via Scripps National Spelling Bee Twitter

Arlington eighth-grader Charlotte Walsh will advance to the Scripps National Spelling Bee final after taking the semis by storm yesterday afternoon. Fifty-six spellers from across the country — ages 9…

Learn how to prepare when meeting with security clearance investigators and what to expect in Legal Insider.

A new pet urgent care is hoping to open this weekend in Buckingham. Urgent Animal Care of Arlington at ​​249 N. Glebe Road hopes to start caring for furry best…

A development proposed for Crystal City is entering the home stretch. Tonight (Thursday), the Arlington Planning Commission is slated to review and vote on plans from Dweck Properties to add…

Please join us on Saturday, June 3, from 2 to 4 pm for the Glencarlyn Home Tour in Arlington’s historic Glencarlyn neighborhood.  Among the featured homes will be a sparkling new home by A&N Builders at 5604-4th St. South. The inviting front porch opens to a light-filled space featuring high ceiling, wood floors, gas fireplace,  Pella windows, Shrock cabinets, Quartz countertop, and JennAir appliances.  Doors from the family room open to a large covered porch with a few steps to the level, landscaped rear yard.  Upstairs, there are four bedrooms, three bathrooms, laundry room, and linen storage.  The big lower level has a rec room, gym space, and a fifth bedroom and bathroom plus even more storage.  After leaving the home, stroll to the Ball-Sellers home, the oldest residence in Arlington, the community gardens at the library, Carlin Hall, and the 94 acre Glencarlyn Park. A lovely way to while away a late spring afternoon.

Submit your own Announcement here.

Is home ownership a goal of yours in 2023? Now is the time to make it happen! Grab a (virtual) drink with the area’s top Real Estate experts, learn all about the home buying process and on how you can get $1,500 towards your closing costs immediately!

Did you know the average Arlington renter will spend $150K in 5 years of renting? Stop paying down someone else’s mortgage! Join us for a Rent vs. Buy Happy Hour on Wednesday, June 7th at 6 p.m. via Zoom. If this time doesn’t work, we also are offering times convenient for your schedule!

A lot has happened in the local market since the beginning of the pandemic. Sip on your drink of choice and learn from Northern Virginia, Arlington and Washingtonian Magazines top producing agents! We will discuss the latest market updates, the home buying process and rent vs. buy cost savings. Please RSVP by clicking here.

Call/text Manavi at 703-869-6698 with any questions!

Submit your own Announcement here.

Homebuying 101: Steps to Getting Pre-Approved

Are you ready to jump into homeownership or started considering it but don’t know where to start? Financial preparation is key when thinking about purchasing your first home and the first step to getting pre-approved.

Join ACFCU’s mortgage loan officers

4th of July Celebration & Fireworks

Treat yourself this Independence Day with a world-class, private 4th of July extravaganza at the Military Women’s Memorial – a premier National Capital Region site.

Great food, fun, and the best views of Washington DC’s spectacular fireworks display. Relax, enjoy,


Subscribe to our mailing list