“I’m too busy…”

“Work was crazy this week…”

“The weather is awful…”

“It’s just too cold.”

There are hundreds of reasons you can find why you can’t seem to find the time to train your dog. And let me tell you, I’ve uttered them all at least once. (And I’m pretty confident you have too.)

Listen, here’s some tough love…

If I don’t work my dog, it’s not because I’m too busy…

It’s not because I’m too tired…

It’s not because I have too much on my plate.

No matter how hard I try to convince you otherwise, if I don’t train my dog, it’s not for some reason out of my control…

The truth is, we all have time. Add up all of the minutes you spend on social media each day, and the minutes you spend in front of the tube. (In fact, if you’re reading this now, I’m pretty confident there is at least a little time in your day that you could carve out to train your dog).

It’s not a scheduling issue.

And it’s not a weather issue either.

Sure if it’s -20 with windchill that makes being outside unbearable, you won’t be able to get in big distance work with your dog…

But you’ve got a living room…even if it’s tiny and your dog is big, you can get creative.

I just ran a course in the dead of winter, challenging dog owners to get active with their dogs…

And you wouldn’t believe the creativity I saw.

From making Cavalettis out of wrapping paper tubes…

To using old textbooks as foot targets…

To using couch cushions to teach dogs balance…

The MacGyver skills that went on were seriously impressive.

Some more tough love…

You can train your dog inside.

You’re just choosing not to.

I promise unless there is something major that is out of your control, you not logging the reps you need to move your training forward isn’t typically a schedule, weather, or another issue.

It’s a mindset issue.

And let me tell ya, I’m the best when it comes to making excuses.

I’m busy…

Like crazy busy.

I run a business. I manage a staff. I do consulting work. I have a LOT of dogs to take care of and train, and I’m currently under construction (well, not me…my house).

It is EASY to say “I was just too busy”.

But even those days when I spend 12 hours in front of the computer (happens more than you think), I can still carve out 10 minutes for my dog…

If I really wanted to.

Now, I’m not perfect.

And my mindset falters from time to time…just like everyone else’s does. But I’ve got some strategies I’ve learned over the years from some super successful folks that help keep me and my training on track.

Here’s one of my favorites that I use to keep my mindset where it needs to be, to keep me motivated even when I’m busy, and to help battle my self-doubt (which is typically the real reason behind my “I’m too busys” or my “I’m too tireds”.)

I video EVERY training session. Now stay with me here. You may think you know where I’m going with this. And you may think “I do that already”, but just hear me out…

I use my cell phone.

And it’s always on when I’m training.

These videos are for me to reflect. Not for the general population to watch and dissect.

Then, each night I watch the videos back.

But here’s the twist.

I watch them first with a focus on the things I did great. On my successes. Because there are always at least a few.

I challenge myself to find a handful of things that went really well in a session. Even something as simple as “we had fun” is something to be proud of. I find the successes, and I celebrate them.

My good friend and coach, Sue Guiher says, “Notice what is going well and acknowledge these small wins every day.  Our brains are wired for success; when you celebrate mini-successes, your motivation is reinforced and you are creating a stronger connection to your end goal.” (Read the entire article here)

And you know what? She’s right…

Round 2 of reviewing the video and I focus on the flaws.

But they aren’t flaws. They are challenges.

Because I’m ultra competitive, I’ll never turn down a challenge. So instead of saying “Wow, I really screwed that up…” I’ll instead say “Meg, I dare you to fix your body language in your heeling or I challenge you to master that footwork in your session tomorrow.”

And you know what? I always do. Because approaching my missteps as opportunities to grow and improve helps keep me motivated to move forward. And it gives me real, actionable things to work on the next day.

All too often, when we reflect on our work, we beat ourselves up…

“I looked like an idiot…”


“I totally screwed that up…”


“My timing was completely off.”

But all we are doing is focusing on our flaws. Our weaknesses. And fueling the fire of self-doubt…which will lead to even more “I’m too busys” down the road.

If you’re busy and you need a rest day, take it. But don’t lie to yourself and say you can’t train your dog because things are too hectic. Listen, no one’s judging you if you simply say, “I need a break.” So quit judging yourself for it. Because it’s not helping anything.

Spend time celebrating your successes. Pat yourself on the back every once in a while. And get honest with yourself when your motivation takes a dive.

Because if you aren’t too busy for Facebook, I promise, you aren’t too busy to train your dog.

Check out these tips from my friend and coach, Sue on staying motivated. 

Sue is a certified personal coach, and she specializes in helping professional athletes, individuals and business leaders stay motivated and overcome self-doubt.

Meagan Karnes
Meagan Karnes

Meagan has been training dogs professionally since 2002, most recently working with private security, military and law enforcement to provide K9s for high level applications. She owns both The Collared Scholar, an online dog training academy, and 690 Security Services, a company that trains and deploys Executive Security and Protection K9s to private customers. She recently partnered with both Average Frog and SM Leaders, who repurpose the proven performance principles of the Navy SEALs for individuals and organizations.

    5 replies to "Tough Love: Recapturing Your Motivation to Train Your Dog"

    • Sarah

      Thank you, I needed this more than you know.

    • Kathy

      Ditto what Sarah said. I get so frustrated with myself that I take more days off, no excuses other than I’m frustrated with ME, that i forget the progress we’re making. Great idea to video Every Training Session! Thanks!

    • Debbie


    • Renee F Wrede

      This is what I really needed as I’ve said “I’m too busy,” or some other excuse at times. I also mention where I made an error during a training session with our trainer (she has told me I’m one of her few clients that picks up my own little timing errors and not just big goofs). Taking a video of training at home is a golden idea!

    • Curtisy

      This post from a year ago was just what I needed to read again now. Thanks!

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