Things you should know about dog training…

….that don’t specifically involve how to train your dog.

I think a lot about people and dogs. And behavior (of both species). And teaching (both species).  I think a lot about how to motivate humans to want to train their dogs; not just sit-stay-sorta loose leash walking stuff, not just one puppy class and then winging it through adolescence into adulthood. Not just one basic class when the dog hits 12 months and is seemingly purposefully choosing the OPPOSITE behavior of everything the human would like him to do. And not just “training because that is what you are supposed to do”, or what you need to do in the moment because the dog is climbing on counters and dragging the human down the street on the end of a leash.  Like, REALLY train their dogs because they WANT to and ENJOY it and see it as a means of building the best bond ever with this non-human species that has been invited into their home.  And then maybe as a side effect get some really great manners and maybe even get curious about more advanced stuff like, hmmm, a Canine Good Citizen certification or even dipping a toe into competition (and there are SO many awesome, fun, family-friendly dog sports out there.)

My job is really mostly about teaching people, who will then teach their dogs.  And getting people excited enough to do the actual training that is required to reach their goals can be challenging for several reasons.  It is not always about a lack of willingness or desire, sometimes a dog may be more than someone anticipated – more work, more behavioral issues, more energy.  Sometimes life stuff gets in the way – baby, new job, move, divorce.  And time – is there ever enough TIME?!   And we are all doing the best we can, where we are at on our paths, with what we know. That’s a given.  But when someone comes to a class and wants to teach their dog the basic manners and cued behaviors that every good dog should know, I want to help them see that training isn’t just a means to an end. It does take lot of that elusive concept, TIME.  And practice.  The practice, doing the stuff – yeah, that’s gotta happen.    And new behavior doesn’t happen overnight.  Did you ever try to change a habit? Learn a new skill?  Think about what that was like.     But I want people to also see that training is a path you choose to step on with your dog that is part of what is exciting and wonderful about sharing a life with this species.  And the things you can accomplish may surprise you.  Training will challenge you.  And it also can open up a world to you that may just change your life.

Aside from the basic techniques and tools used to train your dog – to actually teach them specific behaviors, methods that prevent unwanted behavior, and tricks to stop the bad habits, there are some general concepts that I’d like you – the reader, the dog parent, the seeker of knowledge that will help you get your dog to STOP &#%^!)(# JUMPING ONCE AND FOR ALL – to consider, and really embrace, if you want to be successful in training your dog.  These are concepts that will help you succeed and get the most out of training, out of time spent working with me – the most out of your dog.  And when you succeed at even the smallest thing – when you see your dog succeed – you may just be motivated to do more; and the more you are motivated the more success you will have.  And my hope is that you will see, then, what is really possible from your dog, from the bond you share, from this four-legged family member.  So, here are the Concepts About Dog Training That I’d Like You To Know That Don’t Actually Involve Training Your Dog:

  1. Dogs Are Individuals. Train the Dog You’ve Got.   Your dog is a one-and-only, unique result of genes and environment.  Don’t compare your dog’s behavior to your neighbor’s, friend’s, or family member’s dog; and definitely don’t compare your dog to the last dog you had that was The Best Dog That Ever Lived And Never Did Anything Wrong And Didn’t Need Training And All I Had To Do Was Telepathically Communicate With Him When I Wanted Him To Do Something.   Look at your dog – really see HIM.  And recognize that he is not any of those other dogs; he is unique. Just as ALL of us are unique.
  2. Dogs Are Not Computers to Be Programmed.  They Need Time to Learn & Build New Habits – Just Like You! 
  3. Management – It’s Where It All Starts.
  4. Avoid The Situations Where The Problem Occurs – For Now
  5. You Have To Do The Work – That’s Just How It Is.
  6. The More Reinforcement You Use, The Less You’ll Have To Use – It’s A Mysterious Paradox! (Not Really – It’s Actually Science)
  7. Train Where You Want The Behavior To Happen.
  8. Foundations Must Be Laid aka Building A Castle On Quicksand Doesn’t Work
  9. It Takes Time – Lots of Time.
  10. 10.  It’s All Worth It.

Leave a Reply