Do you find yourself getting frustrated with your dog during training sessions? Do you find that your dog starts to shut down when you work on certain behaviors?
If you answered yes to either of these questions it’s time to take a step back. When you do so take a look at the pressure you’re putting on your dog to learn. You have to remember that what we as people deem acceptable in our world doesn’t always make sense to a dog, and vice versa.
Here’s an example, Jane takes Fido for a walk around the block and while they’re out a cat runs in front of them. Fido takes this as a chance to chase the cat and knocks Jane down. She becomes frustrated with Fido and says, “He should know better than that, he should know how to walk on a leash!”
But, Fido doesn’t know better. Jane put a very high standard on him to always walk well on a leash. What Jane may not realize is that when the cat ran in front of them it got Fido’s prey drive going and he decided he was going to go after it.
Here’s another example, John is trying to teach Fido how to sit. But, every time he gives the command Fido looks at him and walks away. He immediately gets mad at Fido and says, “He should know better, sitting is not that hard!”
But, Fido doesn’t know better. John has put a very high standard on him to know what the word sit means. It’s possible that Fido has never heard that word before so he doesn’t know what John wants.
What do these examples tell us? In each of these situations Fido was acting like a dog. And, in each of these situations John and Jane placed high standards on him to act very un-dog like. After a while Fido, Jane and John are going to become very frustrated with their situations.
So what can be done about situations like these? First and foremost, look at the standards you’ve placed on your dog. Maybe you should lower them! That’s not such a bad thing. Dogs aren’t mind readers; if you don’t successfully communicate to them what you want from them they aren’t going to know what to do.
Second, and we feel this is the most important part, is to start where they are. In other words take note of their behaviors, look at their weaknesses but also look at their strengths. Take note of their interests, their fears. Once you have a handle on your dog’s overall well-being you can devise a plan for training. But, meet them where they’re at. If you set the bar too high you’re going to fail and your dog is the one that most likely will suffer from it.
And, if after a while you find that you’re having a hard time communicating with your dog then maybe a trainer should be consulted. It doesn’t mean that you’ve failed they just have knowledge of dog behavior and can help you come up with a plan for success. In fact our trainers would be more than happy to help you out be it through an evaluation or in obedience classes or private training. All you have to do is sign up!