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The Realities of Dog Training

It can be really frustrating when things don’t go to plan during your dog training.

You get yourself all excited about teaching your dog a new skill, or undoing a behaviour you don’t want, and can’t wait to give it a go. Only to realise that after a few attempts it’s perhaps not working as well as you’d like it to. Your dog was doing it perfectly well in the beginning, but at time goes on they either don’t want to do it, or you’re just not getting the same response as you once did.

You may even find yourself getting cross with them again, or think that it’s only working because of the food, and once the food is taken away the old habits start creeping in.

Every single dog I’ve owned myself, and worked with has this episode. And I call it an episode, because that’s exactly what it is. Of all of the dogs who regressed in behaviour, or were having a less than productive day, was completely normal. The part where it really matters is then, what we do next.

Each of these times where a dog hasn’t listened to me, reverted back to barking, or performing the undesirable behaviour I’m trying to work on, is what I consider to be an invaluable learning experience. I know, in that moment, that the dog is trying to tell me something. They are quite literally feeding me information, right there and then.

So, it’s at these moments, where I need to read that information, look back on the previous days, at what’s around me in that moment, and assess everything as a whole picture.

Often working out what has gone wrong, and where we can adjust things for next time, is way more useful than several successful training sessions. Sometimes the answer is relatively simple, in that the dog just needs a day off. Sometimes it’s more complicated and the dog is struggling with a medical or painful issue, that we can’t pick up on without more investigation.

For example, some things I would immediately look at is whether the dog is thirsty, or needs to go to the toilet, maybe they’re too hot or they’re tired of doing the same things, so I need to either give them a few days off, or do something easier and more fun.

I would almost always look at the environment also. Was I too close? What was that other dog like? Were they too threatening and intense for them? Or perhaps not paying them any attention at all, and that frustrated my dog? Was it raining? Did they have an experience here last time where they were frightened or injured someway. Have they picked up on a scent that’s over excited or worried them?

The other things after this I look at is, whether anything medical could be the problem. Are they stiff when getting up, are they eating their dinner faster or slower than normal, do they keep scratching at a particular spot, are they restless and panting, pacing back at home, quieter than usual, so on and so forth. I’m no vet, and dogs aren’t the best at displaying when they’re in pain, but we shouldn’t rule it out and presume they are okay.

You can see how many things there are to look at, and work out, and it goes without saying, I’d be looking at the dogs body language to see if any concerns or frustrations were there, but if it’s a general disinterest to work, then there could be multiple factors, and I’ve not even dived into how the handler was behaving or feeling on this, too.

The reality of dog training is, it isn’t all sunshine and roses. Regression of behaviour is also a real thing, and sometimes the dog could just be testing whether the old behaviour they used to perform still works. It happens and it is a part of the game.

If you think about a bad habit you have, yourself. Do you immediately swop to a new habit, or does it take time to build? Some days you want that bad habit more than the healthier and better habit, so you might regress and grab that one square of chocolate, or glass of wine, or cigarette.

Your dog is going to go through these times, just as we would.

Dogs are always learning, and especially in younger dogs who are coming out of puppy, and into teenager phase, this is the prime time where a lot of them will disappear into the depths of what feels like disaster. Only today as I write this, I’ve worked with two young German Shepherds who are causing their owners extremely painful days with their barking, and unruly-ness.

If you feel like giving up on the training, then I recommend you do the exact opposite and do more of it. Take the day off the priority work, and do something fun or different together. Then go back to it fresh and ready to roll again.

If you were someone who got yourself a lockdown puppy, and are now finding yourself struggling with them as distractions increase, perhaps they haven’t quite been socialised as you’d like them to have been, or you’re experiencing the unruly, difficult behaviours a young dog can bring, then you can start getting that sorted because I’m back to running classes, and will be helping to support all of those who need the help, now.

Click here to secure your space on either our puppy or teenager class today.

Until next time,
Claire.

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