Friday, January 20, 2017

We tried that. It didn't work.

 Nelson is a 4 years old Goldendoodle. He runs off when the door opens. He doesn't come back when he's called. He often doesn't respond when asked to do things.  Does Nelson sound like a dog you know?

Nelson's case is a common call I get as a professional dog trainer.  He's been practicing unwanted behaviors his whole life.  The owner is at wits end and has decided to find a professional to help.  Great!  I love these cases because once they start training the dog often responds quickly and does very well.  

However, the downside to these cases is that the owner is at their wit's end and they are tired.  
I get that. It's frustrating to have a dog that seems to be a pain to live with.  Sometimes a spouse/partner is tired of the dog and it is a source of tension in the relationship.  This causes even more stress. I do empathize.

So by the time I get the call the owner is really ready for results.  What they don't often grasp is the fact that the dog has had a long time, often months or years, to practice poor behaviors.  This is called the Matching Law.  So if your dog has barked at every stranger that walks in your door for 6 months it will take some time of the dog not barking at strangers that walk in the door before the behavior is extinguished . . . and that's not all of it . . . you have to find a desired behavior that receives [positive] reinforcement and rewards to replace the barking behavior.  
With all this said, my point: there is no quick fix.

This is why training your dog several times a week, consistently, is important.  It is also important to implement your trainer's advice as they lay it out for you.  Once a week training only when your trainer is there or if you are in a class isn't going to get you the desired results you had in mind.

This is also when I hear a lot of "Oh we tried that, it didn't work", or "We tried Suzie Q Trainer and she didn't help us."  While this can be true sometimes, most of the time this means the owner didn't see immediate results, didn't practice or carry out training as they should have, or all of the above.  

I tell all my clients -- you don't need hours a day to work with your dog, you can achieve success with 5-10 minute training sessions daily or every few days, a couple times a day. That's it.  I also explain how owners can incorporate training into daily life.  If you are washing the dishes at the sink you can easily practice your dog's "get on your mat" cue, or durations [staying for longer periods of time], or  stay-out-of-the-kitchen-and-wait-on-your-bed-in-the-living-room-until-I-tell-you  -- the possibilities are vast.

Anyone can train their dog.  A trainer is highly recommended for much needed guidance.  Just plan accordingly and keep your expectations realistic for your dog and your trainer.  

If you try something and it "doesn't work" ask your trainer.  I like to tell people nowadays to video themselves working on what they are struggling with and let me view it to offer help.  This can be a great way for you to watch yourself and catch your own mistakes (secret revealed: I find mistakes in my videos of myself all the time!) or your trainer to catch something you didn't see.  

So don't be discouraged. Find a trainer that you mesh with, you believe in what they are teaching, how they are teaching it and helping you as you hoped they would.  

In the Dallas/Ft Worth, Texas metroplex? Look me up! 
Stacy Greer
Sunshine Dog Training & Behavior

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