I follow the blog Mark’s Daily Apple, a site about primal living in a modern world. Mark had a post yesterday on 10 psychological hurdles keeping you from losing weight. As I was reading them, I thought, these apply to dog training as well. So I created my own list of hurdles that prevent someone from training his or her dog.
1. You compare yourself or your dog to others.
There will always be dogs better trained than your own dog. There will always be more patient and more dedicated trainers. But no dog is perfect, and no trainer is perfect. A dog might appear perfect at an obedience class, but at home he might be a hellion when someone comes to the door. An owner might seem collected on a walk, but at home she might be struggling to stop her dog from chewing.
2. You’re embarrassed to walk your dog or attend training classes.
It is embarrassing to walk your dog if she’s squealing like a piglet or if she’s lunging at every person. But don’t give up. Take her for walks during quieter times like late evening or early morning when fewer people are out. Work on obedience commands in the house or in the backyard. Go for hikes in rural areas. Start training with a Gentle Leader or a Halti or a pinch collar for better control.
Don’t be afraid to seek help from a private trainer. If the trainer is not interested in helping you or at least recommending someone who can, then she is not a very good trainer. If you go to obedience classes, explain to the trainer ahead of time what you and your dog need help with. Give her a heads up if your dog is reactive or aggressive or very loud.
3. You’re not seeing the progress you saw right away.
When we first teach our dogs the basics, we see a lot of instant progress. When I adopted my mutt Ace, he didn’t know a single command. In the first few days with me he learned sit, stay and down. He learned more in the first two weeks than he did in the next six years, but that doesn’t mean he’s not still learning. I’m always working on something with my dog, we just don’t see the progress as quickly as we first did because we’re beyond the simple stuff now.
4. You’re worried your dog will think you’re mean.
Are you that person who can’t scold your dog because you don’t want to hurt her feelings? Maybe you can’t bear to remove her from the couch. Maybe you can’t possibly put her in a crate even though she’s having accidents when you’re gone.
If you want to see real progress, you have to get serious about your rules. Dogs need rules and structure. They appreciate consistency. They don’t hold it against us. I’m sure your parents set rules for you when you were growing up. If you have kids, I’m sure you have rules for them. We all have to follow rules to function in society. Why do you think your cute dog can get away with no rules?
5. You’re looking for a quick fix.
There is rarely a quick fix in dog training. Sure, prevention can go a long way such as using a baby gate to block off a room. Or, using a citronella spray collar to cut back on some barking. But overall, dog training takes time, patience and consistency. There are few shortcuts.
6. You’re not training every day.
Training should be a part of every day, even if it’s just five minutes at a time. I’ve had my dog for six years now, and we work on training every single day on every single walk.
7. You’re not enjoying it.
If training your dog isn’t fun, you’re not going to do it. Why aren’t you having fun? Are you frustrated? Is it taking too long? Are you comparing yourself to others? Just lighten up and enjoy your time with your dog. If you need help from a trainer, then get it.
8. Your poor habits are hard to break.
I have all kinds of bad habits. For example, I give my dog attention when he whines. Guess what? He whines quite a bit! Go figure. I’m sure you have some bad habits you could break, too. Maybe you don’t want your dog to beg, yet you always feed him something from your plate. Maybe he barks and cries every time you grab his leash because you haven’t taught him to sit quietly and wait before heading out the door.
9. You can’t afford a certain tool or a certain trainer.
Good dog trainers cost a lot. I get that. Dog training tools are also an added expense. But sometimes you don’t need these things. Or sometimes you don’t need the most expensive options. For example, I attend obedience classes in my community through a non-profit training group. The instructors are volunteers, and the classes are a steal – right around $50 for seven weeks. The experiences my dog and I gain from this are just as valuable as hiring a one-on-one trainer for more money.
10. You’re thinking of it as all or nothing.
Sure, it would be awesome if your dog could lie down and stay no matter what. That should be a longterm goal. Sometimes we have such high expectations right away that we give up if our dogs can’t possibly meet those expectations. Start small. Break each concept into tiny steps. Training won’t be this smooth experience. There will be ups and downs. As far as I’m concerned, a dog is never “trained.” Training is an ongoing experience.
What are some other hurdles that prevent us from training our dogs?