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Putting in the Work: Any Dog Can Be A Good Dog

It’s the small, consistent decisions we make every day that have the greatest impact on our lives, good or bad.

I’m reading a book called The Slight Edge, and that is the main point author Jeff Olson is trying to make. Essentially, do the work and it pays off in the long run.

This can apply to almost anything. Olson was not referring to dog training, but of course that is what I thought of immediately.

For example:

I choose to walk my dogs every day. I’ve done this ever since I adopted Ace in 2007. We walk. Every day. (2019 update: Ace has passed away.)

Each walk on its own is not all that important. We could miss a day and it wouldn’t matter.

But the decision to walk every day over time allows me:

  • Better health and fitness
  • A more relaxed mind and soul
  • Special time with each dog
  • A break in my day for better overall productivity

And for my dogs:

  • Exercise = better health & better behavior
  • Movement for my senior dog = less stiffness
  • Being out in the world = better socialization and well-rounded, happier dogs
Me and Remy

So how does this apply to dog training?

Most of us get frustrated when it comes to training because we want a quick fix to a behavior problem like pulling on the leash or barking when sometimes there is no quick fix.

I get emails every day with questions from people wondering what magical thing they can do to stop a dog’s resource guarding or jumping or whining.

There’s rarely a quick fix, but the answer is usually fairly simple.

It’s putting in the time, a few minutes a day. This is what’s very difficult for people. Consistency.

For example, my dog Remy pulls on the leash and I’ve been planning this big, elaborate plan to do a 30-day loose leash walking challenge. That sounds great, but in reality that’s not going to work. It’s too overwhelming to plan out 30 days and I won’t even be with my dog for 30 days in a row all summer due to travel.

But that doesn’t matter. Because it’s much simpler than that. All I need is a few minutes each day. And I can start right now.

With loose-leash walking, all it really comes down to is holding the leash loose, not tight, and taking a step back when my dog pulls. The leash loosens, we move forward. No treats needed. No correction needed. Just a few minutes of patience every day.

I won’t see much of a difference in the first week or the week after or the week after that. But over many weeks, I’ll see a big difference!

Another example: Jumping.

My dog Remy jumps on me when he’s excited. It hurts, and I have bruises and scratches from the little weimamonster.

Scolding him and getting mad doesn’t work. He doesn’t take me seriously and he just gets more riled up.

So my new plan is: Don’t engage with him at all when he jumps.

The first day I do this, it will have no impact. He’ll probably still jump on me a dozen times! The second day, he’ll still jump.

But after a few weeks of totally ignoring Remy for jumping, you bet it’s going to pay off! Because his jumping will cause me to become completely emotionless, 100% disengaged from him. I will stare at my phone or leave the room entirely.

What training problems are the rest of you facing?

Could any of this work for you?

Let’s say your dog barges through the door when you want to take him out for a walk. I’m sure you could make some small changes that would add up over time. For example, you don’t open the door until that little butt is on the ground. He might only sit for a second the first day, but he’ll get better.

Or, if your dog has a problem giving up his toys or letting go of other items he steals, you could spend just 2 minutes a day working on “drop” with high-valued treats. This will make a big difference over time. “Oh, you want me to drop the toy and I get hot dogs? COOL! OK!”

How any dog can be a good dog

This applies to anything. Coming when called, aggression around other dogs, working on tricks.

I want my dog to learn to do a front handstand because I think that’s a cool trick. So I have to start with the most basic movements. It’s not that I have to be a better trainer than anyone else or have a genius dog. I just have to put in the time when most people don’t.

Sure, some dogs are MUCH harder to train than others and some have more emotional problems or bad habits. But that doesn’t mean they can’t make progress too.

So, in the comments. Let me know if you’ve thought of a problem you’d like to work on with your dog and what the first step would be. If you’re having trouble deciding where to start, I’ll see if I can help.

What dog training issue are you working on right now?

Let me know in the comments.

I was inspired to write this post while reading the book The Slight Edge. Order it if you’re into personal development type books.

-Lindsay, Ace & Remy

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