“Take nothing on its looks; take everything on evidence. There’s no better rule.”
– Charles Dickens, Great Expectations
The quote from this literary classic made me think about the process of dog training and the variance between a client’s perception and the reality of what needs to be undertaken.
When I meet a new client for the first time, it usually takes place in their home. That way I can make an assessment of the dog’s environment and advise the owner accordingly. It also gives me time to listen and look, gather ‘the evidence’ if you like, and identify whether there is a gap between the owner’s belief of what they need and what the dog is telling me – how it responds to the activity of the home, its inhabitants, the noises, sights and smells.
Most dog owners acquire the services of a dog trainer with ‘great expectations’ and the best of intentions. But any financial investment in training must be matched with a personal one – time, patience and determination are all essential for your dog’s training to pay dividends. And that can only be given by its handler.
Dog training is in itself a bit of a misnomer, for it is the owner that receives the training on the best way to engage the dog, focus its attention and get it to respond accordingly. In turn, the dog learns to respond to your commands and through this, the parameters of acceptable behaviour are established.
Essentially dogs are driven by instinct and the need for food is a primary one which is why establishing a pattern of associated behaviour through reward establishes an acknowledgement of cause and effect in your dog.
Many clients come to me because they identify that their dog has a behavioural problem or they are attempting to integrate a new pup into a household and want it to be obedient.
But dog trainers are not magicians – although it may appear that we cast a spell of obedience over your wayward pup or badly-behaved hound, there’s no trickery to the process. With more than 20 years’ experience in dog handling, I have become attuned to the way a dog thinks, can see a potential distraction before it becomes an issue and can focus a dog’s attention back to its primary need. The drive for food will always be stronger than the drive to play.
You too, can acquire the skills needed to manage your dog effectively in a whole host of environs but be prepared to invest the time. Training is no quick fix – it’s the start of a learning process that has to be practised.
So, here’s a few things to think about before you consider getting underway:
- Little and often – you and your dog will progress faster with regular short bursts of training. Five to ten minutes throughout the day is better than a longer session. It will stop your dog from getting bored and frustrated and help establish a pattern of positive action and reward.
- Be consistent – if there are a number of people in your household, ensure that you all interact with the dog in the same way. Have the same rules, approach and vocabulary.
- Be patient and committed – don’t expect to get overnight results, learning is a steady process. There are times when you will feel frustrated but remain patient with your dog and committed to the process. Over time, little by little, you will see steady improvement. In addition, you will be developing a bond with your dog that will last a lifetime. And what could be better than that?
Are you ready to start a new chapter with your dog?