If you have tried everything with your dog and haven’t had the results you wanted, there might be a good reason. Here’s why I think you should try at least one more time…
Where did you get your training advice from?
There is plenty of good advice on the internet, however Google doesn’t know your dog, or you. It has no idea what types of methods or techniques will work for your dog. Or that certain techniques cancel each other out.
In fact, it might not even show you anything that’s any good. It simply recognises a collection of words and phrases and matches them to a webpage that other people spend a lot of time on.
Friends and family mean well too, and they might be giving you tips that have worked for them or people they know. But, once again, they won’t know how to make the advice work for your dog and his own needs.
Solution: If you didn’t get your advice from a reputable behaviourist or trainer, then please consult with one before you give up!
Could timing or consistency have been a problem?
Timing is so important to the success of a training plan. Failure to intervene or offer a reward at the right time could be preventing you from make any reasonable progress.
A consistent approach is vital to meaningful progress too. In fact, some types of behaviour change depend on it. If you weren’t previously as consistent as you could have been, or you lacked meaningful support, then it’s definitely worth having another go.
Just imagine your dog has practised the unwanted behaviour once a day for 6 months, that’s 180 times – it’s going to take more than a week to replace that old behaviour as the default behaviour. And even longer, if not everyone is keeping it going.
Solution: Book a refresher session with your behaviourist/trainer to sharpen up your technique before you try again.
Did you track your success?
The brain has a nasty habit of focusing on all the things that go wrong. This tricks us into thinking we are not winning and is the main reason we quit stuff. We are quite goal orientated to, so if we pick the wrong goal it can feel like we’re getting nowhere.
Solution: Check out my blog on measuring success for three ways to monitor your progress. But, however you keep an mind on your wins will help keep you motivated.
Do you need a different approach?
There is usually more than one way to achieve your goals. If you are working on a training method that isn’t suiting you then look at ways to change it. Or maybe the training doesn’t seem to be addressing the root of them problem. Perhaps you prefer a task focussed approach, or feel like its not rewarding enough.
Solution: Research different behaviourists and trainers to see how they do things. Hopefully they’ll have a blog or YouTube you can refer to for clues about how they work, or maybe they post a lot of content on their social media.
Did you give it your best shot (honestly)?
There are so many reasons why you maybe didn’t, you are not a machine. Perhaps you had a lot going on in your life the first time. Perhaps you weren’t well, had lot’s on at work, or you were experiencing a lot of anxiety or change. When you are overwhelmed, physically or emotionally, it can be very hard to take on any more and give it 100%.
If you feel like you are in a better place, and are emotionally resilient enough, then it might be time to give it another try. If not, give yourself a break and re-evaluate soon.
Solution: If you are ready to try again, book a refresher with your behaviourist or trainer to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything important, and have another go.
Has your dogs life changed?
Dogs adapt to training differently at different stages of their life. If your dog was a teenager when you tried before, but is now an adult, it’s likely they’ll respond differently this time.
This could also be true if you were training a rescue dog. A rescue dogs needs can change dramatically whether they have been with you a few days, weeks or months. Waiting until they are passed the 3 month stage can make a a big difference and might warrant a re-start!
Could your dog have been in a state of trauma? When in trauma, the reward seeking part of the brain gets shut down. They also lose a lot of resilience when in trauma. Both these things can make training very difficult.
Solution: If you feel like trauma wasn’t addressed then find someone to help you with that first. Then remind yourself o the original plan and just try again.
Did you mix and match techniques?
A conflicting technique, or missing element, could very easily be affecting the effectiveness of your training plan. If you changed part of your plan, skipped bits, or added elements, then depending on what you are attempting, it could really hinder your success.
A typical example could be: a separation anxiety plan might include improving the bond between owner and dog, but if the owner decides to switch the dog to sleeping on the floor instead of their bed (this is a common tip found online) it will break the original plan.
Or maybe, one family member is trying to verbally correct your dog for reacting to another dog. While the aim of your plan could be to increase confidence. Both techniques will cancel each other out and you’ll make no progress. I frequently ask people not to follow other tips, advice or plans while they are working through mine without checking first, for this reason.
Solution: Check the details of the original plan with your trainer or behaviourist and leave out anything extra!
Was it unsustainable?
New years resolutions typically fail because you attempt too much in one go. It’s great to be enthusiastic at the start but if you change too much or set your goals too high your brain will panic and try to sabotage your effort.
Working on a behaviour problems everyday is exhausting, for you and your dog. It won;t take long before you get burned out and progress will be limited. Extra effort, for less reward, is demoralising and frequently leads to the belief that the training is no longer working.
Solution: I always suggest keeping sessions short and taking breaks and days off in between practise. This keeps you and your dog fresh and keen. Rather than going all out and quitting after a week because it was unsustainable.
Are you struggling with your dogs behaviour?
Private Dog Behaviour Consultations are currently available in the Dundee area and beyond, or via zoom. If you are looking for help solving your dogs behaviour and training problems, then please get in touch!