Life has changed for everyone during the COVID Pandemic and my role as head dog trainer at Unleashed Potential, PEI has changed as well.
Clients are struggling and so are their dogs. With health threats, restrictions, masks, lockdowns, transitions to working from home, homeschooling kids, bubble open, bubble closed, restrictions lifting, restrictions back in place…it’s been a roller coaster. People are tired, burned out. I see this on my client’s faces. Less smiling happy faces, more tired, worn-out faces.
Now that vaccines are here and there are fewer restrictions people are trying to merge the pandemic life they developed with their rekindled real life and people are over-scheduled and busier than ever. It’s been increasingly difficult to get people booked in for appointments as their schedules are incredibly full.
As far as dogs go there is a marked increase in anxiety, hyperactivity and reactivity/aggression. I also notice an increase in dog’s persistence to do what they want. There has never been a dog I couldn’t hold back on a leash when they were pulling. This year there have been a couple I couldn’t hold back from lunging unexpectedly and a few more that were close to schooling me in their initial lessons prior to the addition of tools and food/training games to assist. Yup, dogs are pulling harder than ever before and their poor humans have no chance of holding onto them.
So we’ve got stressed-out dogs living in homes with stressed-out owners who are overwhelmed by their dog’s behaviour and the amount of work it takes to change the dog. There is an increase across the country of rehomes and euthanasia as people are at their wits end with their once cute pandemic puppy.
And this is where my role has changed. I’ve always called myself a people trainer before a dog trainer. When I can teach you to change your habits and routines, the dog will change. I am a coach and it’s my job to navigate you from point A to point B with your training. But…in my athletic days, my coaches and trainers could only take me so far. I was the one who had to cross the finish line.
Since COVID I spend an increasing amount of time helping people overcome their own anxieties, fears, doubts, insecurities about training their dogs. Building them up and helping them see that training is a process, there are no quick fixes but you can totally do this.
People need harmony in the home because there’s less and less harmony in the world with abnormal and off-the-charts heat waves causing wildfires, tornadoes spinning in places they have never spun before and will there be a deadly variant that the vaccine does not protect against?? There is so much out of your control right now and that’s frightening. But one thing you do control is what goes on in your house.
How you live with your dog is what trains the dog. If you give up on rules and structure your dog will develop a whole bunch of problem behaviours as they are constantly being given a ‘Don’t do’ list instead of a ‘to do’ list.
I’m seeing a huge increase in frustrated dogs living with frustrated owners. There is consistent conflict between the owner and the dog. Instead of saying NO! When they jump a million times a day, teach them to sit for everything they want- food, toys, attention, freedom to sniff or run and check things out and yes…sit when they meet people.
Tell the dog what to do.
Resist the urge to just say no all day. If dogs barking at windows teach quiet command or come command to remove them from the window.
Tell the dog what to do.
If the dog is pacing and never sits still and follows you all around the house like they are made of velcro teach them the ‘place’ command and a down stay.
Tell the dog what to do. Always.
Don’t try and do your own training. Seek out a professional who will help you separate the useful info you read online from the useless. Work with them to develop an efficient training schedule that you can consistently stick with at home. If trying to work on a skill taught and you become frustrated because the dog is not responding, stop…take a breath, refocus and do a self-assessment.
✅How is my leash handling?
✅Am I marking and feeding properly?
✅Am I rushing and putting the dog in too great of a distraction too soon?
✅Have I not practiced my basics enough and I’m trying to do something too advanced that I and the dog are not ready for?
✅Do I fully understand what I’m supposed to be doing?
✅Have I studied the homework materials sent to me in case I forgot something that was taught?
When you encounter problems in training, look inwards first rather than just blaming the dog, getting frustrated and giving up. Always say “What can I do better to manage this situation and get success?”
Don’t sign up for training to “fix” your dog. There are no broken dogs and they are not robots that can be simply reprogrammed. As your coach, my job is to help you first.
➡️Why did you get this dog?
➡️What does it mean to you and your family to have this dog?
➡️How much time are you willing to spend every day to train the dog?
➡️Are you willing to provide your dog with a variety of experiences away from home?
Like it or not you are in a relationship with your dog and it takes 100% effort from you and 100% effort from them to succeed. Ensure your dog is hungry, food motivated and wants to participate in training. You in turn bring the fun with a good attitude and mindset that training 5 mins 3 times a day is not a chore, it’s a chance to bond with your dog over the use of food, toys and games. It’s a chance to say yes instead of no, it’s a chance to work on your partnership with them. Yes, partnership…you need to learn how to have trust and confidence in your dog and they need to learn how to have trust and confidence in you. Then, you will have harmony.
🌟You are more courageous than you think when it comes to trying new things.
🌟You can learn to train and handle your dog as a pro can.
🌟It’s ok to fail, try again.
🌟There are no setbacks. You and your dog will make mistakes. Adapt and try something else next time.
🌟Don’t run from it, learn from it.
🌟Always ask for help when you need it.
❤️ Coach Sara
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