Why does my dog behave so differently with you?
This is a question I get asked with every dog that comes in to my day train or board and train program. In these programs I train the dog and then coach their owners how to take over the process. My answer is always the same. I don’t have any baggage with the dog and I immediately set the rules and boundaries the minute the dog comes in.
I define baggage as all the unwanted behaviors that were let to develop into habits over time with a dog’s owners. I’m not pointing the finger at the owner and putting the blame on them, necessarily. In many cases they were told to do what they have tried up until that time. Add to that the simple fact that you don’t know what you don’t know. It’s too easy to point the finger and lay blame. So I don’t.
When a dog is dropped off and left with me to be trained, I’m very fortunate and it gives me a very distinct advantage. The dog doesn’t know me, is in an unfamiliar place, and immediately we implement the routines, rules, and boundaries that will shape the dog into the dog they have the potential to be. I immediately develop a relationship with the dog that is based on leadership and very quickly the dog will start to look to me to help them deal with their struggles differently.
I don’t possess the anxieties or frustrations the owner does when the dog struggles and my even keel energy quickly sets the dog at ease. It allows us to develop a relationship based on trust and leadership from day one – without the baggage. If you take into account the fact that I’m a dog trainer and should know how to deal with the issues brought before me, it allows me to gain that trust quickly. Whereas, an owner is trying to figure it out through too much trial and error that leads to confusion and distrust from the dog. The dog learns they need to figure it out for themselves because they don’t believe their owner has the solutions. Again, you don’t know what you don’t know and it is easy to give up on something when it doesn’t work immediately.
So dog trainers are not dog whisperers. Sure, if you want to turn your dog around as quickly as possible then get a dog trainer to train them for you in a board and train type program. The fact that they do this for a living professionally is the reason they will achieve results more quickly and to a higher level. Just like any trade; getting a skilled trade person to do a job versus doing it yourself will typically yield a better, faster result. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t do the job yourself. You just have to learn how to the best of your ability.
My advice to those doing it yourself is set yourself up for success and the first step for that is to remove the baggage. You need to flip the switch and reset your dog. That means you have to always be in a position to teach so you can communicate to your dog what is right or wrong to influence their choices to the ones you wish them to make in all the circumstances that demand it. You have to be consistent and the dog must understand the conversation. When you are not in a position to teach, the dog needs to be somewhere where they can’t exercise the decisions you don’t want them to make. I recommend crating them. This sets the rules and boundaries and removes the baggage.
The second step is to employ a training system. First you need to establish a communication system that the dog understands that distinguishes right from wrong. Then you need to teach the dog whatever you will employ in those circumstances outside of those circumstances first. The dog needs to understand everything about the conversation to be successful. If they do then the only variable is the choice the dog is making and that is what you are aiming to influence.
That’s the secret. It isn’t dog whispering at all. Where people often fail is a lack of consistency and failure to control the dog’s environment. People are often looking for a quick fix. They search YouTube and find a video on how to fix something and they try it. When it doesn’t work immediately they try something else. That just confuses and frustrates the dog. It isn’t that the YouTube video was necessarily wrong. There is just a lot more that goes into it then you see in a short video clip. So a lot of information is missing for a full solution. A large part of that is changing how you live with your dog – the baggage.
If a board and train program is not in the cards and you are struggling to achieve results on your own, I recommend you hire a professional for private sessions and follow what they are instructing you to do. You are still doing it on your own but with professional guidance and a plan. Another option is a quality video training system that teaches you how to train your dog. Again, you need to follow those instructions and be very consistent to have success.
Regardless of the path you choose to unleash your dog’s potential, I can help you. I offer day train, board and train, private lessons, and an online video series that can train any size, any breed, and any problem. Contact me to find out more or visit my Facebook page to see my training in action.
Guy Lapierre, Certified Professional Dog Trainer. Unleashed Potential Halifax.
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