Remember the classic board game ‘Snakes & Ladders’? You roll the dice at the start, move forward accordingly and every once in a while you get to take a huge leap ahead because you landed on square that had a ladder on it. Up you go and you’re confident of getting to that finish line. Then your next roll of the dice means that your excitement turns into dread. You land on a square with a ‘snake’ and backwards you go.
Training a dog can sometimes feel the same way. You are keen and motivated to work with your dog and train a new command or modify a behaviour. You’ve got the right attitude, the treats and the time. In the initial stages (the first rolls of the dice), the training seems to be going well, In fact, your dog might even surprise you and they’ve picked up the training quickly and you feel like you’re well ahead of the game (you’ve hit the square with a ladder on it and up you go!).
With a growing combination of feeling confident, excited and proud, something then happens that starts to take the shine off how you feel. Your dog all of a sudden isn’t listening anymore, chooses to wander off, is easily distracted by something or someone else. Your dog is no longer interested and no matter what it feels like you’ve taken some steps backwards. Or the training has gone unbelievably well at home and you feel that your dog can perform in the same way outside at the park, beach or on the street. However, you are now perplexed as to why they’re not behaving the way you had trained them (Congratulations, you’ve hit the square with a ‘Snake’ on it and down you go!).
Rather than getting frustrated, have a think about what might contribute as to why it’s a challenge to keep progressing forward when it comes to training your dog. These are a few considerations to think about.
“Progress not perfection!”
We often say this to our clients. Set up your training expectations with a mindset of celebrating moments of progressive success – no matter how small. Expecting your dog to fit into YOUR desired timeframe to “perfect” a command or modified behaviour is potentially setting up you AND your dog up for either slow progress or landing on that square of the game board that will take you backwards. Be realistic by helping your dog continue to be motivated.
“If you aren’t having fun with training, then it’s likely your dog won’t be having fun either.”
Having fun with how you train is simple isn’t it? Aside from handing out treats, putting on a silly voice, leaping around, making unusual sounds is all part of making your training interesting and fun. Children love it when parents do silly things to make then laugh and motivated, dogs in general are pretty much the same.
“Be prepared to change what and how you do things.”
There’s a great question that goes “What’s the definition of insanity?". The answer? - "Doing the same thing over and over again but expecting a different result!”. The same principle applies to training. If you are repeating the same command or training in the same manner but not getting the progress or result you are after, then maybe it’s time to take a different approach.
By no means are these the only factors. There are many more depending on thins such as what you are wanting to train your dog to do, in the moment temperament (for the both of you), environment etc.
So the next time you’re training and you realise a feeling of having taken a step backwards, think about what might have caused it. However, don’t forget to always celebrate ALL those moments of success – no matter how big or SMALL.
At K9 FUNdamentals, we only train utilising force-free methods. Our aim is to not just help your fur kid but also work with you as the owner to enhance and strengthen the bond. Training should be fun and rewarding for both you. If you would like to find out more, please don’t hesitate to contact us.