Sometimes when you look at a dog training problem it can seem overwhelming, especially when it is your dog and he or she has a behaviour problem like aggression.
Thoughts enter your head like, “he will never be safe around other dogs” and “she will never be a dog I can trust” and “if only he would …”.
This has been part of the problem that many people face when they have a dog with a behaviour problem, of course the other part of the problem being the actual problem.
So how do I solve these dog training problems
Recently I decided to build a kitchen for my breeding kennel, Herzhund Malinois. I decided to buy some flat pack cupboards and assemble them myself.
Now many a man will hear the words “flat pack” and come down with an exotic life threatening illness, but, I purchased them and brought them home.
I had an hour spare so I opened up the first Flat Pack box and I was met with a very scary sight, a packet of about 200 screws, nuts, bolts, washers and other things and a schematic that was daunting.
So I closed the box and walked off.
Anyway a day or two past and I forced myself to venture into that Flat Pack box again. I picked up the instructions and started reading whilst rubbing the back of my neck, a direct indicator of stress, right?
But, to my delight, the Flat Pack company has considered me and many others like me and the first page of instructions were how to separate all the pieces and screws into five little areas.
Well I could do that so away I went, I was no longer faced with billions of little pieces that have to go together in a very specific, non straight forward manner or the second last step would reveal that the whole thing won’t work.
I had only to make five little piles, for now.
Once I had these piles under control the instructions gave me some more small tasks where I was only handling a small amount of pieces from pile 1 at a time.
Well before I knew it I had a cabinet complete. I was so happy with myself I ripped open the next box and finished all the cabinets, one after the other.
That night, my daughter Hunter (we call her Biscuit) brought me a toy that she has made throughout the day. It was a Lego Mixel, a slightly complex little toy with maybe 30 parts that all came together to form a Mixel.
I asked her if she built it herself, which she proudly said that she did!
I was a bit shocked, she is a smart kid but as I had seen no tears and extra pieces, I was a bit wowed!
So she said she had another one and could I watch her build it. I was keen so sat next to her.
Sure enough, the folks at Lego had considered her and the instructions asked her to assemble 5 pieces, each piece having about 6 Lego blocks in each.
Once done, she was asked to attach blocks 1-2 together, 3-4 together and 5-6 together, which she did.
Then there were three pieces left which Lego suggested you she stick together without a tear, tantrum or hesitation, Biscuit had yet another Mixel done.
Do you see where I am going here?
When I have someone come to train with me, perhaps they want to learn precision Heel work for competition obedience. Great Heelwork is many, many small layers of training compounded on the previous layer to present a beautiful articulated movement.
Just like the infamous Flat Pack, if step 4 is wrong you won’t see that until step 57, and you will realise that you have wasted a whole bunch of time.
In my program, when people are serious, there is a set of steps that I have developed that allow me to take almost any handler and dog through my system and produce a high degree of precision.
I have been working on this system for a very long time and have sections in which handlers are focussed on engagement, building static positions, developing communication markers, rehearsing my Heel Stations system, adding movement, handler development, adding turns from Heel stations and many more incremental steps that once all compete, produce a dog that can lay down a nice Heel pattern.
I know that commonly, teaching the positions can lead to many problems so I have designed a special set of Control Boxes that help me help clients train more precision with less problems.
If I was to try and tell someone in a lesson all of the above then I think they would slump into their seat and look for other things to do, just like me and my Flat Pack association.
Now when it comes to behaviour problems in dogs, this is not developing a dog to work in a pre determined pattern like heel work, instead the program is different for every person as each dog is different and each handler has a separate set of goals.
The challenges I face with some dogs is giving enough work in the initial consult to see some results in a couple of weeks, whilst not overwhelming the client into a Flat Pack mentality.
More often than not though we are getting great results with our clients and when they are confused or lost, they are communicating this to us and we find a way forward, perhaps during a follow up consult, phone consult or even email; but know it IS a daily challange I face.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed at the prospect of rehabilitating your dog and you know or have been told that to have success you will need to get quite a lot of detailed steps correct before you will see results, try breaking down what you have to do into a number of pieces.
Here are some sure fire tips that might get a stalled dog training program going again: –
Break up what you have to do into small steps
Figure out what you can do and get onto that now.
Write a few small steps in a note pad
On page 1 detail the first step or two. Then on page 2 a few more. Don’t look beyond page 1 until that step is done.
Reward yourself and your dog for completing each section
When I assembled the first part of my cabinet, I was pretty chuffed with myself. I admired my work from a few angles and eagerly moved to the next step.
Frequent smaller rewards will work better than the promise of a larger (seemingly unobtainable) reward. Frequent smaller rewards develop optimism.
Ask for help
I know if a client is having trouble getting a certain part done, we might look at training it another way, explaining it a different way or simply splitting into a couple of smaller pieces. Often a client has been to a Vet Behaviourist who has advised that the dog needs to learn a certain exercise and they have sent the client to me to help the client achieve success in that exercise.
Take a break
If teaching or training something is getting on top of you or getting you down, take a break. Go out and play a game or have fun with your dog. The problem will be waiting for you when you’re ready to take a run at it. Remember I walked away from my now Flat Pack kennel kitchen.
What I don’t think helps a dog training problem
Don’t look for an easier way.
A good trainer or behaviourist will give you the easiest steps they know to get your dog to where they need your dog to be to modify the behaviour.
Searching for that “magic wand” is a waste of time, people like me have spent that time for you and believe what we have given you is the best way.
Don’t try one thing after another.
Whether it be changing of tools, changing of methods, changing of rules, changing of anything communicates to your dog that sooner or later you will stop doing what you are doing. So the dog becomes resilient to make any changes as he or she is waiting for you to make a change.
Don’t expect it to be easy
Expect it to be hard, perhaps you will be wrong and it won’t 🙂
Don’t expect every day to be good.
That is an unrealistic ideal, if every day was good, they would not be good, they would be average. The good days are just a contrast to the bad days, without bad there can be no good.
Don’t give up!
If you count how many lessons you will need, how long you have trained, how many food rewards you have fed, how many times you have failed, I encourage you to consider one thing.
Your dog is probably happier than you, he doesn’t know how to count.
If your dog is counting, he is counting on one thing; you.
If you follow the advice in this article, I am sure you will find moving forward again easier.
You may see all these people on our testimonials that have these awesome success stories, believe me most of those people had dogs with very serious problems, I promise you they had more bad days than good to start with.
But that is exactly what makes a success case; beating the odds, doing what they said you couldn’t, doing what you didn’t think you could…
If you have tried and failed perhaps it might be time to have a professional take a fresh look at what is going on. Perhaps the situation has changed with your dog and an additional or different step is needed now, perhaps just some reassurance that it will all work out is the help you need.
You may have worked with a trainer and need some additional help, you may have been to see me and have stalled, you may be almost there but can’t get that extra bit you need…
Either way if you need help simply ask and we may have a solution for you. Check us out at www.k9protraining.com.au