I bet you cant train my dog

I bet you can’t train my dog

When I used to hear these words I took it as a challenge and would jump at the chance to prove the person saying it wrong, but you know, I never succeeded once…

I would take the dog from the owner, develop some communication and rules and set about overcoming this “impossible task” the owner said could not be done; and you know every single time I managed to get the dog past that point, overcame that hurdle, overcame that distraction and I successfully trained that dog.

Now you might read the first paragraph again and check that I said I never succeeded once a few times and then read the part where I said I did train the dog, so what am I talking about?

Well to get the message here I have to add some details so we are all on the same page (or screen).

Over the years I have witnessed people seemingly bragging that their dog can’t be trained like it is some badge of honour, they may be self justifying their lack of success based on incorrect beliefs.

If you are ready to raise your fist and say “no really, my dog cant be trained”, read on, I am trying to help you here.

This girl said to me once, “I have been to see a trainer and even he couldn’t fix the dog“. Try another trainer, try as many until you find success. Sometimes you don’t see eye to eye with your trainer, sometimes they lack the experience, maybe they were having a bad day? Or you were?

I had a very aggressive dog and the kindest thing to do was euthanise him“. I am going to have to suggest that the dog did not share your opinion there.

Now some people will choose not to work through their dogs problem because: –

  • My dog doesn’t like training
  • I don’t have the moneyI bet you cant train my dog
  • I don’t want to play tug
  • I do want to play tug
  • I don’t want to restrict his food
  • I don’t want to use food in training
  • I don’t want to use corrections
  • I only want to use corrections
  • I want him to like dogs
  • I don’t want her to notice dogs
  • The breed can’t do it
  • He doesn’t like entire males
  • He isn’t food motivated
  • It didn’t work
  • She likes entire males
  • and this list goes on…

The first thing you need to realise is that all of the above reasons have nothing to do with dog training, they have to do with your ideals, restrictions, reservations, hesitations, fears, inexperience, and it really isn’t about you.

I have not failed, I have just found 10 000 ways that did not work” Thomas Edison.

If you really switch off your emotions for a minute and look at the situation rationally you will see that there are many ways to train and or rehabilitate your dog that you may not know about or may not have tried.

Do you really believe your dog is so special, that no trainer can train it?

When people come to me for help, my single minded goal is to help them get their dog to where the owner needs the dog to be. I have literally hundreds of ways to get a dog progressing and I am quite flexible in many of the systems I can use, but there are some points where I am inflexible as I know these parts are highly important if the dog is going to make the necessary changes.

Some people come to me and they have been training their dog in a certain method and it has not proved successful, and now they want my help but they also want to specify which method I can use, perhaps if it was not successful for them it might end up the same with me, or perhaps the method THEY chose does not suit their dog?

There are a bunch of people out there that will say “Oh I know it can be done, if I use {insert method or tool or reward they don’t want to use}. Well if it was that easy why not just do it? People seem all focused on “how” rather than “if”. Some people get tied up with methods, techniques and politics. I can think of many times where I hear the same people still dribbling on about training the same thing, such  having an almost reliable recall – and 3 years later they will still talk about their ‘nearly perfect’ recall. A recall is one exercise – if it takes 3 years to train ONE exercise, you are doing it wrong 🙂

So recently I was speaking to someone and talking about training their dog in a reliable recall and someone nearby who was listening said “I bet you can’t train my dog to recall“.

My answer was, “you’re probably right“.

They went on to say that “My {insert breed of choice} cannot be trained to recall“. and I said actually they can… which of course started the almost bragging like behaviour of why their dog is so untrainable.

I always have found it strange that people seem to be so impressed that their dog cannot be trained, when the fact is that if the dog in fact is resistant to training, it is usually has something to do with the owner.

This guy went onto to say that his dog can run very fast and he had decided a long time ago that he would never let his dog off leash as it cannot be trained reliably and could hurt itself.

So it seems he has given himself a free pass from training his dog, he has an “excuse” that his dog is untrainable and he also has a free pass to exercising his dog as it could hurt itself. I wonder what would happen if he tried to give himself a free pass from paying his bills due to the fact they would make him poor…

Now I wouldn’t call myself the slowest runner on earth but there is not one breed that I can catch on foot if they don’t want to be caught, and I guess any dog can run on the road and get run over so ANY / EVERY dog is at some form of risk off leash.

But then again isn’t every child that is not glued to his parents side at some sort of risk? Does that really give us reason to remove all activity because it carries some risk?

When you think about it, that is crazy!

“What can seem to us a bitter trial can often be a blessing in disguise”, this is a nicer way of saying “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”.

Let’s talk about punishment training for a moment, because people who don’t want to punish their dogs often excuse themselves from reliable training outcomes because they refuse to use punishment.

Let’s say a dog goes to the off leash park and as soon as he arrives he sees the other dogs playing and having fun and he predicts in 3 seconds as soon as this leash is off he too will be having fun (read “having fun” is a reward).

But his owner notices that their dog is way over stimulated so they do not remove the leash but instead walk around the park.

So breaking that down we have:-

  • Expected reward (having fun at dog park)
  • Owner removes access to reward (keeps dog on leash).

Do you know that in dog behaviour that is called “Negative Punishment”?

So removing or restricting freedom or access to any reward is a punisher, a quite useful one in many programs including some of mine.

So you may be avoiding using punishment but in fact you are using buckets of it. Now you might say “oh yes but that isn’t as bad as pulling on a correction collar“. I think you might do well to ask the dog for his or her opinion on that one.

A dog that has his or her expected reward removed can suffer very high levels of stress and anxiety and feel that there is no way to escape such pressure.

If you want to see if your dog can recall reliably, consider this is always based on the distraction, a dog that comes away from something it has no interest in or a very low interest in is not really giving up much, so test your dog under high distraction.

All dogs can be trained, all dogs can be trained to reliably recall, if you think yours can’t perhaps make sure that the problem is not at your end of the leash.

Some things to know:-

  • It may take longer than your last dog or your friends dog or longer than you expected.
  • You may have to use systems, programs, tools and equipment that you would rather not.
  • You may have to start at the beginning, by teaching your dog what you want in a sterile environment.
  • You might have to change your dogs diet, restrict or add food at other times than your normally would.
  • You might have to seek help when you never had to before and you might not find the answer the first person (read trainer) you ask or hire.
  • Even when you start you may not see success in the first session or the first ten sessions.

But none of these make the goal impossible, they should just make it more desirable.

“All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them”. Walt Disney.

“I bet you can’t train my dog!” really means “you won’t get me to commit.”

That’s why I said I failed, yes I could train the dog but the dog never got trained as the owner didn’t commit. I can add lots of quotes from famous people and I have been known to fly a few of my own as well, like this one “there is you, me and the dog, as you control two thirds of the players you control two thirds of the outcome“.

Now I believe this to be so true that whenever someone sends me an email or tells me that I fixed their dog when no one else could, I always say “no, I gave you advice and instruction, you fixed your dog“.

Most times the biggest problem is in the owners mind or their heart, they are scared to try in case they fail.

“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear–not absence of fear.” Mark Twain

Remember your dog has donated his whole life to you, he or she has no one else to teach, train and give him or her a better understanding of the world, when you took the dog on you (perhaps unknowingly) took responsibility for his or her whole life. “Real difficulties can be overcome, it’s the imaginary ones that are hard to beat“.

This one is mine – “Don’t be scared to try, if you want to be scared, be scared not to try.”

There are great trainers all over this world including Australia, like me they likely don’t do much advertising because they are always busy from the referrals they get from past clients, vets, breeders etc, but do seek them out.

If you think this blog is a bit hard to swallow, know I am writing this to help you overcome those reasons to give up. My biggest success stories are always about the dogs with the biggest problems, these people really TRIED, they were not special in any other way, other than THEY WOULD NOT GIVE UP.

Know that: –

  • They started with a dog that was completely unmanageable
  • I didn’t try any harder with this dog than I do with all dogs
  • There was no luck involved.
  • The timing wasn’t special, other than the owner was ready.

So allow this Blog to empower you, set yourself a goal and then build the steps. Search for a trainer that gets results and not one who spends their time telling you how bad the competition is.

Get the help you deserve and your dog needs, whether it be that you have a dog that just doesn’t come and you have had to remove their freedom or you have a dog that is highly aggressive or dangerous, all of these are just behaviours and all of them can be changed or at least managed to a level where you will no longer have to suffer them.

In my whole life I have met less than a handful of dogs in which the best option was euthanasia.

“I bet I can train your dog – if you join me!” is a much better brag!

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One comment

  1. Thanks Steve.

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