My dog has started pulling on lead again…
Recall is become non-existent…
They’re getting frustrated with training…
I feel like all the training I’ve done is slipping away…
Welcome to the lax zone. Where we get comfortable with how our dogs are and become lax. Often the basic training goes out of the window as life takes over.
I am seeing this happen a lot now as people go back to work. As we have left lockdown the time we are putting into our dog has been reduced, and the first thing to go is the basics such as heelwork and recall.
We stop being perfectionists and rewarding the behaviour we want, so the dogs gets reward from other things such as other dogs, the environment and coming up and sitting on us while we work. Affection is a huge reward to dogs.
Lock down isn’t to blame for everything, we all do this naturally regardless of being busy or not.
Laziness creeps in over time which can be due to not only being busy with other things such as work, but also a lack of self confidence, a lack of interest and the one for me which I think is the biggest issue in dog training right now, lack of positive recognition by others. Which you would get if you were able to attend classes, see trainers and even just see friends.
We also become lazy with training if you don’t believe in its efficiency. But that is a whole topic on its self, and we are going to focus today on addressing the laziness that follows after you have actually done the training.
So you’ve trained the perfect dog and then its all gone wrong. What do you do?
Well you go back to basics.
If you don’t practice a skill it will become less defined, and over time it can disappear all together. Dog training is just like flexing a muscle, it only gets stronger through repetition and use. It also will become less defined if you don’t keep using it.
Taking a step back in training can seem really daunting, and disheartening. But it is going to create so much success in the end, and I promise it won’t take you as long to crack the training issue again. Six months of going back to basic heelwork would make anyone cry, but just 6 weeks is doable. Once you get back into the training the results come quickly as the memory is there, just like flexing a muscle. You can easily learn to redo things you have learned before.
Going back to using food again for some people can seem like your having to go back to “bribery” to get your dog to do things. This is not the case, and I can’t understand why people get so hung up on training your dog using something they find rewarding. Very few people stop using toys to reward their dogs, but often give up food.
Using food once again reward your dog is going to get them back on track faster. They are going to want to interact and it allows us to reward the behaviour as it happens, which is harder to do with a toy. As toys bring on a different level of excitement in many dogs. Toys should 100% be used in training, but in many cases alongside food.
Food helps reward and in turn reinforce a behaviour. The behaviour you are wanting the dog to continue doing.
Often times when stop training, and a dog becomes more ignorant to us we may switch tactics and start training in a whole new way. This can be really useful if things have gone wrong in the past, or it is part of a specific training plan set out by a trainer/behaviourist to achieve a goal. In the most case you are just setting yourself up for more hard work as you need to retrain your dog, and yourself. Retraining how to do something can be hard work for us who understand English, and can explain things to each other clearly.
This isn’t the case with dogs ad retraining something can take a long time, as we need to rebuild in the response to the cues we give them, as well as them working out how they get rewarded for those behaviours.
The main thing to it all is if things are going backwards with your dog, take a breath and look at the situation.
Have you kept up the training practice? Are you given your dog enough incentive to work for you? Are you fun to be with? Are they getting all their rewards somewhere else? Has something changed in the environment? (Stress can change a behaviour so its always worth looking at outside factors) or has something medical changed (Medical issues can cause behaviour to change drastically and should always be ruled out in extreme cases).
Once you have worked out the cause of it then you can solve it.
Solutions come from finding the root cause and then working to rectify it. Training wise (Excluding medical and environmental issues) we can make great progress by going back to basics and reigniting our passion, perseverance and determination to have a happier relationship with your dog.
The more you and your dog understand each other, the better the relationship is going to be, and also life is going to be easier.
It’s time to take back the enjoyment of owning a dog and make life less complicated.