Most people, when they think of dog training, picture a knowledgeable professional skillfully eliminating a dog’s undesirable behaviors and instilling obedience and good manners. It’s a nice picture—but it is incomplete. It leaves out the heart of the training—repetition, practice, and follow through with the dog’s family.
While it is true that dog training is about teaching commands and replacing bad behavior with good behavior, it is not a “one and done” proposition. It’s not like having someone come in and set up your computer or your entertainment system. Even a bad dog trainer can teach a dog commands, but it takes a good dog trainer to be able to read the dog, see the signs that signal a problem behavior, and know what the dog needs in order to change the behavior. A good trainer will then teach the owner to understand the dog, to read the dog’s body language, to anticipate misbehavior, to reward in a way that encourages good behavior, and to correct in a way that stops bad behavior. So in essence, every time I train a dog I really have two students—the dog and the person (or people) who care for the dog.
Even if you send your dog to board with me for training, it doesn’t eliminate the need for “people training.” A well-trained dog will slide into disobedience if you don’t maintain training consistency. I can advise you and guide you so that your own work with your dog goes smoothly and is beneficial. But ultimately, if you do not follow through, the training will fall apart in a matter of weeks. Likewise, if everyone in the house is not consistently following the training practices, the dog’s behavior will deteriorate. The dog and the dog’s family are training partners. The dog can only do what he has been taught to do if the people in his life do what they have been taught to do.
Your dog spends the majority of his time with you and your family. If your handling of him at home is not consistent with how he is handled during his formal lessons, then the one hour a week we spend together will not help you reach your goals with your dog.
Ultimately, consistency and follow-through are the keys to success in dog training. It is important that you recognize that the hour I spend with you in training is the start of training, not the entirety of it. The rest of it happens in your day to day life: practice and consistency, reading your dog and anticipating problems, rewarding only good behavior, and correcting disobedience at all times by everyone in the household.
I always remind people that although every interaction with your dog is a “teachable moment” I realize that there may be times when you cannot give your dog your full attention. It is OK to crate or contain him to prevent him from getting into mischief. But it is also important to manage your expectations—you will see more progress in weeks when you put in more practice, when you give your dog your full attention while out walking, when you get up from the couch to correct misbehavior even though it would be easier in the moment to let it slide. Your dog will get only as much out of the training as you put into it. The good news is that if you put the effort in now, you will both reap the rewards. When your training is successful, life is easier and happier for you and your dog.