Some Things Just Take Time in Dog Training
Remember the Old Parable of House Built on Sand vs. Rock thanks North Starke Karate for the Photo
They say time heals all wounds….
I am not so sure about that!
I am knee deep in our Aggression Coaching Program right now, and everyone (well maybe not EVERYONE) but it seems like everyone wants to see immediate results.
One client reported after one week she was getting eye contact and focus while her dog aggressive dog was around other dogs in the neighborhood. I had serious doubts and misgivings about this report. I want her to be right and to be happy, but I think she may be moving a touch fast perhaps at the risk to her, her dog and the dogs in the neighborhood.
But I was thinking last night; some things just take time and lots of training and desensitization before you see big results.
I got a 3rd degree burn motorcycle riding about a month ago (yes I know better and I was taught a permanent lesson about riding gear and safety).
I’m impatient too, I want it to be healed and gone. But the truth is; it could take 6 months to 2 years to fully heal. Sometimes things just take time.
I can be as impatient as I want, but I can’t force my body to heal any faster than it is healing.
I think the same can be said about some dog training.
Intricate, and Difficult Dog Training Takes Time and Patience.
I’m not talking about basic obedience, basic dog obedience is pretty easy for most dogs and their owners.
And actually dogs “learn” new ideas and behaviors a lot faster than we usually give them credit for. I can teach a dog some great basic obedience and even some intermediate and advanced obedience in a weekend!
However perfection and adding distractions to this obedience takes more time and intricate training.
But working on extreme fears, desensitization, and aggression sometimes just takes a lot of time, consistency and patience.
Let’s Break It Down
So not to give away too much 😉 but I focus a lot on eye contact and focus when it comes to obedience AND behavior problems.
I was stunned and taken aback the first time I saw a really well trained dog compete in Schutzhund (now known as IPO).
You see dogs that compete in this sport and a few others are required to stare at their owner while heeling.
Several years ago I decided to try my hand at this kind of eye contact and focus with my heeling. I had a 6 year old dog who had shabby obedience at best. Well, that isn’t actually true he had GREAT obedience, he listened and obeyed and everyone who loved him and knew him wanted him.
But he didn’t have AWE inspiring obedience from a distance. I had owned and run a Service Dog organization and he was great at that… but it doesn’t make sense to give eye contact and focus when you are a Service Dog. Service Dogs must pay attention to their environment first to make sure it is safe and there is space for them and their person.
I decided I wanted to give it a try anyway! I just had to retrain him and use different commands for precise and pretty obedience. I used English commands for what he was used to and taught him eye contact and precision with German.
My very first seminar on the subject was with Bernard Flinks. I still laugh because right before it was our turn to work (first thing on the second morning) my dog who had spent his life being a “Service Dog” and out in public was socializing with the crowd and getting snuggles. He was a “longhaired Malinios” so I think Bernard also thought he was fat.
Within a few seconds of teasing “Mr. Snitch” with the ball Bernard was not fast enough and was bitten (not bad of course) but he then conceded that seeing him socialize and thinking he was fat (he wasn’t) made him take him less serious (social/fat profiling you ask? At least he learned his lesion.)
I have since learned from Denise Fenzi and Ivan Balabanov. If you want to see some pretty heeling search those names on You Tube. I am not as big a fan of Fenzi, as I think her heeling dogs look uncomfortable and unnatural since they stare up at the armpit and not around to the face, but that is just my opinion; it is still impressive.
So I have built my training program around these principles. Not only did I learn this was great for obedience and especially competition, it also knocks the socks off of people and it prevents my dogs for watching other dogs and squirrels and people and anything else that might throw them into aggression or fear.
So I utilize it for a multitude of things. The attention heel is a crucial part of my training tool bag.
But it always seems that I release my videos and information and within a week my clients are telling me they are already trying these things with their dog’s aggression triggers (Dog aggression, people aggression, child aggression, etc)…
THAT IS TOO FAST
I can’t even teach a normal non-aggressive, non-fearful dog, that is totally confident and highly driven for the toy or treat to perform this task this fast in a fairly sterile boring environment!
For those of us who compete… it can take MONTHS for us to get that kind of attention and the ignoring of distraction so I know that the dogs in my aggression class aren’t doing so perfectly so fast.
It’s Natural (For Humans that Is)
It is natural for people to want to succeed uber quickly. We live in a world where no one has enough time for anything. And, we are constantly over stimulated. We want to complete any process as quickly as possible.
But Dogs Don’t Work That Way
But dogs just don’t work that way. Although I often think of them as the superior being when it comes to humans, the truth is their brains aren’t as quick as ours and add to that the fact that they don’t speak our language and we are already behind the 8 ball.
Dogs learn in their own time. We cannot force them to learn if they are not ready or the conditions are not right or we are competing with something more exciting.
I have 3 dogs (currently) and they all learn at different rates. My female is my fastest learner… one session of most things and she is already beginning to learn.
My 3 year old male is a little slower, he takes many repetitions and lots of games.
My 2 year old male… well… he still acts like he is a 6 month old baby. He has a hard time focusing on anything for too long and it takes A LOT of repetition to soak into his brain. He is smart, but it is almost like he has too much ADHD to be able to sit still for long. For him I must interject a lot of play, although not too exciting or too strenuous or I lose him completely, in order for him to learn and for it to stick.
I had my female already titled in several sports before she reached the age of 2. I can tell that won’t be the case with my baby boy… I will title him but it will take longer as I wait for him to be ready and mature.
We can’t always force them into a box. We can’t always force them to learn with the same timing and fervor of their counterparts.
Foundation Is Where It is At
A firm foundation is where it is at!
I don’t care whether I am teaching my companion dog course (also known as our Service Dog Course) or our Aggression Course I always say a firm foundation is the most important part.
Don’t rush, if you rush you haven’t built a strong foundation.
That doesn’t mean you can’t excel and move forward, but don’t do it until the dog is 95% reliable in many distracting environments.
And, if you are working with a fearful or aggressive dog, it is simply going to take longer! These dogs are preoccupied with other things in their environment and you have to get over that in order to allow them to learn.
Cut everyone a break at work at your own pace, push yourselves…. But don’t push yourself to the point that it is detrimental to you, your dog or anyone else in your lives.
I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.