-You are frustrated.
-You have tried EVERYTHING!
-Still, you are struggling with your dog's behavior.
-No one seems to understand what you are dealing with and how overwhelmed you are.
-You are inundated with advice, even when not solicited.
-Your life with your dog is NOT what you pictured.
Clients frequently come to me wanting to "fix" their dog. I understand the sentiment...you just want your dog to be able to be a good companion in your life. Right now, that is not what you have. To accomplish this, I encourage you to think of it as "teaching" rather than "fixing" your dog.
Over the next few blogs, I will share three of the things that form the foundation of how I partner with dog guardians and their charges. The first is compassion. Not just for the dogs, but for the humans...ALL of them!
You are doing your best
If you feel like you are in over your head, you probably are! Either you are a first time dog owner and don't have experience with dogs or you have had dogs before and this dog is different from those of your past. Then there is life: work, family, health, everyday errands, and the unexpected. Some days are fuller than others. On top of that your dog is not the relaxing, enjoyable companion you anticipated and training takes time. How in the world are you going to do it all?
First, you are doing your best to juggle everything and keep all those balls in the air. That needs to be taken into consideration when your training plan is created (and adjusted). If you are not able to implement the training, you will make progress. The best training plan in the world means nothing if it is not sustainable.
Second, some weeks dog training just has to take a back seat and that is JUST FINE! It may require some adjusting of "the plan" and/or slow things down a bit, but it is NOT the end of the world. The important thing is to get back on track as soon as possible once the chaos settles. We all have those times in our lives. I have them and I don't judge the people I work with for having them!
All living, breathing, sentient creatures make mistakes. Your dog makes them (otherwise, why reach out to a trainer), you make them, and I make them. Yep! Sometimes, my timing is off; I miss a body language cue; the first thing I suggest doesn't work. You name it, I have done (or not done) it! Just as I am compassionate with the mistakes of others, I TRY not to beat myself up when things don't go as smoothly as I would like them to with a client or dog. I encourage my clients to do the same. Not only are you and your dog learning new skills, NO ONE is perfect. Why would I expect you, your dog, or myself to be?
Having a problem
Your dog is struggling. For some reason, they are unable to handle certain situations in a way you find appropriate. Whether it is being left home alone, walking on a leash, having people come into the home, or some other undesirable behavior that is causing stress in the home, your dog does not have the tools to deal with the situation. It is up to us to help them learn better ways of behaving in those situations. This is a gradual process and has to be done at your dog's pace. Part of the process is to help you understand what your dog is telling you before they have to yell. I always "listen" to what your dog is telling me and move forward (or back a bit) based on that information so we continue to make progress.
Compassion is needed to move training forward. Learning is not linear and life can interfere with progress. Take a deep breath, assess the situation, and pivot...your goal is still possible.