Right.. Before I start, let me begin by stating that I am talking about general dog training / agility training. In this blog I’m not talking about problem behaviours that may require a behaviourist’s involvement or a more specific training plan.
So now that is out the way let’s get SERIOUS! 😂 Ok so I’m being lighthearted but it can be a issue for some handlers not to be getting the results they were expecting in their training. Below is a honest blog so be prepared 😳.
First let me lead your eyes to our earlier blog all about being a team with your dog. If you haven’t read that one, head over and start there then come back and join us here, as that is the start of any dog training journey.
So we now know that we need to develop the relationship between us and our dog first before we embark on any form of other training. It the 1st thing we talk about in our classes.
The other thing we need is rewards, yes that’s right rewards. We are positive reward based trainers, I know there are other methods that MAY work but we are reward based and that’s what we’re about, so head over to the reward blog for more info on that.
OK you’ve been going to classes now for some time and you seem to be getting no further on…. Why? Let me give you a few (realistic) reasons.
- Is the training environment right for your dog? Does your dog get wound up by other dogs? Or find the class too distracting? Now there are ways to manage this, but in extreme cases it may actually be that your dog is better suited to a one to one training session.
- Are you really getting the most out of your training sessions? Are you listening to the advice given not only to you but to others in the group, or are you using the time to catch up with friends?
- Do you expect too much of your dog each lesson? Do you expect them to have done a certain exercise once the week before, so somehow they are meant to ‘know that now’ and can just progress on to the next bit. Or do you see another dog in class doing a bit more and you want that too?
- Realistically (I mean come on be honest) do you practice in between your class sessions? Or does that cinema date or meal out just get in the way? Are you just coming to class each week and ignoring any homework in the hope that your dog will progress ?
- Are you just too busy to train?
- Do you make the most of any top up learning opportunities, training or workshops?
So I’ve made the topics above a bit lighthearted but they do have a serious note. Imagine being back at school, was it your teachers job to make sure you passed your exam or did they provide the learning for you to take away and process? Dog Training is the same.
As a teacher I can sometimes get asked why a certain dog isn’t progressing and in all honesty it’s usually one of the reasons mentioned above. As humans we all want fast results with minimum effort, we’ve built a world full of things like drive through food and drink outlets and paying for things via our watches! (I know, weird right?!) Technology is advancing and making things easier for us and its creating a very fast paced world. Well that’s ok for humans but it’s not the way it is for dogs.
Dogs are individual just like humans, they have their own personality and even with dogs of the same breed no two are the same. We need to put ourselves in the dogs shoes (or paws) when we train them. I mean really look at them in class – are they happy and focused? If not then how can you expect them to learn? You know yourself if you are stressed then you don’t concentrate as well as you could do.
In classes what are you doing? If your dog isn’t happy being around dogs do you make it easier for them by just getting them out only when it’s their turn? Or by giving them distance from other dogs? Sometimes having dogs out for the whole session has a detrimental effect on their learning.
Dogs don’t need to be out the whole time, in fact it is much better for you and them if they are away in between sessions – for them it is a chance for them to relax, be calm and process learning. For you it’s a chance to observe others and listen to the feedback – people who do this learn so much faster as it may be something they can use with their own dog. A hour is a long time for the dog to concentrate constantly, but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn if your dog isn’t out.
Are you really happy to go at your dogs pace or do you want quick results? As a trainer I often see when a dog needs some time out but the owner wants to try ‘just one more time’ or they come have a go and that go is fantastic so we need to take the dog off on a high, but the owner wants to try again (and usually the dog struggles that time) Trust us! We do know what we are doing and have your dogs best interests / learning at heart, we want you to succeed as much as you do!!
Are you realistic with how much learning can take place in a group class? Group classes are always cheeper than one to ones but your sharing that time with the others students, so maybe a top up one to one will help progression.
Do you do your homework? Ok so we set homework as a task for you to go and practice which will make progression quicker, that’s the only reason we set it to help your dogs progress. I have homework too! I have a one to one session and a group session every week with my dogs and my trainer gives me homework. I then go away and practice it because I know that is the only way I (and my dogs) are going to get better. Now I could choose not to do it, but then I know when I turn up next week I won’t be able to move forward as my dogs learning will be in the same place it was the week previously.
Dogs can forget behaviours if they are not repeated, this is why I love the 3 minute games we teach as they don’t require lots of time, in fact that is the best way to train your dogs in short bursts as they learn so much quicker. If someone says to me that they don’t have time to train, I say brilliant! You don’t need loads of time just 3 minutes a few times a day!
Do you have a struggle and expect it to be fixed in a unrelated class? For example take agility, in a agility class we have one hour to teach agility, that’s NOT a focus work or impulse control class or good socialisation manners lesson, it’s a agility class where we teach the dogs equipment and handling skills. Sometimes to set up our dogs for success we need to attend other sessions too. Yes I know that has a money implication and I’m not suggesting you do all your training with us so I’m not making this point from a financial perspective but sometimes our dogs need a bit of help with other training topics too. It isn’t realistic or fair on the other students to expect a unrelated topic to be addressed in a unrelated class.
Know your dog! I have 2 high drive working dogs and the truth is that if I didn’t do our games and agility with them each day they wouldn’t be the dogs they are!
Working dogs, whatever breed have been bred to do a job, ok so that job doesn’t have to be the one they were intended for (gundog in my case) but they NEED a job, they aren’t dogs that are happy to be just pets. If I didn’t do something with them they would have lots of problem behaviours. The fact that I work them in agility means they are a joy to own. In fact that’s why I chose them it’s that work ethic and mind that makes them good at agility, but I knew that and that is what I looked for when selecting them.
If you have a working dog then your breeder should have asked you what you were intending to do with your dog training wise, I know mine did and any reputable breeder wouldn’t sell a working dog to a pet home as it just isn’t fair on the dog. So with that in mind, is your dog of working stock? Are they getting the right amount of daily stimulation and training at home or before sessions? Sometimes dogs that aren’t getting enough training in between sessions can come to class very high energy and so excited that they can’t focus and its not their fault, they aren’t being naughty.
So with all that said, have a long honest look at your training sessions and what your really, honestly doing in them and in between them to see if any of the above resonates with you.
We have to be honest with ourselves and look at our habits as humans and what exactly we are doing in terms of our dogs training and behaviour. (it’s always us, never the dog 😉)
Enjoy your dog, that’s the main thing – no pressure, no rush, go at their pace and enjoy them!
Play….. Train….. Enjoy….. Succeed!