The world of dog training is littered with myth, mystique and machismo. The moment you hit the web or the bookshelf in search of some sound advice, you find the pep talks about poor leadership, dogs determined to dominate and the need for owners to man (or woman) up and show they’re top of the pile and head of the pack. But getting the dogs we love to behave in the way we’d like is not about stamping out their resistance to our will. In fact, for your dog, it’s more like what it takes to become an ace at shooting hoops or master the piano. Effective progress and lasting success takes practice and skilled coaching. Why should that be any surprise?
Dogs aren’t born into the world pre-programmed to do what we want. Just like us, they have to learn what ‘good’ behavior is all about. And just like us, the way they learn these new skills is a series of small steps with praise and reinforcement when it goes consistently right, or a step back to repeat the lesson when it doesn’t.
If that sounds mundane, it shouldn’t. Mastering the mechanics takes discipline, patience and craftsmanship. A great dog trainer is like the equivalent of a pro basketball coach. From the moment she steps on the court, the trainer has a strategy and knows just the right starting point to set the dog up for success. Because your dog needs to be crystal clear what’s being asked of him. The trainer knows how much practice it needs to make that behavior stick, how many successful ‘shots at the net’ it takes to be sure the dog has mastered that step and can move onto the next level. Moving the dog on too fast can mean the behavior isn’t hardwired and can easily slip away, which is where the frustrations creep in for many owners.
It’s a rigorous approach, based on a thorough understanding of the way all dogs learn and it’s proven to be the best guarantee of training effectiveness and consistent, sustained behavior. Being a true pro dog trainer takes a solid education in animal learning and an interest in the craft bordering on obsession, which is what we pride ourselves on at Dogsense Unleashed in St. Paul, MN. Magic, mystique and machismo have absolutely no place.
If, as an owner, this sounds daunting, it doesn’t have to be. You can either get your ‘coach’ to do the heavy lifting and accelerate the process through day training. Or the trainer can work with you and your dog personally to show you the timing and the techniques. In either case, a great trainer will show you how to fit practice into your daily routine and get the learning rock solid. That way you can get past any frustrations you have with getting your dog to do what you ask the first time you ask. And you can make the most of what is, despite all those pack leader myths, probably the one blissfully ego-free relationship you’ll have in your life. Enjoy your dog.