If At First You Don't Succeed. . .
Updated: May 18, 2022
They say , "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result". Allow me to share a story with you of how dog training is insanity yet with different results.
Think of something you would like to teach your dog, something along the lines of an advanced command or a fun trick, but when you tried working on it with your pup they just didn't get it. Like, looking-at-you-like-you're-a-lunatic didn't get it. Can you think of that command/trick? Now my challenge to you is to go back and continue working on that command/trick with your dog. Your first thought may be something along the lines of "but I've been trying to teach them for hours and hours with no success!" And I totally get it! No matter how many times you go over the same command it's like your dog has a mental block that refuses to allow them to understand and listen to what you're asking them to do. But I promise you, if you stick with it, consistently work on it and don't give up, you are going to see results!
I have a perfect example to give you that I hope will be an encouragement to you.
I was working with a dog who wasn't very food motivated, (one of the worst possible predicaments for a dog trainer) so I had to use leash pressure with a prong to show him what I wanted him to do and physical praise as a reward (not that he was a huge fan of it, but I had to show him I was happy when he did what I asked somehow!) As I'm teaching this dog the Place command he is doing pretty well. He'll get on place and sit down almost immediately, but he ALWAYS needed some form of encouragement to get him to lay down. Whether that was using leash pressure, or just pointing to the place cot until he laid down, getting him to lay down was a hassle. Not only that, but when he was feeling extra stubborn it would take a good while to get him to lay down just once. Frustrating, right? 100%!
But heres the good news!! After days and days of needing an extra reminder and help to lay down on place every. single. time I put him on place, one day, (literally out of nowhere) this dog laid down right away when I sent him to place! Whaaaaaat?? Mind. Blown! Ding, ding, ding we have a WINNER!! I immediately released him from place, and loved on him BIG TIME! Can you guess what happened the next time I went to put him on place? He walks onto the cot, sits down and just looks at me. . . (cue deflated ego, hahah!) I then bend over, point to the cot with a little bit of leash pressure & repeat the command; "Place" and he lays down for me. We do that a couple more times and I end the session there. With just one completely successful "send to place."
At this point you may be wondering "Why would I want to put in all that effort just to get one successful completion of a command?" and I totally get it, I wouldn't say my dogs really knows a command if they had only done it successfully once. But the work didn't stop there. I still needed to summon a bit more patience and continued to work with this dog. Lo and behold, the next lesson is where I FINALLY got to see my hard work pay off! As I was working on place with this dog more often than not he was laying down, on his own, without any extra prompting! Obviously it wasn't perfect yet, but he got better and better at it each time we worked on it until he became consistent at laying down on place immediately every time he was told to. Success!
So when you're getting frustrated with a command or trick your dog just doesn't seem to be getting I hope you remember this story, remain patient, push through until you reach your desired results and keep going, because the sky's the limit! Keep your training around 10-15 minutes and try, try again!
"Just Keep Swimming" - Dory