Last week I wrote about the fact that I’m a good dog trainer, even though I won’t just teach a dog a succession of tricks. In fact, I’m a good dog trainer because of this. I look at helping a dog fit in with the lifestyle he finds himself in, rather than turning him into a robot that will obey every command thrown at him.
Following on from this I want to let you in on a secret that all good dog trainers employ, which is amazingly effective and is really simple.
When dog trainers don’t train
When a dog trainer comes to your house, faced with the problem you present, for example, a dog that raids the bins, we are probably not going to jump in with a training solution. This is for a very good reason.
We don’t live in your house. We are not there constantly to provide the consistent timing and actions required to teach your dog not to raid the bins. So our alternative would be to teach you how to do this. Which we can do, if you think you can be on this problem every time, preferably in advance of it happening, doing exactly the right thing at precisely the right time, and I repeat, every time it happens.
The dog trainer’s secret
Or. We can reach into our metaphorical bag of magic tricks and pull out something tremendous. We are going to suggest to you that you get a bin with a lid. And maybe put a weight in the bottom of the bin to stop it from being pulled over. Or put it on a higher surface. We are going to suggest MANAGING the situation so that your dog cannot perform the action in the first place.
Now, it may be that in some situations this is a temporary measure, while we work on training alongside. Because if your dog can’t do the thing, you don’t have to be on tenterhooks waiting to deal with the problem. You only have to work on the training at times that YOU decide. And your dog doesn’t get to practice the behaviour, creating a habit.
We do it sometimes; if our dog has had an operation, or got a sore she wants to lick? We stick on the cone of shame. That’s managing the situation; we don’t just sit there trying to teach them not to lick.
Other times, it may be a permanent solution. Like fitting a baby gate, rather than teaching a dog not to go upstairs. It’s a solution that fits in with your lifestyle and requires minimum effort. Whatever works, right?
We’re all only human
It sounds like common sense, right? When it’s spelt out like that. But you know what, common sense ain’t so common. And you know what else? I’m just as bad when it comes to my own dog; when I’m dog mum, not dog trainer.
Kimber got ill the other year, and because he wasn’t feeling right, and so felt more vulnerable, he started barking at people walking past our window. He got to practice that behaviour, and now it’s going to be a bitch to train out of him.
At the time it started, I put something on my to-do list. It’s still on there. I had planned to get some frosted plastic to put on the window to obscure his view, to stop him practising the undesired behaviour. But, you know, life happened. And I have to deal with him barking multiple times a day.
Not every dog will enjoy the heat, the crowds, or all the strange dogs. Make sure that you're taking your dog's needs into account when attending events like this.