When I was training to become a dog trainer with the Victoria Stilwell Academy, my mentor had absolutely beautifully behaved dogs. And it ate me up that my dog was far from perfect, and at times I felt like a bit of a failure or a fraud that I wasn’t hitting this bar with my dog.
But as time went on, and I got certified, and I met more dog trainers, I started to realise that not only are no dogs ‘perfect’, but the average dog trainer’s dogs are the worst of the lot!
It’s like builders living in houses full of half-done DIY jobs. We spend all our time working with clients’ dogs that it leaves us feeling a bit burnt out when it comes to our own pups. That and the fact that we’re aware of ALL these different amazing things that you CAN do with dogs, that we end up getting overwhelmed and paralysed by all the options.
And so no, there’s no such thing as a perfect dog. And to be honest if my dog WAS perfect and easy to train, I’d have never ended up going down the route of becoming a dog trainer. It was the challenge that got me. I do like seeing dogs being dogs, being allowed to have sniffs, and getting up to a bit of harmless mischief.
However, there are some basic skills it’s great for a dog to have, like recall or dropping an object from his mouth. And I strive to get these with my dog, but honestly it IS hard. And a dog is not a robot, so you can’t 100% guarantee a certain response 100% of the time. And sometimes you end up having to pick your battles on training, and just managing the rest, until you win a battle and go to the next thing on the list.
Some dogs will be a challenge in one direction, while another will find that a piece of cake, but struggle with something else. Sometimes this is down to breed, or genetics, and sometimes it’s about things they’ve experienced.
For example, my boy, Kimber, is a beagle. So he has a nose on him! That nose finds him in all sorts of trouble. So teaching him to leave something alone that smells good is a huge struggle. But nose targeting was a cinch to train, and became a basis for a great recall.
This is Kimber, having just rolled in Fox Poo. He stinks. He’s a very happy puppy.
A dog that loves food that much, you’d think you could teach him ANYTHING. But add in a traumatic trip to the vets when he was very young, and husbandry training is a massive challenge, as is crate training because he spent 4 nights in pupper hospital in a tiny ‘cell’ and developed some form of claustrophobia.
So you’re not alone in your dog training struggles. But see if you can enjoy some of the moments that your dog is being a bit of a dick, and work out what you could train instead to prevent some of the worst habits. And honestly, in some aspects at least, your dog is probably better ‘behaved’ than this trainer’s hound.