Difficulties Getting Started in Training

Difficulties Getting Started in TrainingBy: Melissa Kolmar CPDT-KA, SBA

Today I want to talk about something we don’t spend a lot of time on. That is how difficult it can be to get started training our dogs. Why is it so difficult? We want our dogs’ behavior to change and we know training will help. So what’s the problem?

First of all, there is the perception that training will take up too much of our time. This is not true at all! Dogs are constantly learning and we can organically work training into our day. Here are a few examples:
1. Train your dog to sit and wait before getting their harness/leash on and/or going out the door.
2. Train your dog to sit and wait before the food bowl comes down.
3. Practice loose leash walking on your walks.
4. Train your dog to go to mat while you are cooking dinner.
5. Play the attention game with your dog when you are on the phone.
6. Trade items when your dog grabs a hold of something that they shouldn’t have.
7. Practice recall your dog as you move from room to room collecting laundry.

These are just a few examples of ways you can work training into your daily life! You are doing these activities already…why not add training to the mix?

We mistakenly believe we are too busy to train our dogs, but I think everyone can find 5-10 minutes a day to do some training. Where could you work it in to your schedule?

Another difficulty with getting started can be our resistance to change. We are creatures of habit. Even if we do not like the behavior our dog is exhibiting, we often habituate to it and are at a loss on how to change our own habits.

It can feel uncomfortable to start something new and work on a skill (training) that is new to us. It’s okay to feel that way. Take a deep breath and jump in! You’ll make mistakes (we all do), but the important thing is to move forward with our dogs and try our best.

Lastly, some people believe that their dogs are too dumb, stubborn, difficult or unmotivated to train. This is untrue! Usually when people apply these labels to their dogs, there is something else going on. We may be using the wrong reinforcers (dry biscuit treats when the dog really loves chicken), we may be asking too much from our dogs (expecting them to perform in a crowded park when they haven’t learned the behavior well enough yet), or our dogs may be stressed (a dog fearful of other people/dogs may have difficulty performing behaviors in the presence of those triggers).

It is important to use the correct reinforcement (both the value and how often it’s delivered), take small steps to the end goal behavior and consider our dogs’ emotional state. If we do that, we will be encouraged by how well our dogs are doing! Training will feel successful and fun, which is what it should be.