There are two major types of dog owners who come to us for training; those who are looking for guidance and those who are looking for a quick fix. One of the most frequent questions I answer is, “how many sessions will it take to fix (insert problem here)?” I wish we as trainers could schedule a certain number of lessons with you and guarantee that all the problems you’re having with your dog will be fixed. It would make life a lot easier, but that’s just not the reality of dog training.’
Think about it from your own experience. I challenge you to think about the bad habits or undesirable routines that you have and want to change. How easy has it been to stop doing those things? Me, I am a terrible nailbiter. To completely break that habit would surely take me years (hence the fact I’m still a nailbiter). I’m also terrified of heights. Skydiving, high dives, and roller coasters are all off-limits. Overcoming that fear would take more work than I’m willing to put in.
Now, think about it from your dog’s perspective. Think about their habits, their desires, and their fears. Teaching our dogs different habits from what they’re used to is tough. Even though it’s tough, the work is worth it because teaching more positive routines and implementing them into your everyday life is life-changing. It’s life-changing for you and for your dog. For that reason, I tell my client that progress is the goal, not perfection.
Reaching our end goal in dog training isn’t as simple as going from point A to point B. I like to use this example that I got from the Drinking from the Toilet podcast. Training is like a roller coaster trying to make it to the top of a mountain. There are going to be ups and downs as we progress towards the end goal. Sometimes when I’m training my hard-headed Lewis, I want to scream in frustration when he does something wrong or doesn’t get a concept because I know how smart and capable he is. When I’m in that head space I can tell you I’m not setting him up for success.
Days like that are down days for sure. It’s rough. I question if I’m the best person for Lewis. Maybe he could have had a better trainer. Maybe I don’t have what it takes to handle him. Maybe he’s just too much for me. These are all thoughts that go through my head on those bad days. Thankfully those bad days are much more spread out than in the beginning, but that’s because we persisted! We created structure in our training time together. It’s unreasonable to expect perfect progress with no down days.
On those days when I was feeling down, I challenged myself to simply enjoy playing with him and spending time with him. This made the up days even more rewarding because we had strengthened that relational bond. I had the opportunity to build a better relationship with him and see his personality come out more. I measured our progress and created training goals that were, say it with me, ACHIEVABLE. All those small goals that we achieve build up to bigger goals we want to see reached.
So, my challenge to you is to focus on progress, not perfection, when training your dog. Enjoy the time you spend with them and get accountability! Ashton and I make intentional time each week to train our dogs and a lot of times we spend that time training together. It keeps us accountable in our techniques, but it also holds us accountable to spend personal time with our pups. It’s always easier to achieve our goals when we work together. As Five Freckle K9, we want to help you in every way possible to achieve your training goals! If you want some guidance and accountability, fill out the contact form. We’d love to find out how we can walk with you on this training journey.