There is NO Magic Pill

Border Collie

I had an interesting week to reflect on and think about dog training and its trials and tribulations.  I know that as humans we are very “I want it now”, oriented towards instant gratification with no impulse control. There is no potion, juice or magic pill that will fix a dog’s behavior problems (for the dog OR the owner).  I am NOT a pet behaviorist.  All I can do is try to identify the problem in a situation and suggest ways for the handler to reinforce the dog for doing something different and better.

“My dog barks all the time, how can I make him be quiet?”  My new response: “How would you make a crying baby be quiet?”  First of all, you wouldn’t MAKE the baby do anything, so why do we want to make our dogs do something?  Second, WHY is the baby crying (dog barking)?  Are all needs being met?  Is there too much commotion in the house?  An incompatible behavior to barking is chewing on a (fill in the blank with whatever your dog likes).  Maybe even have your dog chewing in a crate.  MANAGE the behavior.  Your dog barks when they see children walking to school at 8:15 AM.  Sounds like the perfect time to do some 1 on 1 training, play fetch in the back yard, or chew in a crate.  Your dog barks when your grandkids come to visit after school at 4:00 PM.  Chew in crate!  I wonder if you provided your dog with a chew at 3:55 PM EVERY day in their crate if your dog would eventually meet you at the crate door at 3:54 PM with a demanding “I want my chew” look?  I think so.  Dogs are predictable and they like consistency.  That is why they are easy to train.

“My dog doesn’t like all the dogs in my house, how can I make them get along?” Some dogs don’t like other dogs.  It sucks.  I’m sorry.  Some people don’t like certain people.  Can you force your dog to like the other dogs?  Or is it better to manage their behavior?  People have thumbs.  Use them.  Doors, crates, gates, etc. all work well with thumbs.  Use them.

There is no 30 minute Cesar Milan solution to the issues your dog has.  There are no magic potions or pills or collars or whatever.  You need to reinforce the behavior you like and find other behaviors to take over the ones you do not like.  And manage your dog.

“My dog doesn’t want to go in the pool, how do I teach them to swim?”  A lot of people would just throw their dog in.  Would you throw your child that is afraid of heights off a cliff?  Would that experience make them unafraid of cliffs?

“My dog breaks their start line.” Have you broken down the behavior and trained it from the bottom up?  Have you rewarded it 1000+ times? Have you taken it on the road to proof and generalize it?  Have you set clear criteria and stuck to it?

“My dog has problems jumping.”  How did you train jumping?  Oh you didn’t???????  80% of all agility courses are jumps.  Just sayin’.

The list goes on but I will stop.

I give a lot of homework in my classes because I believe in dog training.  It is your choice to not do your homework.  It will be reflected in your dog and your dog’s behavior(s).  I will not change my behavior and stop giving homework because people are lazy and complain, or don’t do it, or laugh about it.  I know that rewarding your dog for the behaviors that you like will make you and your dog better at whatever it is you are trying to do.  Period.  There are people out there that will take your money to “train” your dog with short cuts and force.  Let me know how that goes for you.  And now I must go drink some magic juice…..

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