Every single dog training article you read always seems to start with the same mantra: consistency. Every time your dog does X or Y, you have to Z. Every. Single. Time. "Consistency is key to dog training."
Dog trainers are always keen to harp on consistency. If I were to ask every single dog trainer near me what the most important part of dog training is, they would all respond with consistency.
But what does that even mean? Like, if my chocolate lab is the wrong consistency, I can't train him?
Let's break some dog training myths here, and while we're at it, figure out one of the main reasons why you're struggling with training your dog.
Dog Training and the Consistency Myth
Working with dog behavior I see a lot of the same mistakes being made: new dog owners getting frustrated with themselves because they've been consistent with training their dog, but haven't seen measurable results in their dog's behavior. This occurs because of two reasons:
1) They have confused dog training with dog behavior; or
2) They are ultra-consistent until they get frustrated, and then give up.
So I'm going to tell you a secret that no other dog trainer wants you to know: consistency absolutely is not necessary for dog training. At least not how you've been told.
So let's break down that dog training myth, and learn how to train your dog without frustration.
Training Your Dog vs. Piloting Your Dog
If you've been around the Darwin Dogs page, you've probably seen that word bantered about quite a bit: Piloting. But what does Piloting mean? Think of Piloting like parenting. It's not that much different.
You're responsible for some wee little thing who asks a lot of questions, and does a lot of...things. Some of the actions get a positive, some get a negative, and some you kinda pretend you never saw. For example, my daughter River when she was little:
River: *Starts playing with her soccer ball in the dining room*
Me: No. Don't do that in here.
River: *Starts setting the table for dinner*
Me: Nice job! Thank you for doing that!
River: *puts Ranch dressing on her apple slices*
Just like kids, there are some questions/behaviors from your dog that elicit a negative answer, some a positive answer, and some that you just ignore or overlook. The same applies for dogs.
If my dog is jumping on me, that will get a gentle negative from me. If they come when I call them, they will get a positive. And if they decide to start playing with their toy, or investigating a stick, you can just ignore them.
This series of Q&A is the basis of Piloting.
Training Your Dog Using the Piloting Bank
Money is something we all use, and we all understand. If you don't have enough money saved, you literally can't buy that Shiny New Thing you want. You simply have to earn more money, and then that Shiny New Thing is yours.
That's why I developed the Piloting bank.
How does Piloting your dog work? Let's look at this in a real-life scenario: barking.
Let's say that the amount of money in your dog's Piloting bank is $1000. That means in order to get your dog to stop barking at every noise, you need to get $1000. Remember, each "question" you answer for them is money into your bank. So let's get to work answering that question for your dog.
Each "question" you answer for your dog (such as, "can I bark?"), takes money out of his Piloting bank and deposits it into your Piloting bank. Whomever has the most money wins.
Here are all of the instances in a day that your dog may start to bark:
- dog barks at the mailman ($10)
- dog barks at another dog walking in front of the house ($8)
- dog barks at the wind ($12)
- dog barks at schoolbus ($25)
- dog barks at Door Dash ($30)
Now bear in mind, that amount is per instance. You need $1000 to get them to stop consistently barking. But here is where the beauty of Piloting your dog comes into play:
You can Pilot your dog based upon your own schedule.
In other words, if you've only got a little bit of patience today, then you answer your dog's barking question once, perhaps when the mailman shows up. Congrats! You've got $10 to put towards your $1,000 goal!
Maybe tomorrow is your day off, and you've got a little more patience, so you Pilot your dog's question about the mailman, and 2 other dogs walking by the house. You've got another $26 towards your goal!
Just like you don't have to attend every fight you're invited to, you don't have to Pilot every question that comes up. As long as you are building your Piloting bank, it really doesn't matter how long it takes you.
How Long Does it Take to Train a Dog Using Piloting?
It is entirely up to you.
Some people prefer to answer most of the questions their dogs ask, and therefore handle their dog's behaviors quickly. Others know that they'll start to get frustrated, so they only answer about 1/2 of their dog's questions, deciding it's better to slowly build up that bank. As long as you are answering some questions for your dog every day, you will eventually hit that pivotal moment where you've reached enough money to finally pay for that barking issue.
Yes, there will be some upkeep, but it will be minimal. Think of it as the difference between buying a new car and maintenance like gas and oil for a new car.
So Where Does Consistency Come In?
Consistency in dog training only comes into play if you enjoy being frustrated. As I said, all dog trainers will tell you that if your dog barks, you must be consistent and give a response, otherwise your dog will think it's acceptable to bark.
I'm here to call bullshit.
If you have to act every. Single. Time.... you're going to go insane. So rather than being consistent, I want you to follow through.
Yesterday I told my daughter, River, to clean her room or she wouldn't be allowed any screentime. She didn't clean her room. Therefore I followed through and didn't get screen time.
Today I told her to clean her room or she wouldn't be allowed any screen time. She cleaned her room. Therefore I followed through and she got screen time.
Tomorrow I'm going to be tired because of so many dog training sessions. So I am not going to tell River to clean her room because I'm not in the mood to follow through.
But since I usually tell River to clean her room, and I always follow through when I tell her to clean her room, there's a very good chance that she may just clean it on her own without being told. And if she doesn't, not big deal.
You can't lose battles you don't fight. So while consistency isn't nearly as key as you may believe, follow through definitely is.
In other words, if my dog starts barking and I give them a negative, I have to follow through until they stop barking. If I don't follow through, my negatives are worthless. And the first time you have to follow through with a negative isn't always appreciated by your dog, but you slog through it, and now here you are, with $10 in your Piloting Bank.
An hour later your dog starts barking at the mailman. You're in the shower, so you choose to ignore your dog's question: "Can I bark?". You didn't get any Piloting money in your bank, but you didn't lose any. More importantly, you didn't lose your patience because with Piloting, you are training your dog on your timeframe, under your terms.
Consistency: Addressing every one of your dog's negative behaviors, ie., every time your dog barks.
Follow Through: Not always addressing every negative behavior, but if you do, you stick with it until the current situation is resolved, ie., when your dog barked at the school bus today.
The beauty of it is that even though you aren't answering all of your dog's questions about their behaviors, you are answering enough (and following through!) that they start to anticipate your answers. It just gets easier and easier, until they start to anticipate your answers.
So rather than giving up because you feel you are spending most of your waking hours training your dog to stop barking, you are breaking up training your dog into smaller, more manageable chunks.
Dog training minus the anger and frustration, with no time frame but the one you are comfortable with.
Dog Training vs. Dog Life
By focusing on dog life, rather than dog training, our goals can become so much more attainable and clear-cut. Most of us don't want an obedient dog, we just don't want a dis-obedient dog. Robot-style dogs who are afraid of stepping out of line are for certain types of people I guess.
But that's not my style. That's why I developed the Piloting method of dog training over 20 years ago, a force-free method of dog training and puppy training that didn't rely on abusive shock collars or cruel prong collars, yet didn't constantly bribe with non-stop click-n-treat style dog training. I want a bond with my dog based on trust and communication.
Learn more about our Piloting method of dog and puppy training here.
Find out more about our private in home 30 Day Best Dog Ever and 30 Day Best Puppy Ever training packages here.
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