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How to Avoid Dog Training Failures in 6 Easy Steps

I've worked with so many dogs and their owners over the last 2 decades. Big dogs, little dogs. Puppies and seniors. From leash walking to separation anxiety, aggression to housebreaking; and I've loved them all. I love the updates. I love the questions that come up after training. Most of all, I love to see the progress you're making.

Dog looking at trainer

But not everyone is successful, and all the people who fail at training their dogs, always seem to have a few things in common.

1)Thinking Money Will Handle Your Dog's Behaviors

There's a saying I like:

There is one thing that money can't buy, and that's the wag of a dog's tail.

No matter what behaviors your dog is giving you, money won't solve it. More training sessions. More treats. More clickers. More money, more money, more money. I constantly reference the similarities between dogs and kids. And I've never see a correlation between the happiness of a child and the amount of money spent on them.

More tutors. More sports. More extracurricular activities. More lavish birthday parties. More, more, more usually means you're getting less from each dollar you are spending.

Now I firmly believe you can't spoil a dog (or a child for that matter), but at some point, you have to realize it starts with parenting rather than spending on a child. The same applies to dogs.

dog begging

Dogs only need simple things, same as children.

- Piloting (or parenting) based on love

Start with these simple things before moving on to yet another round of training sessions, or buying that shock collar (yikes!).

2. Mistaking Your Dog's Behaviors as the Problem Rather Than the Symptom

Suppose you had a problem with your child throwing a tantrum at Target. So you call a child therapist and set up a session to work through the problem. During our session, the therapist starts to mention how to address the child's impulse control issues.

So you cut her off, saying, "Yeah, I see that, but I just want to know how I get my kid to stop throwing tantrums at Target. Seriously, aside from that, she's fine".

Yeah, we all know your kid isn't "fine". This just happens to be the biggest symptom your child is displaying of a larger behavioral issue. It's also most likely the only one that's on public display, and therefore, why you care so much about it.

The same thing goes for dog training. Your dog lunging at other dogs during the walk actually isn't the problem, but their anxiety sure is. It's just only a problem for you when you're out walking and they see another dog. Get rid of the anxiety, get rid of the unsavory behaviors.

3. Hearing But Not Listening

Be willing to listen, and maybe hear some things that you don't want to hear. As long as your dog trainer is respectful and kind with constructive feedback, and not bullying or shaming you, be willing to listen to what they have to say. We're here to help.

So ask your questions, but realize you may get an answer that seems contrary to your current thoughts. Ask more questions until it make sense to you. I want you to understand your dog's behaviors, and asking me (tough!) questions during our session doesn't mean you're being stubborn, it shows me you're listening so you can understand.

(But no, your dog is NOT rage peeing. Yes I know it happens when you leave. Yes I know she doesn't like when you leave. No, she's STILL not "rage peeing".)

4. Assuming Osmosis Will Handle Your Dog's Behaviors

Yes, I know it's early Saturday morning, and you went out Friday night. Yes, you also chose the date and time of your dog training session.

That's unfortunate that you were out late last night and didn't feel the need to take our session seriously. No, I won't come back out for a reduced fee. No, I won't refund your money because you were so unfocused. No, I don't feel badly about it, either.

What I do feel badly about is your dog who was counting on you. Again.

5. Going Off the Path

It always happens, even with my bestest, most favoritist clients.

But even the best deviate from the plan. They forget to give their dog enough mental work, and call me in tears after they've lost a pair of Manolo Blahniks.

They didn't follow through with the amount of activity their dog needs, and now their dog is being a twerp on the walk.

But usually, it's that they forgot part of the Holy Trinity of dog training:

1) Control yourself;
2) Control the situation; and
3) Add more stimuli


Most of my clients understand the importance of controlling themselves, but sometimes the situation overwhelms them. Or things are going so well, that they forget why they are going so well: you've taken responsibility for controlling the situation.... and now Fido is acting out again on the walk because you hadn't been taking responsibility for the stimuli he's confronted with (i.e., you went back to a retractable leash).

It's okay. You're not a bad pet parent. You had a bad pet parenting moment. And all my successful clients, who after troubleshooting with me as to what happened, understand that while Fido reacting on the leash wasn't their fault, it is indeed their responsibility, and keep their promise to be controlling the situation.

But there's a small subset of client who when I contact them a week after their session tell me "It's not going well", but when I press for details, it's obvious it's "not going well" because they haven't gotten it going yet. Have you Piloted your dog? Have you done what i showed you when he causes and uproar at the mailman? Did you remember to address his "yo bitch" habit? No? Okay, well then, I'm sorry about the lack of success you got with the effort you didn't put in.

As a dog trainer, my job is to make this as quick and painless for both you and your dog as I can. I'm not throwing extra steps or unnecessary details into your session, so please don't cut corners. I've already trimmed the fat for you.

6. Not Having Faith in Your Abilities

I hate bullies, and I call them out when I see them. That goes for you, too. If you start berating yourself for not doing things you didn't know (wtf?), or not spending every waking moment catering to your dog, I'm going to call you out on it.

You are doing the best you can with what you have available.

I know you can do this. Your dog knows you can do this. The only one in the room with doubts is you. I'm not going to let you doubt yourself.

You deserve to have a great, wonderful, loving and healthy bond with your dog. You just have to have faith that you can do this, one step at a time. You just need a roadmap for your journey with your dog.

Oh, and a little faith in yourself. You've got this.

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.

Have questions about our puppy training or dog training?

border collie dog

Kerry Stack

Darwin Dogs

Dog Training and Puppy Training

Greater Cleveland Area

Northeast Ohio

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