Knowing what your dogs drug of choice is makes up some of the dog training equation. But it isn't the whole thing.
The reason some dog owners struggle with training their dogs comes down to confidence - something that both people AND dogs suffer from.
You may not believe it, but I have suffered from nerves when I'm really keen to impress an instructor or do well at an agility competition. Now for the older dogs, Spud, Kai and Ella - they couldn't give a hoot! They're just keen to get on with whatever task they're presented with in order to earn their reward :mrgreen:
But younger, inexperienced dogs like my baby dog Jade, or dogs like my little sheltie Diva who are more on the shy end of the spectrum - well it troubles them if I seem out of sorts or worried in anyway.
I recall a training session at another training club where I was keen on showing off Jade to her best advantage, where she broke her startline position a few times during the evening - something she'd never dream of doing normally! 8-O
It was valuable feedback to me about how she looks to me for information about a situation and needs me to be cool, calm and collected - not a quivering wreck! Easy to understand of course, but not always easy to put into practice!
What makes it difficult for us is all the human thoughts that pop into our heads when our dogs isn't behaving how we'd like - particularly in front of other people:
"What must other people be thinking?"
"I must be really bad at this because I can't control my dog!"
"I wish the world would swallow me up, I'm so embarrassed!"
What I love most about dogs is that they aren't subject to the complicated myriad of human emotions that we are - they are incapable of lying and just respond in the moment as they see fit. I find it helps to remember that when things aren't going to plan, sort of keeps everything in perspective.
My dogs also regularly remind me that they're not robots - they're living, breathing, amazing animals that are capable of incredible feats. But then to balance is out they're also equally capable of stealing an unattended tomato ketchup bottle (Ella!) or pulling over the bin (Kai!) given the opportunity too :mrgreen:
So if you have a training struggle, try to evaluate what needs fixing:
- Are you holding your lead very tight in anticipation of a reaction from your dog?
- Check your breathing - your dog will notice if your normal breathing changes because you're panicking
- What is popping into your head when your dog behaves in a certain way?
- Can you change the thoughts to be more about you and your dog than the reactions of other people?
- How could you practice situations like the one you're struggling with, without pushing your dog into a over-reactive state?
Last weekend I took Jade to an agility final we'd qualified for back in May. Thoughts like those I've mentioned above whirred around in my head, but I held on to the important one about how the way I behaves affects her. So I went into that competition ring as if we were stepping up to a run at training - and I was blown away by how confident and FAST she was capable of being with me in the right mindset :-)
Because when all is said and done it's my dog I have to answer to and live with - not the expectations or judgements of anyone watching us. And her confidence and happiness is a priority to me, as I know it will be to you with your dog.
Getting control of your nerves isn't easy and I've been lucky to have received expert help from Kathrine McAleese of Mind To Win to help me with mine :-)
If lack of confidence is stopping you enjoying your dog as much as you'd like, comment below - let's see if we can't solve it together :-)