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Dog Training? Or Human Training?

When I'm working with a group class or I'm visiting someone's home to work with their dog, I sometimes hear some comments that I absolutely LOVE:

  • "It's almost like you're training the human more than the dog!"

  • "Dog training seems to be 50% about the dog and 50% about training us, humans!"

  • "It sounds like I have some new habits to get into!"

These comments are always super exciting for me to hear 1) because they're usually accompanied by some kind of "light bulb" moment in their dog's training and 2) because it is SO true!

First, our canine companions live in a human world. This human world is, naturally, set up for humans, by humans, and is best navigated by humans (though, it can be a struggle knowing some of the rules even as a human sometimes!). That said, it makes a lot of sense that our behavior, how we use the control we have over our dogs' schedules, exercise, food, etc., and how we set up our dogs' environments all affect our dogs, their training, and the success we see in their training.

SideKick Dog Training | Private Dog Training Milwaukee WI

Second, small changes in our behavior can have huge impacts! Each of the following, which seem like small choices to us, can play a big role in whether or not we can reach our training goals with our dogs successfully:

  • Where you train or practice with your dog

  • How you set up the training environment

  • What management or prevention you put in place even before you are actively training with your dog

  • The behaviors you choose to ignore or reward or punish

The choices you make - with full knowledge of the human rules in this human world - greatly influence the choices your dog has available to them and the choices they're going to make!

SideKick Dog Training | Private Dog Training Milwaukee WI

Finally, if things aren't working out in your dog's training - whether you're working on a Sit or reactivity, it's not terribly likely that the problem is the dog; they're not inherently flawed or stupid or broken and, though, there are a lot of other labels we can slap on a dog when our training isn't going as planned, the real culprit is a lot more likely to be something YOU have control over and can change - a change in scenery, a change in the way you're working on the behavior, a change in the criteria of what you're asking for, etc.

And I say this as someone who has found herself stumped when training; taking a step back and looking at what I was going for, what was happening, and how we could more efficiently achieve the goal made all the difference for me and Ruby! Simply put, when things aren't going as planned in your training, I recommend asking yourself (of course, with the voice of Steve Urkel in your head), "Did I do that?"

All of that said, teaching a group class or visiting with a client is not dog training OR human training - it's BOTH! I very much enjoy teaching and working with both the human and canine end of the leash! Dog training, for me, is so much more than teaching a dog how to Sit and lay down; it's about building the relationship between a person and their dog, facilitating the communication process for humans to better help their dogs navigate this difficult human world, and teaching the human how to best set their dog - and themselves - up for success! It's so incredibly rewarding to see a dog progress in their training and behavior, but to see things click for my human clients and see their skills sharpen is also so exciting and fun!

Happy training!

SideKick Dog Training | Private Dog Training Milwaukee WI

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