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  • Deb Bauer

Dog Training - When You've Tried Everything

A woman holding a yorkshire terrier.  Her face is distressed and she is holding her head with her other hand, pulling at her hair.  Her mascara is running and her brow is wrinkled.  Text says, I've tried everything!  Help!  Nothing's working!

Dog Training - When You’ve Tried Everything …

Caring for our dogs is a beautiful journey that can come with its own unique set of challenges. As dedicated caregivers, we strive to provide the best for our dogs, but sometimes it can feel disheartening when our efforts don't yield the expected results. It’s easy to get frustrated and think that nothing is helping and that you’ve tried everything. It feels hopeless.

The good news is that often we haven’t really tried everything, and if we have, we’ve often gone about trying it all the wrong way. Here are some of my tips for when you feel the situation is hopeless and there’s nothing else to try.

WHY is it Happening?

Often, the root of a particular behavior may have nothing to do with training. It’s essential to consider underlying factors that might be contributing to how your dog is acting. Consult with a veterinarian to rule out any medical conditions or pain which may be a factor. This happens more than you think and hidden pain was a major factor in my own dog’s ongoing behaviors. Pain or discomfort can cause our dog's behavior to change in ways that we might consider inappropriate, but really our dogs are just trying to get relief and let us know there’s a problem.

After ruling out any potential physical concerns, look at what is prompting the dog to behave in that way. Dogs behave in a variety of ways to get their needs met. They might need something to eat, comfort, reassurance, a safe place to hide, a chance to say hello, and so on. Each of these needs prompts a dog to act in certain ways to get what they need. When we understand what our dog needs and can meet that need in an appropriate way, the behaviors that we don’t want often disappear - all with little or no actual training.

Change Your Mind

The way we think about things affects our attitudes and beliefs and also significantly influences the way we interact with our dogs. We might think our dog is stubborn and will never learn. We might think that nothing we try ever works. When these thoughts creep in, it affects everything we do with our dogs. If we think nothing will work, we stop trying. If we think our dog is stubborn, we may start to get angry and wonder why they won’t cooperate with us.

Once we get into those thought patterns, it can be hard to think in other ways because our brain starts to consider those things as true. But the actual truth is that those are only thoughts, and we can change our thoughts.

Looking at why your dog is behaving the way they are can be helpful to changing your thoughts. Start to think about how you can best meet your dog’s needs to shift your thinking. Celebrate all the little things that you love about your dog. This can help shift your perspective.

Not a Quick Fix

Often when we try something we expect an all or nothing result. We might try a new technique expecting a magical result. When we don’t get the end result we’re looking for, we stop trying and think the technique didn’t work.

There are very few magic wand results in the world of living with and teaching dogs. Dogs, like us, require time to understand and internalize new concepts and behavior patterns. Giving up after a few attempts won’t give you or your dog time to adapt to and see the results.

It can often take some time and practice to begin to get the results you’re hoping for. Be gentle and consistent in your approach. You may need to do some tweaking to meet your dog’s individual needs. Not every method will work for every dog or every situation, but most will show you some success if you are consistent and patient in your approach.

Not All at the Same Time

It’s easy to fall into the trap of wanting to address multiple behaviors or situations all at once. This can be overwhelming for us and for our dogs, and we then end up making very little progress on anything at all.

If you try all the things at the same time, you won’t have any idea which one or ones are actually helping your dog the most. Give each aspect some time to work before adding something new.

During teaching sessions, prioritize what your goals are and take things step by step. Often focusing on one aspect can lead to positive changes in other areas as well, and lead to more effective and lasting results.

Have You Taught It?

Sometimes I hear people say that their dog can’t learn something, is stubborn, or just doesn’t understand. Let’s consider getting a deaf dog’s attention. What about waving your arms in the air? Does your dog ignore you? This is actually pretty common. The dog doesn’t know what your crazy arm waving means until you teach them.

So, if you’re having some challenges with how your dog is responding to something, consider if you’ve taken the time to actually teach them what you expect. Your dog is not trying to ignore you or blow off a response. They just don’t yet understand your expectations.

Your dog’s unique needs and personality will guide you on your incredible life together. Trust in the process, seek guidance from qualified professionals when needed, and take these suggestions to heart.

With patience and consistency, you will be successful with the end results you’re looking for. If you want some help getting to those results, I’m here to support you. I want you and your dog to be successful.

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