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For many of us, our dogs are part of the family, which means that any setbacks in their training can be particularly hard to take. As a dog trainer, I often work with pet owners who are near the end of their rope because of a failure to get their dogs trained. Often by the time I meet them, these pet owners have already tried numerous approaches, spent countless dollars and wept many tears over their dog’s lack of progress and the negative impact it is having on the entire family.
One-size-fits-all approaches don’t work in life, and they don’t work with dogs either. When you’re facing a dilemma with your canine’s behavior, there are a variety of resources to help your dog. Start by touching base with your veterinarian; she can rule out any medical problems and, if appropriate, refer you to a veterinary behaviorist or trainer. By addressing both the medical and behavioral components of your dog’s health, you give your pet the best opportunity to succeed.
If you are feeling discouraged by lack of training progress, I want to share with you what I tell many of my clients: Today is a new day, and you have a chance to start fresh. The key to overcoming training frustration is to be patient with your pet, to celebrate his small successes and to keep your ultimate goal in sight.
In clicker training, you build up to a final behavior, such as a fetch, by teaching a series of small steps. This is a good metaphor for life; it is important to step back and take note of the small gains along the way. Training is not a quick fix, and lasting change comes through dedicated perseverance. When training seems to be progressing particularly slowly — or not at all — step back and notice the small successes. Eventually, these will lead to the final desired result.
After all, no dog is perfect, and learning takes time. While it’s important to move in the right direction and push for growth and progress in training, we are all works in progress, and acceptance and love for ourselves and our pets is key at every point in the journey. Accepting our pets for who they are, flaws and all, is an important component of successful training.
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