Day 26: Patience

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Training a dog can get frustrating at times. Things just don’t go the way you want them to or your dog just won’t sit and you KNOW he KNOWS how to do it. Believe me I’ve been there hundreds of time. The solution: Patience!

When training gets frustrating we are more likely to “coach” or “cheer” our dog on. We do this in many different ways:

  • We might add a cue before the dog knows the behavior we’re looking for. If we’re teaching the dog to push a ball we might repeat “push” over and over again in hopes it will help our dog to push the ball.
  • We also might bargain or bribe our dog. If the dog knows how to sit but is struggling for some reason (perhaps you’re asking for it on a busy sidewalk), you might pull out a cookie and show it to your dog. You might also say, “If you sit… I’ll give you a cookie” to elicit a sit.
  • You might also use a lot of verbal words to cheer your dog on. As your dog moves towards the ball to push it you might say, “good dog”, “that’s it”, etc.

All of these verbal encouragements can actually distract your dog and confuse him more. Think of a time when you were learning a new skill. If the teacher told you what to do and then let you do it you probably did okay. However, think of a time when you were working on a new skill and as you did it, the teacher kept telling you to do more or constantly said “good” even if it wasn’t the complete skill. It gets distracting and at some point you probably took a step back and said, “WHAT!?!”

Your dog needs you to let him think it thru. Allow your clicker to do the talking. The clicker is non-emotional and consistent. This allows your dog’s brain to process what he is learning faster and without the extra confusion of cheering and coaching.

So the next time you find yourself getting frustrated, take a short break and think about what it is that isn’t working. Is it the situation or is your dog unclear? If your dog is unclear, make sure you know what you’re clicking for and be patient while waiting for your dog to perform. Allow your dog to think. You’ll thank me for it later :-).

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