Making Training Stick: Is Your Dog Stubborn, or Untrained?Published January 11, 2012
Victoria Schade/Do Not Reproduce
Cut to the present. My former client just wrote a lighthearted piece in the Washington Post about how stubborn and difficult his dog is, particularly when it comes to leash walking. Funny stuff, but as you might imagine, this trainer - his dog trainer - got her hackles up about it. The article was forwarded to me by someone who knows that I helped train the writer's dog, so I immediately felt defensive, as if it's my fault that the dog is a bad leash walker.
Of course, that's silly.
The second the door shuts after our final session, it’s up to my clients to continue their lessons. I always say, “I’m only as good as my clients let me be,” meaning, I look like a rock star dog trainer if they dutifully keep up with training, and I look like a poseur if they don’t. My techniques and abilities don’t waiver from client to client, but their commitment to training certainly can, and therefore so can their result. (Yes, the dog in the equation plays a role as well.)
Just like a personal trainer can’t control your behavior outside the gym (and can’t stop you from gorging on French fries after you leave), a dog trainer can’t make you practice good leash manners during the 167 hours a week that you aren’t in class. Dog training takes dedication during the “foundation” stage, when your dog is learning the basics, but it doesn’t stop once those basics are learned. Leash walking in particular requires long-term attention– it’s a marathon behavior, not a sprint – because you’re at the mercy of your environment. There’s something new to sniff around every corner … have you trained your dog to be prepared for all possibilities?
Sure, I’m bummed about the article because I know what the dog could’ve been; a polite, well-mannered walker. But I guess that doesn’t make for comedy, right?