5 Red Flags That Mean it's Time to Get Training
Is it time to get training for your dog? I’ve put together some very common red flags that absolutely mean it’s time to get training. Waiting for the “right” time to get training is the biggest trap that a lot of owners fall into at the detriment of themselves and their dogs.
In fact, a new study has just shown that waiting to train young puppies even just a month has a marked effect on the pup’s future and problem behaviors experienced by owners. How to tell it’s time to get training isn’t something that everyone is aware of, and when you’re living in the thick of things sometimes you need a clear sign!
Red Flag #1 - Your dog is unpredictable or untrustworthy in certain situations
“We can’t let our dog off leash”
“I can’t have guests over and my dog in the same room”
“I’d like to be able to take him for hikes, but he doesn’t come back”
“We can hardly open the door without him bolting out of it”
The list of things goes on and on and on. I get calls from owners all the time who have their lives dictated by their dogs. Our dogs deserve freedom, but not at our expense! Who’s the one paying the bills around here?
For a good relationship with your dog to work in a way that’s mutual, there has to be a level of trust. When you’ve got a dog who does things unpredictably, who isn’t responsive, and who doesn’t really care about you in situations that matter, that’s a massive red flag that training is needed.
Having a dog that you can trust, one that is reliable, gives you space and breathing room in the relationship you have with your dog. Micromanagement of the dog in your life doesn’t have to be that way, and truly it isn’t “just part of having a dog”.
Red Flag #2 - You have a list of things you wish you could do with your dog
Most owners have dogs in their lives for more reasons than to have a furry couch ornament. And most owners usually have higher expectations of their dogs than just taking them to the dog park for a bit of a run around.
I’m not going to mince words, a dog who is just a house pet and who you don’t get to do things with, like take on fun adventures or trips, is kind of a disappointment. I’ve never heard an owner tell me that they’re happy they can’t take their dog places with them, or happy they have to use a boarding service when they travel. I’ve never heard someone tell me they don’t want to be able to take their dog to outdoor restaurants, or that they regret their camping trips with their dog.
The reality is that most of us got a dog to be part of our lives, not just an accessory that is limited to life in a house and yard. What a small world that is for a dog!
The second reality though is that a lot of owners are stuck in a place where even taking the dog for a walk is an ordeal. He pulls, he acts like a fool, he just isn’t pleasant to even do a simple walk! Camping would be a disaster, and god knows he can’t sit still enough at a restaurant or café long enough for you to have a meal.
The desire to do these things is there, but you’re essentially blocked by your dog’s poor behavior to get there, and potentially also facing a lack of knowledge with how to reach those goals. They’re not unattainable! Training isn’t out of your reach or abilities.
Red Flag #3 - You've been trying to train them for months but have little to no progress
This is a big one, and much more common than you’d think. Myths and misconceptions about training and dogs are abundant, as well as plain old bad advice about training your dog.
You shouldn’t be finding yourself in the same situations going through the same patterns after months of training with your dog. Real training is nothing like that. It’s not having drips of success over months and years. It’s not having to rely on “catching” your dog at the right moment or it all goes to shit.
Training is learning, and just like it goes in school, it progresses naturally. If you’re dealing with the same situation that you’ve had for a while, whether that’s potty problems, chewing, overreactions, fear, barking, etc, a method that works will give you progress. Not have you spinning your wheels for months at a time with techniques that are wasting your time.
Red Flag #4 - Peace in the home is lost, and you don't know how to get it back
Our dogs should be able to coexist with all members of the household peacefully and harmoniously. The home should be a place of rest and relaxation for all members of the household, and this includes the dog! It should not be a warzone and struggle to stop the dog from getting into trouble.
When you sit down to watch a movie, take a nap, are working, these are times when you should be able to do what you need to do, WITHOUT interruptions from the dog. Down time in the home, calmness in the home, they’re not some mystical fairytale and you’re not asking too much to want to have those things.
Your dog does not need to be bouncing off the walls. The home is not some doggy obstacle course, nor is it a place where your dog finds ways to annoy you to try to get you to do something, or constantly look for trouble to get into. You have rights that don’t suddenly go away because there is a dog in the home.
Your dog can be a good roommate, and they should fit into the life you have at home, not detract from it. Getting your peace and home freedom back is important for everyone’s wellbeing. And as mentioned earlier, your dog isn’t paying any bills. They shouldn’t be ruling the roost and making you dance for them.
It’s ok to not have answers and not know how to get the peace back. No one has taught you how to get to that goal, and it is possible to have. It’s time to get training.
Red Flag #5 - Your dog shows fearful, aggressive or uncontrollable behaviors
No dog or human should:
- Live in fear
- Have to put up with aggression or anger in a companion
- Have to be in a battle just to try to maintain or set boundaries with a housemate
- Be running on empty due to stress, emotional fatigue, or lack of real decompression
Behavior problems are very common with dogs these days. The knowledge on what to do about it and when it’s time to get training, that’s much less common. The stress that both humans and dogs are put through because of behavior issues it totally unreasonable. No one likes living in fear. No one likes having fits of anger or lashing out. Your dog does not enjoy these things and would much rather not be afraid or not be aggressive.
This is not a dog enjoying life, but instead one who is on a rollercoaster that is out of control, waiting for the next big plunge and cycle of stress. That is not a way to live. Also, it’s not just a phase, it’s not going to get better without help and intervention. Time to get training help!
On the other side of that same coin, it’s not enjoyable for the human either. Never have I heard of anyone happy that they have a dog who had nipped or bitten a guest, child, delivery person, or themselves. Never have I heard of anyone happy their dog was afraid of someone or something. We want our dogs to be happy and to have good lives. We want the same for ourselves.
It’s not your fault if you have a dog with behavior problems. Trainers are not here to blame or shame you. We’re here to get everyone help and get you and your dog to a place of health, better wellbeing, and healing. Behaviors like this can be changed and made better.
Bonus Red Flag - You have felt guilty, bad, or ashamed about your dog
This is something that I think owners overlook sometimes. You don’t like leaving your dog at home alone, you don’t like scolding them or having to discipline them. You don’t like feeling bad when your dog does a thing you don’t like for the umpteenth time. Frustration, annoyance, these are very common and very human feelings and sometimes our dogs can get under our skin.
You don’t like being that person, that’s not truly who you are, but you don’t know the steps to being better AND making progress with your dog. If you’re finding that this happens to you regularly, there’s some reoccurring negative feeling that your dog seems to awaken, it’s time to get training help.
I get it. I wasn’t always a dog trainer. I have made many of the same mistakes as my clients. I have acted in ways that I didn’t want to because of a lack of knowledge and know how. Anyone can learn to be better, and when you’ve got someone walking you through the process, who knows the struggles, who knows where you’re coming from, you can learn and grow without shame or fear.