Why I Hate Dog Training Quick Tips
“I just need a quick tip to help my dog with this one problem!”
“There’s just this one thing my dog needs help with, don’t you have any dog training tips you could share?”
I get calls like this all the time. Owners frustrated with their dog’s issues, but also convinced that they’re just one quick tip away from magically solving it all.
Listen, I get it. Dog training seems simple, I mean how hard could it really be? The issues seem to come out of no where, maybe it’s just as easy to change the problems.
I understand the hopefulness it. The desire for your dog’s problems to be simple, to be easy to undo with just small changes to your every day interactions. Dog training sometimes can feel like a huge undertaking and commitment, and yes if you don’t actually have good support from your trainer or are not part of a comprehensive or immersive program it absolutely can feel like a struggle.
The reality is that there are quick tips everywhere, and they may offer small amounts of relief, in certain situations, but you can’t quick tip your way to a well trained dog.
Treating the Underlying Issues
I see people looking for quick tips for all problems under the sun. From potty training, puppy nipping, leash pulling, to serious aggression for dogs with bite histories. Sometimes it is hard to come to terms with the fact that you might be dealing with a complex issue that needs focused help. Most problems that owners face with their dogs are just not simple enough to be treated with a few quick tips. In behavior cases this is especially true, not only because of the uniqueness of these cases from dog to dog, but also because of the uniqueness of individual owners’ lives.
It’s like this. Imagine you have a friend who has just been diagnosed with cancer. There is no way to use a quick tip to cure cancer. Maybe there might be some for making the person more comfortable after chemo, or how to make things at home easier, but no one would ever think that there is a tip a doctor could give you that would cure cancer. The only thing that can help the underlying cancer is proper treatment.
Dog training is the same way. We treat the underlying causes of the barking, the fear, the separation issues, reactivity, etc. Sure I can give you a quick tip on how to secure your home better for a door bolting dog, but that won’t fix the problem of the dog bolting out of the door and actually teach the dog anything. You still have a door bolting dog at the end of the day.
Let’s look at separation problems, there are several quick tips that come to mind, like playing music or leaving a TV on for the dog when you leave, but the reality is that the dog is still going to have separation issues until the causes are addressed.
Instead with dog training we have to take a wholistic approach and fix what is causing these problems. Why is it hard for the dog to live the life they are in? This is what we look at and how we actually change behavior.
Quick Tips = Quick Fixes
Personally I think the idea of quick fixes in dog training has come from various media sources and how dog training is portrayed. In a quick and clean made for TV show, dogs are being “fixed” left and right, by people who seem to be experts. Most people have never actually met a dog trainer, or don’t know much about the job and how training works, so with this single bit of exposure the idea grows.
Here is the truth. If a dog has been practicing an unwanted behavior for months, it will take months to change that behavior. We are fighting not only to change ingrained habit, but also teach a new skill, often it’s not even just one skill or habit we’re dealing with, but several intertwined. The waters get muddied very quickly.
Lets look at barking for this one. The dog barks too much when the owner is away. The owner buys a bark collar, looking for a quick solution for the issue. Unbeknownst to the owner, the dog is barking because they were never taught how to be alone, and aloneness makes them anxious. Now because of the bark collar they are getting shocked and the aloneness becomes terrifying. Every time their owner leaves, there is an invisible boogey man that bites them!
This dog will not get more comfortable with being alone, and it is likely their behavior will escalate in some way. Whether that means destructive behaviors from the anxiety, or more anxiety behaviors popping up in other parts of their life, the problem was not solved. The dog is not able to relax when the owner is away, in fact far from it.
Let’s take a look at a common puppy example. Young puppy is showing some signs of being uncomfortable around other dogs, so the owners make the mistake of thinking the dog needs more exposure, and begin taking the puppy to the dog park. I can tell you right now that when someone is uncomfortable or fearful of a thing, the answer is not more focused exposure, especially not in an uncontrolled place like a dog park or doggy daycare.
After some time passes the puppy is visibly reactive when they see other dogs. Hackles up, barking uncontrollably, visibly stressed about other dogs out in the world and seeming to be inconsolable. The owners had the best intentions, but it just wasn’t the right thing at all for the problem, and a lack of understanding and knowledge creates a big mess.
There are no quick ways to get a well trained dog, and corner cutting will only ever create future issues. Quick fixes can quickly cause more issues, that take much more time to undo than they took to create.
You hop onto youtube, looking for answers. You join that facebook group for new puppy owners, fearful dogs, reactive dogs, etc. You post your troubles with your dog on Reddit, you are endlessly scouring the internet for things to try to help your dog. Trainers seem to be saying conflicting things, your vet’s advice didn’t work, your friends and family suggest things you’re not willing to try, and still the problem persists, or even gets worse.
But you know there is an answer out there. You just have to find it! Hours, days, weeks, months, eaten up by googling, with not much to show for it.
Psst, lemme tell you a secret. The answer is working with a trainer. Custom training plans for your problems with your dog, that when followed will change behavior for the better.
Trying to train a dog with piecemeal information, with little snippets of knowledge, is a losing proposition and will end up confusing you and your dog, along with not getting you to your goal.
Look at it this way. You’re trying to make a dessert. You want it to be wonderful, and so you hit the internet and look up recipes. Except you don’t follow any of them, you decide to build your own by taking ingredients and quantities from this recipe and that recipe, a step here, a step there. And when it comes out of the oven, it’s nothing like you’ve envisioned and frankly it’s a disaster. But how can that be? Did you not take information from reputable sources? Why didn’t it work?
Training programs do not work well when they are taken part by part. A good training program has exercises that address several problem areas and build up skills that progressively get you closer to your goal. They are purposely designed this way! It is not a grab bag of whatever the trainer feels like, or slapped together without planning and forethought. Plus they have the entire weight of the trainer’s experience behind them, so if there are any issues or struggles, you’ve got support from the trainer to solve what’s going on.
Getting training help is the most efficient way to get to your goals with your dog and to stop current issues, as well as prevent future ones. Quick tips will have you chasing your tail with no end in sight!
Denial and Hard Truths
Sometimes I run into dog owners who are very much in denial about what’s going on with their dog. They struggle to face the reality that they have a reactive dog, an aggressive dog, a dog who is a project dog. It is a hard thing to come to terms with, and sometimes it can be painful to realize that a dog has been struggling through their life for a long time. For some owners this is a lot to handle and instead of getting training help, they continue with the same pattern they have always known. Trying to hunt down the next quick tip.
Some of these are the saddest cases. An owner and dog in need, sometimes desperately, but unable to break the cycle and get results with training. Taking that step would require admitting that there is something bigger going on, admitting that help is needed.
These cases really do break my heart because I would gladly help, but my reality is that I can only help those who are ready for my help. I have talked to owners who have struggled for years with a problem, and when I ask them what they think their options are besides getting training help, they sometimes say that they’ll just live with the problem. No matter how serious, or how much it is affecting the lives of everyone in the home.
Don't Come to Me for Quick Tips!
The best I can do is give a little advice here or there, but I don’t have a magic wand! No dog trainer does, not even those who claim they do.
What I can do for you is tell you the truth of what is happening with your dog, as well as the best ways to change things. The best ways for you and your dog as a unique team. I can be there for you to support you through your successes and struggles with your dog, ready to catch those little errors that make all the difference in success or lack luster results.
But I can’t do any of that with quick tips. Training takes an open mind, a desire to learn, and an understanding that change makes more change. A desire to learn more about our closest animal companions, and work with them towards goals as a team.
I’m here to help those who are ready for it! Let’s GOOOOO!!!