“Biology and Behaviour are bedfellows. You can’t be solely to blame if your dog’s neurons misfire” – Leslie McDevitt (2007)
I love training, seeing improvement and confidence building in our dogs but for many of our not so average dogs there will always be that super important element of management in their lives.
There are so many wonderful stories of dogs turning around and becoming good members of society, sniffing their way to solutions in life and counter conditioning their way to loving the postman. While these successes are fantastic for the dogs and great ego boosters for us as trainers they are not realistic goals for every dog. The reality for many not so average dogs and their owners is that their dogs may never be considered good perfect members of doggy society and unfortunately a lot of people hire a trainer and even dog trainers themselves dive into training expecting miracles and get easily disappointed and rapidly unmotivated.
Being realistic in your training goals is so important and while there are always successes and improvements that can be made there are so many barriers that in one way or another prevent a dog from being completely ‘rehabilitated’. Elements such as time constraints, lack of good and correct information, bad timing, the wrong training environment, dog anxiety and the list could go on..
To set some realistic goals ask yourself what the lowest level of improvement that you would consider a success and start there. For example, if your dog is afraid of other dogs don’t expect that after some training he will be romping around gleefully in the dog park, that may or may never happen, but what could happen? Maybe he could happily pass another dog on a walk or see a dog in the distance at the park and not react. I think we often set the bar too high for our dogs when in fact smaller more realistic training goals should be cause for celebration and go on to motivate us for greater successes.
Sometimes as owners and trainers we need to be more realistic, embrace management and give it the credit it deserves for being the first line of defence, while at the same time continuing with our realistic training goals because of course… ‘Management always fails’.