This may seem like a strange topic for dog training but dogs, not unlike children, can frustrate you with their behavior. If you have adopted a dog, especially recently, that frustration can often be debilitating.
The cure for all this frustration is patience and compassion. Patience for your dog who is learning and literally never actually trying to stress you out. Compassion for yourself because raising a dog really can be challenging – rewarding, but challenge.
Focusing on taking a deep breath and channeling your most zen-like patience and compassion is a vital step in training your adopted dog.
If you’ve recently adopted your dog or are a couple of years into your journey together but new behaviors are emerging (yup, this happens), patience and compassion are your new best friends. Being a patient and compassionate person is good advice for life in general as well so it’s a win/win for you.
Having patience and compassion for yourself and your learner will make the training process run smoother and be more enjoyable for all concerned. You will experience real and lasting results without damaging your relationship with your dog. Remember that in dog training, it’s not about just taking a class and getting your certificate and, voila, your dog is trained for life. It’s more like raising a child. You teach them what they need and are ready for at their various stages of life. As they grow and change, their learning needs also grow and change. Your dog is the same except he won’t ever move out and you’ll save a bundle on college tuition.
How does patience and compassion actually play out in training? When you ask your dog to do a particular behavior, wait. Give your dog time to think and understand what you are asking of her and to perform the action. There is a tendency in dog training to want the dog to respond immediately. Your dog is a living breathing sentient creature. Allow her the time to choose to perform the behavior. If you ask your dog to “sit,” pause and breathe (rather than saying sit five more times in rapid succession as we are prone to do). Your dog will sit.
If she doesn’t, I guarantee you it isn’t because she wants to dominate or disrespect you. Take a breath and ask yourself what might be happening that is causing her to misunderstand or not want to comply to your request?
Some questions to ask yourself to help you figure out what is going on are:
Are you asking your dog to sit in a new place, somewhere you have never asked her to sit before? Dogs can be very situational and need to be taught the same behavior in multiple situations.
Are there distractions? Are you outside where there are lots of people, dogs, squirrels and other exciting things to distract your pup. You can work with him on performing requests despite distractions but you have to work up to it; no going from zero to one hundred all at once.
Are you using the same cue (the sound or gesture you use to indicate you want her to perform a particular action) as before? Sit may be pretty straightforward but other commands may be more complicated. As I mentioned above, to a dog “sit” and “sit-sit-sit-sit” are two completely different concepts.
It could be that your pup just needs more practice. Get out the treats and go a few rounds of sit training with him. Your patience for his learning curve and compassion for his “slip-ups” will win out in the end and you will have yourself a happy, well-behaved and well-adjusted pup.