It is really important that we always end training sessions with our dog on a high note. In other words the last thing we do should be fun and successful. This is not to say we will always be successful with what we are working on that day, especially if it is something brand new or especially challenging. There may very well be times that we come across something our dog has difficulty learning and that’s totally normal. We all have talents that came naturally and other skills that had to be developed with a little more effort. Some of us are good at math, others not so much. Dogs are no different. No big deal, just come back to it later or on another day. Getting frustrated or grinding away at it for too long will only lead to frustration. Frustration, be it yours or your dog’s, is not going to be productive. On the contrary, frustration will only serve to be counterproductive. The key is to make the training fun and end the session with both you and your dog feeling good about yourselves and looking forward to doing it again. So, with that said, we need to realize that this might mean going back to something really easy that your dog already knows or just playing tug, fetch or anything that feels good for you both.

This, like most things in life, is simple in theory but easy to overlook when caught in the moment. Competitive, perfectionist types may find this especially challenging but trust me when I tell you that this is the best way to achieve that perfection you are striving for. Think of it like a good work out. You always warm up before getting into the hard stuff and then cool down before calling it quits. If you just went to the gym, tried to lift something too heavy a few times, got upset with yourself and quit you’d probably just be sore the next day and not go back.

We need to set ourselves and our dogs up for success. Warm up with easy stuff and get them engaged then ease into the “work” portion which could be adding challenges to known behaviors or teaching something brand new. If you have success with the new behavior or challenge then great! You can end the training there, give lots of love and throw the ball or just let your dog run around and pee on stuff or whatever. Good job! If, on the other hand, the challenge is not going so well or your dog “just isn’t getting it”, take a breather and then go back to something easy. 

Clearly, if you are not seeing improvements over a reasonable amount of time something is wrong and you may need to rethink your approach or get some professional help. If you're already in an obedience class don’t be afraid to ask questions. It is easy to get lost in the crowd so make yourself known and get your money’s worth. I can’t speak for all trainers but I love questions. It shows that you care plus it keeps me on my toes. However, it can be difficult to answer every question in a group setting, so I also appreciate people who show up early or stay after class when they need some extra help. 

If you hit a wall and are trying to rethink HOW to train your dog you may also reconsider WHAT to train this particular dog. As mentioned at the top of the article we all have different talents. Working with the dog's strength as much as possible will make for much smoother sailing. Maybe Fido just isn’t meant to be a frisbee dog. Perhaps he was born to be a therapy dog. We tend to get caught up trying to strengthen our weaknesses but, in many cases, we would better serve ourselves, our dogs and the world by developing our true talent, our gift, our purpose…our calling if you will. This is also true of our dogs. Unless what you are working on is vital (like coming when called or not chasing cars) I believe the round peg belongs in the round hole. Find Fido’s calling and go with it. This is how stars are born.  

Regardless of what or how to train dogs, the main concept is that it all doesn’t have to happen today.  The idea is to end training sessions on a high note so both you and your dog will want to do it again tomorrow.

Chad Culp–Certified Dog Trainer, Behavior Consultant, Certified Holistic Chef for Animals

Copyright 2005-2013 Chad Culp, Thriving Canine. All rights reserved.