If you talk to dog trainers, they will all give you their keys to dog training success. They will tout great pearls like being the alpha dog, or consistent rewards, or good relationship. These are all good and should be given consideration.
For the rest of us...those of us who actually have a job and kids and would like to have the time to watch an episode of CSI once in a while, here is my key to dog training success: lower your expectations. Strive for mediocrity! Embrace substandard behavior!
I read something at gundogforum.com recently. A poster described what he wanted from his dog, and asked for the best sources to teach all these behaviors. One answer, I thought was spot on:
Know what you want. Train for this absolute best. Then, after you've been at it for a while, lower your standards. You will always hit about 80-90% of what you strive for, so make sure you strive big, but be prepared to settle.
A good friend once said to me a corollary idea to the above:
You will successfully train that which is important. That which is not so important will not get trained.
Here is a challenge: Find someone with a dog that you think is perfect. We all have seen them, we've seen dogs that are just amazing in the house or in the field. Ask the owner what he or she would like to see different. The owner will most definitely list something.
I asked this question of Larry. Larry's older dog competed in the Brittany National Field Trial. The dog came in 3rd one year. The following year, the dog came in 2nd. If ever there was a dog of a lifetime, this dog was it. Larry's answer to the above question was this:
I'd really like the dog to stand still until sent to retrieve when we are out hunting. She will only do it in a field trial situation. She knows the difference between real hunting and field trials. Ah, but it really isn't important. She doesn't owe me anything.
Even the owner of the second best field Brittany would like to see some behavior changed.
Periodically, I am asked how to train a certain behavior or to train away a certain undesirable behavior. I am happy to answer these types of questions. However, I also realize that nearly none of my advice will be followed. This is because the effort involved is greater than the inconvenience. I get this. I have lived it.
When I got my first dog, I wanted the dog to sleep in the basement. That first night, the dog whined. All. Night. Long. I got no sleep, but the dog got his sleep when I left for work. The second night, I gave the dog a mild tranquilizer. The dog whined even though he wobbled when he walked. He slept it off when I was at work. Day three: dog slept in the spare bedroom. He slept like a rock...so did I. He won that battle because he didn't have to go to work. He had nothing to lose...I did. I lost because I was not willing to pay the price in training this behavior.
As you make your plans and your dreams for training your dog this summer, regardless of whether this is a field dog or a companion dog, there are two things that you need:
- A plan. Plan big, dream big, and determine how you will get the desired behavior.
- A willingness to settle for less.
One last piece of advice...don't tell anyone your big plans...your "friends" will never stop teasing you for your unrealistic goals. Again, I have lived it.
How have you settled for less from your dog. Post a comment. Or at least give me a "like". Sheesh.
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