After reading on the social media about magic trainers that assure you will have ALL your problems solved in one session and with just one cue and you will make your dog do whatever you want, I needed to explain to you why, it is simply not possible.
If you want your dog to sit, yes that’s possible. You teach them to sit and they will sit, everywhere, in every situation, if you know how to teach them.
When we are dealing with behaviour problems or even with more complex behaviours like a recall or lead walking, or even worst barking at other dogs, unfortunately there is no quick fix.
Unless you use aversive methods and train the “wrong” behaviour out of them with a “nice” BUZZZ of an electric collar; and it’s not guaranteed it will even work with every dog.
If you meet a trainer that tells you, he/she can fix barking at other dogs, recall or pulling on the lead in one session, run away.
That is impossible.
If you believe it possible you still haven’t understood the complexity of your dog brain and you are underestimating their intelligence and their cognitive being.
This is a strange word isn’t it? Cognitive being, what does it mean? It means that your dog is able to think, process information and learn, feel emotions. It not that dissimilar to a human although they don’t process information in their brain in the same way.
The dog brain is complex as it’s very instinctive. It’s different from ours as we stop and think: Is that appropriate? Does it have a consequence? Am I going to be happy after I behave like that?
Dogs don’t process those thoughts but we can teach them to learn to pair situations with outcomes! This is what reinforcing a behaviour means. They learn that doing a certain thing has an outcome, positive or negative.
What is important to remember though is that they are not machines, they have emotions so every outcome is always linked to an emotion and that emotion is what will determine if the behaviour is learned, is going to become solid and strong or if they will start avoiding it as it’s painful, produces fear and discomfort.
We are not the only ones that can offer an outcome when we are training our dogs. The environment or the so called distractions are always offering an alternative: chasing something, go and play with a dog, finding food in a bin, jumping up on a person that will start screaming and pushing me away… in your dog brain these are all reinforcements! they are positive ones as they bring joy, adrenaline, attention.
As humans we are driven by emotions, we fear, we love, we like, we dislike… how much time does it take to you fall in love? Sometimes it takes months. How much does it take you to stop being afraid of something? Months? Years? Eternity? NEVER?
Now think this, your dog Fido loves other dogs. He sees a dog and want to go play! When other dogs are around his eyes are heart shaped and nothing not even food will make him turn around. You are not important. You are just a voice in the background. Now tell me, how can you change that in ONE SESSION? We are talking about unconditional love for other dogs!
What does it take to change that emotion so that your dog will start loving you more, to the point that you can be confident around other dogs that Fido will come back.
TRAINING! Constancy. Commitment. Knowledge. Technique. TIME! It takes time to change an emotion.
The only emotion you can install quickly is fear. A bad event, a powerful negative response can make your dog fearful of something in one session but changing love and loyalty takes time and trust.
Do you start understanding where I’m getting to?
Now lets talk about dogs that bark at other dogs.
I deal with this behaviour for 80% of my job so when I say I know what I’m talking about I’m pretty sure I know what I’m talking about. I come from a place of knowledge, study, science and experience.
Fear and Frustration are the two main emotions that cause dog’s barking at other dogs. If you are afraid of a spider or a snake… can I tell you to stop being afraid? Will you stop? Will you stop if I shake you? Will you stop if I put a bandage on your eyes and tell you they are not there any more? Will you stop if I pinch your arm so hard that it will hurt?
You will simply dislike me, possibly hate me, telling me I don’t understand and you don’t trust me any more as I lack of empathy and I’m judgemental!
Now tell your dog to stop barking in ONE SESSION.
Your dog is afraid and/or frustrated. Can you still ask your dog to stop barking? Like magic?
If your dog has stopped is because he/she fears your more now, to the point of inhibit the barking to avoid another “punishment” or more uncomfortness.
Your dog has emotions, those emotions needs to be changed, when possible (as mental health is a problem in animals as well, but this is for another blog!) and that takes TIME and skills.
It takes knowing what physiologically happens in your dog brain. How to change strong connections between facts, emotions and outcomes.
If it was that easy we would all have good behaved dogs.