There’s a lot of great moments that dog owners experience during training lessons, group classes, at home training sessions, even videos of their dogs doing great things while they’re with a trainer. That’s not what we’re working for as trainers. We’re working on the “in between.”
We’re working on building habits. Painting a picture for your dog that they will recognize and be able to navigate through on their own without direction from you or any one else. The “in between” is when your dog goes up to say hi to someone, thinks for a second, and sits on his own before jumping. It’s when you sit down for dinner and you see your dog lying on her place watching you from afar instead under the table. The best trained dogs are the ones who have so many ingrained habits that they navigate through most of their day without guidance, which is very enjoyable for dog owners.
That’s why we work so many repetitions in so many different scenarios and pictures. The other key component to this is that the things we are building upon for habits need to be black and white. We set our expectations at a certain level and follow through. I set my expectations to be things like “the first time I say sit is when I’m expecting you to sit,” or “it’s never ok to jump on our guests, I’m expecting you to, at the very least, keep all 4 on the ground.” That’s a huge part of clear communication between you and your dog, and clear communication is the foundation of quality dog training.
Obviously, for this to work, you need to have balanced communication and training. I need to let you know when you do something right and when you do something wrong. There needs to be an “I want to” attitude and an “I have to” sense of urgency for any of this to be reliable. That’s the way we train all of the dogs that we work with and how we help the clients that use our services.
So as monotonous as it seems to do a lot of repetitions of the same thing every where you go, and as annoying it is to get up 20 times during dinner to fix the “place” command, remember that you’re training for the “in between.” Be patient, it’ll be worth it.