I have written a post, or many posts, discussing the benefits of calming down for both the dog and the human when training. I expect I will write more on that subject.
This post is similar in that I am suggesting the benefits of reducing something, only this time it is the speed of doing things.
This past weekend we were at a dog show.
We went to work with Ira in the dog show environment and to support some clients who were just starting out in the world of dog shows, specifically conformation.
During the show, one client mentioned that she had to remind herself that her dog was very young (8 months) and had never been in that situation before. She was worried that the dog was not acting how she should in comparison to other dogs at the show on the grooming table and in the ring.
This is very common among people with dogs. And humans in general.
We all want to be successful at what we are doing, and with our dogs we want them to learn fast and stay learned.
Rushing training (anything really) is probably the most unproductive way of accomplishing learning.
When I was working with my first dog in competitive obedience (McCoy), I had been taking him to formal classes, preparing us for the “obedience” ring. I could tell he was not ready. But the instructor told me he was. He was only 16 months old!
What happened was he passed the obedience test with not the worst scores we could get, but I could tell that I rushed him into the ring. It would have been better and more relaxed (and more fun) if I had waited another year and done much more training with him before competing.
I also have a small problem with Ira’s training. Ira is a BIG DOG. Big is often associated with mature. Not so in this case.
Ira wanted to play with every dog he saw at the show. We even got a (kind) warning from the hosting club because someone complained that Ira lunged at her dog. He didn’t lunge to attack, he wanted to play. But it is difficult for people to understand this because of his size.
He’s SEVEN MONTHS OLD for goodness sake. What am I supposed to do, not take him to dog shows? No, that is not the solution to the problem.
The solution is that we humans need to change how we look at and do some things to accommodate for other’s needs.
In this case it was Ira’s. So in my mind, slowing down the training and my expectations is the best option.
It will take MONTHS and months before Ira is ready to trial in obedience. I really want to bypass all the time and effort it will take, but that is impossible.
So the best thing to do is slow myself down and keep in mind that I must continue on step by step. There is no fast road to our destination.
This does not only apply to competitions. It actually applies even more to training your dog at home for basic behaviours that are necessary. The slower you go with the training the better the behaviour will be learned and ingrained. There is no doubt about it.
Taking the time to properly train your dog to do basic behaviour is one of the most useful and rewarding activities you can do with your dog. This will reduce stress for both you and your dog. You have become more patient and relaxed knowing that the training will take time and your dog will not have to be worried about you being stressed and possibly becoming frustrated at your dog.
Another thing that can be slowed down is removal of food rewards for training. I am asked so often “when can I get rid of the food”.
The answer to this is more complex than I’ll discuss here other than don’t be in a hurry to get rid of the food rewards. SLOW DOWN. Dog’s have small brains in comparison to humans. If WE need to be rewarded for our work, then so do dogs when they are sitting nicely and paying attention etc etc. That is their work. Train the dog well in many different situations and then properly reduce the food rewards. But never get rid of them completely.
Slowing down also applies to our own actions as humans with our dogs and in just general. I am being more deliberate with my actions and paying attention to everything I am doing during the day and with the dogs. I get more done even though I actually move slower.
Being mindful about what we do reduces stress overall and helps prevent mistakes. Reducing stress has been proven to improve health and longevity in all living species so slowing down is something worth working on to improve our lives and those of our pets.
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You can also find more training information at our YouTube channel ALL DOGS ARE SMART.