Once a dog is trained, is it always trained? Nope.
Dog training is a perishable set of skills, for the dog and the owner. It is not uncommon for a dog and owner to lose their skills and competence over time. It is also not uncommon, as the training erodes, for the owner to become less tolerant and react more to their dogs deteriorating abilities. This becomes a downward spiral, and it isn’t good for the owner and it isn’t good for the dog.
I know this happens with most things in life, you either use them or lose them. For example, I pay a personal trainer for my fitness. I want to be as healthy and fit as I can possibly be, in coordination with my other personal goals and responsibilities. Thus, I have scheduled appointments every week, and am given fitness challenges every workout. These workouts help me stay in shape, forestall future health problems, and to stay motivated. Further, I don’t have to know the latest in terms of physical conditioning, nutrition, training mindset, or what to do each workout. I hire them to assign and supervise me to attain my health goals. None of this comes free, however. When I might schedule lessons, instead I sacrifice that income to maintain my health. All of this isn’t a cost, however, it is an investment in my long term health, happiness and productivity.
Many of my students see the dog training with me in the same manner. They know that if they don’t keep up the training, their dogs will not be as capable over time, and they will forget what they learned. They know they need to set a schedule of training, or it won’t happen, so appointments are booked out into the future. They know that they don’t have to be experts in animal behavior, that is my job. I’m here to help them realize their goals with their dogs, from pet to working dog. They want me to assign and supervise their progress, and they see all of this as an investment. I hear amazing reports, from time to time, when these handlers and dogs need the training, and it comes through for them. The amazing part is first remembering what that dog was like before we started. The other amazing part is when the training saves the life of the dog, or the dog and/ or handler gets an award or recognition for the work they are now doing.
Not all of my students want a long term training program, and that is fine. However, other students are seeking something more, and that is what this article is about.
All training starts with fixing behavioral problems. Those need to be addressed right at the beginning. Not everyone is going to be satisfied with an 8 week group class with a pet store, and for many dogs, the needs are so critical that if those problems aren’t addressed, the owner might have to get rid of their dog, or they would have to accept living with a potentially dangerous dog. I have ongoing lessons with dogs that started out being dangerous to other dogs or people, which are now not that way anymore. Some of these problems are so severe that it takes a serious commitment on the part of the owner to work through them. I’m here to support their efforts.
From there, we also complete the essentials of obedience, what I refer to as Basic Obedience. Once those essentials are in place, we then go onto Intermediate and Advanced training. The more training, the better the dog, and the better the owner is with the dog. For some owners, they also enjoy the training, and like the new challenges I give them each week. This morning, it was a pit bull that started out being aggressive towards dogs and cats. We are well beyond that, and the training has now become a hobby for the owners, the dog is loving it, and this dog keeps making improvements. Tomorrow morning, I’ll start out with another dog with similar aggression problems with other dogs, however we are still in the early stages of the training. We are meeting early in the morning to beat the summer heat. My last lesson tomorrow is a dog that is unsure, almost fearful, of strangers, and is also an ongoing project. The dog didn’t get enough early puppy socialization with people, so we need to work through that problem. Gently. He is a pretty sensitive dog, and it will only go as fast as it will go. They also are a repeat student, I trained 2 other dogs of theirs over the years, they liked the results, and they want this new dog trained as well as their past dogs. Plus they enjoy the work.
I think, to get the most out of your dog, you should make a long term investment in training. If you just take a few classes somewhere, you’ll never really have a trained dog, or you’ll eventually be yelling at your dog because the training has become rusty and you’ve lost your skills, too.
If you want to set up these types of lessons, please contact me.