Learning happens all the time. Your body and brain learn every moment you are alive. Every experience modifies us. The same is true of your dog. Learning is much more than Sit, Down, Come and Heel. Your dog’s entire body is learning all the time. Your dog is affected by its sleep, exercise, nutrition, levels of stress, environment, past learning and experiences, lessons, interactions with other animals and people, weather, and so on.
We try to control as many of these variables as we can, however we can’t control everything. For example, let’s say you are training your dog to Come. But a storm is going on outside, and a loud thunderclap happens the same time you call, Come. Your dog might be terrified of the experience, and instead might run away, and the next time you try it, your dog is now afraid of Coming. Or let’s say your dog has been highly stressed as a result of being afraid of being in the car, you enter the veterinarian’s office with your dog, your dog is still upset, and your dog becomes afraid of being at the veterinarian’s office. Even as your dog sleeps, some form of learning is taking place.
Or let’s take a simpler example. You let your puppy grow up in your home, but without any training. Your dog is now 7 months old and getting out of control. Your dog persistently and intensely jumps on anyone nearby, steals things off the countertops, chews on furniture, bucks like a bronco on a leash, barks incessantly, won’t listen to anything you say, and snaps at your hands when you try to pet your dog. You unintentionally trained your dog to be this way through neglect. You dog learned all of this, but the “trainer” was no trainer at all. What you see is what you allowed to develop in your dog’s memory.
Training happens. A thoughtful approach to your dog’s life, experiences, and training will make all the difference. Ignoring, or being ignorant of, what your dog is learning turns a dog into a dog with behavioral issues.
I look at dog training from a holistic viewpoint. It isn’t just about this leash, or that command, or that program. It is about the entire dog, the entire life. I look at as much as I can, not just putting your dog through a fixed program of lessons. That’s one of the secrets of my success.