Have you ever moved house and found yourself opening the (new) kitchen cupboard only to remember the plates (or whatever you’re looking for) don’t ‘live’ there? Frustrating right? And how long did it take you to master going to the new plate drawer? – Be honest now! It took me 3 weeks … and I still made mistakes. So, here’s the thing: When you’re teaching your dog a new behaviour, remember that Fido is probably facing the same mental dislocation you did learning a new behaviour. The real secret to dog training is understanding that ….
New behaviours take time to become ‘habit’
And how much time it takes for that behaviour to become ‘habit’ depends on a number of factors. Imagine you have a 1yr old dog whose default is to jump up to ‘greet’ people. The dog has been practising – and perfecting! – this behaviour for 12 months. The dog trainer arrives and shows you how to teach the dog a new greeting protocol – great. But is that enough to make it the dog’s new default behaviour? Nope!
The key ingredients are practise and consistency
- Your dog will need lots – and I mean LOTS – of practise to embed any new behaviour.
- You’ll also need to be consistent with your training; allowing jumping up sometimes but not others just creates a confused dog.
- You’ll have to give Fido the chance to practise in many different contexts – at home, in the park, on walks, in the pub – so Fido understands that the new behaviour is required in ALL those situations.
If your dog gets it ‘wrong’, its unlikely he’s being ‘stubborn’, its usually that he needs more practice to get it right. And even more practise to get it right every time … and in every situation. So when your next visitor arrives and your dog jumps all over them, consider whether your dog is really being ‘naughty’ or whether it’s time for a bit more training. The old adage ‘practise makes perfect’ is a good one. Sometimes perhaps we expect more from our dog’s than we can manage ourselves!