Train your dog to sit when another dog comes past rather than allowing him to bark and lunge. You try for a few walks but the dog still barks and lunges. Or, you might be taught to offer your dog a treat when you call him back. This works for a while, then he runs off to play with another dog, and you give up in a huff. ‘Treats don’t work’ (yes, they do, but not if you are unskilled), or someone accuses you of ‘bribing’ your dog and suggests you get a shock collar. What nonsense.
Here is an analogy that may help you organise your dog training efforts. Imagine you are learning to drive:
Beginner level is in a dual control car with a trained instructor in a car park or empty road. You learn to operate the pedals, steering wheel, speed and so on without any chance to fail. This is you and your dog on a quiet walk or at home. Lovely for you and your dog and no effort.
‘Improver’, would be same as above but on a busier road. You can drive faster, the controls become a more automatic response, with skills for later on. You finish your driving lesson feeling in control, making progress. Can you still drive the car without crashing? Well, your instructor is there to prevent that. Lessons feel like an enjoyable place to be for you and for your instructor. Dog walks should be like this, every single day.
‘Advanced’ – Learner driver on the A1 at rush hour with slip roads, roundabouts and everyone driving at 70mph or more, with no dual controls. Other drivers beeping their horns and gesticulating at you! Learner driver learns to expect horrible driving experience and most importantly, to feel utterly out of control time and time again, learning nothing useful. This is equivalent to dog owners who have problems with their dog but are not actually teaching the dog at all.
An old style punishment training method at this point would be for your instructor to yell at you and bang the dashboard in an effort to get you to drive properly, even spray you in the face with water… – but you don’t even know how to drive yet!
No training can be a quick fix. If you pick an unregistered instructor, you may be promised magical things when really the answer is to get stuck in, teach gradually and fairly, and be a good, kind and generous boss! A good teacher never lets their dog fail.
If you would like to know more about dog training fairly and with clear expectations, why not get one of Karen’s books?