Dog Training: Why It’s About Teaching, Not Winning

When training your dog, you cannot prevent him from experiencing some stress.  Learning is stressful.  But you can keep it at a level where he can learn. And have fun, too.

You must recognize the signs of stress and when you should end the training. When your pet reaches the point where he is no longer able to learn, all of his actions will be the result of random, redirected, or displacement behaviors and will not be committed to memory. Even though he may respond to a command, his feeling of anxiety will be such that he will not retain what you are trying to teach him.

Of course there will be moments when your dog just does not get the message. It can happen at any time, especially when you are working with distractions. It seems like nothing you do works and you feel that you are not making any progress.

What do you do in this situation? You may think that if you stop, then your dog will think that he has won and will never work with you. This kind of thinking assumes that you and your dog are adversaries in some kind of a contest. If you approach dog training with this kind of attitude, you are doomed to failure; at best, you will have an unrewarding relationship with your pet.

Training is about teaching, not winning. You can walk away from a training session at any time, whether or not you think you have been successful. When you see that no further learning is taking place, end the session. If you do not and insist on forcing the issue, you will undermine your pet’s trust in you and the relationship you are trying to build.

Let your dog rest for at least thirty minutes and then try again. You will find that all of a sudden the light bulb seems to have gone on and your dog is more willing to learn. By having taken a break at that point, you are giving your dog the opportunity to get the point through time.

You must stop the training as soon as you find yourself becoming irritable or when your dog starts to show signs of severe stress.