Dog Training – Practice makes Permanent

March 23, 2022

Yes thats right – permanent, not perfect! The more we do something, the better we get at it. The more something is practiced, it then becomes second nature – we almost do it without thinking. It is the same for your dog.

Think about if you are travelling somewhere in your car, somewhere you go on a very regular basis. Chances are, you don’t even really need to think much. You almost go on auto-pilot because you have done that journey so many times. As you are driving you are able to think about what to have for dinner, sing to a song on the radio, chat to your passenger. But imagine that route that you take on a regular, if not daily basis, is blocked. You cannot take it. You then have to find an alternative route – one you aren’t familiar with. That takes more concentration and effort. You probably wont be able to think about what you will have for dinner, you may have to turn the radio off so that you minimise the distraction, and you will probably not be as chatty to your passenger.

Now lets fast forward a few weeks or months. You have been using this alternative route regularly, but now you original route is clear. The chances are, because you have now become super comfortable using the replacement route, it takes no more time to complete your journey, and you can now drive this route automatically almost, chances are you will keep using this replacement route even though the original route is now clear. It is the same with your dog. If they are regularly practicing running over to say hello to other dogs on sight, they are going to get self rewarded as not only will they get a rush of adrenaline when they run over, but often they will get the holy grail of a play with the other dog!  These factors will all increase the likelyhood of your dog performing this behaviour again. So the first thing we need to do is manage the environment so they cannot practice that behaviour, while also working on changing their emotional response and teaching hem an alternative behaviour to replace the running over with.

I hope I don’t need to point out also, that we should never allow our dogs to run over to other dogs on  a walk without first checking with the owner that they are happy with this – and we should never allow our dogs to run over to dog on a lead. Dogs will be on a lead for a reason – they may be old, arthritic  or be recovering from surgery, they may run of after wildlife, they may be fearful of other dogs and will use aggression to keep other dogs away, and the owner is working on behaviour modification with their dog. Either way, if a dog is on lead, to keep that dog and your dog safe, please keep your dog away.

Now changing ANY behaviour takes time. One of the most common problems people have with young and adolescent dogs is them running over to other dogs. If your dog is super friendly and loves nothing more than giving their autograph to every dog they meet, then it is going to take time, practice and LOTS of rewards to teach your super friendly dog that actually, when they see another dog, its going to be far more beneficial to them to check in with you or recall back to you. Us humans struggle with managing our expectations sometimes. Working on things for a couple of weeks will set foundations, but will absolutely not end up with a permanent behaviour…..and this is NORMAL! So please do not give up if you don’t see massive improvements in that short space of time – look for the small improvements, and with time, patience and consistency you will reach the larger improvements! Think months not weeks!

So remember – if you want a behaviour to become permanent, any behaviour – practice, practice, practice!!

 

By Angela Doyle

I am a highly experienced and qualified reward based dog trainer and behaviour consultant based in Surrey, UK. I am a fully qualified CSAT (Certified Separation Anxiety Trainer) and specialise in helping dogs overcome Separation Anxiety.

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