Dog training sometimes feels like such a vast subject with endless variation when each person is different, each dog is different, and their relationships also vary wildly. It's easy to feel lost and as if all you want is for somebody to tell you the right thing to do. A set of one size fits all instructions that you – and everybody else can go through to achieve the same aim can feel like it would be a good thing to have.
No matter what you are trying to learn – from driving to uploading videos to YouTube to how to teach your dog something new – you will be able to find people who will teach each person the same thing in exactly the same way. Often the method is good and many people do learn from it. However, that sort of teaching cannot account for individual needs, variations in how people learn or variations in how dogs learn.
I encourage everybody I come across to resist the temptation of looking for that sort of answer. Dogs, people, and their relationships with each other are too complicated for simple step by step instructions to work well in many cases.
Far better, in my opinion, to go into planning to work on something with a dog with a flexible plan. The plan may be to follow a video seen online or to visit a local dog trainer or to work on something read in a book. I would see that as an initial plan, and if it isn't working as expected or if getting started throws up an unexpected result, then it could be tweaked. If you've been seeing a local trainer, they may be able to help you make changes to what you're doing. If they can't, another dog trainer might have new insight. Or you may be able to find a new video to watch, course to do or book to read.
COVID-19 has been and continues to be a terrible thing that is causing so much suffering. One of the things it has done is to force a change in the way we all relate to each other. So many great dog trainers are now offering online teaching. Now, more than ever, it is easier to find a range of people to learn from.
My only rule when replanning is that I stay away from anything that may hurt or frighten my dogs. Other than that, I remain always willing to find something new to try or somebody new to talk to about whatever it is I'm working on - and I remain confident that there always will be something new. The world of positive dog training is so vast that it would take me several lifetimes to explore all of it. That confidence that there will always be something new to try or a new angle to work on is key.
The way I look at it, we can all have that confidence. There will always be something new you could do - because the field of positive dog training is so vast. This isn't just the case with dogs. I worked for 22 years in a job where I manipulated a virtual world - one that was bound by sets of rigid rules. Every statement made to a computer must be true or false, and each must follow the rules of formal logic. This is a place where a single right answer should be possible - and even there, more than one correct answer always existed.
If the same piece of work had been given to me and four of my experienced colleagues, we would all have gone off and come back with different answers to the problem and varied plans to get to where we needed to be. More than that, all of them would need to be changed along the way - and all of them would work in the end. My colleagues were fantastic at their jobs, and each of them would have written code that works.
Thanks for reading, bye for now.
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Tracey is the author of Canine aggression: Rehabilitating an aggressive dog with kindess and compassion and founder of Best Dog Learning and Stuff Ltd. She has an honours degree in Canine behaviour and training, is a Tellington TTouch practitioner, and is an ACE Advanced Tutor.