Features September 2011 Issue

Has Your Dog Training Program Hit a Wall?

If you feel your training has stalled, consider the following:

Frustrations In Dog Training

If your dog looks or acts as if he may be afraid of you, you need to take a break – and maybe think about finding a trainer (or a new trainer).

Get help – If training on your own, consider enrolling in a class or booking a private lesson for one-on-one attention. You aren’t expected to have all the answers yourself. All dogs are different. Even if you’ve trained previous dogs on your own, a little professional guidance might be just what you need to jumpstart success.

Seek a second opinion – There are lots of ways to train different behaviors. If you feel you’ve hit a wall with one approach, don’t be afraid to look for new ideas from other trainers who follow similar underlying principles (for example, using reward-based training versus punishment). However, it’s important to do your homework and give each new idea adequate time to work before dismissing it and looking for something else. Even with diligent practice, you can expect it to take weeks and months for behavior to change.

Frustrations In Dog Training

Take a moment and take a breath. Your frustration may put your dog on the defensive; that’s the last thing you want.

Know your limits – Consider your dog training philosophy and know where you stand on the use of various forms of compulsion and punishment. While more and more people are using positive reinforcement to initially train behaviors, many well-meaning people still suggest punishment-based techniques for problem solving. It can be easy to be tempted by the seemingly “quick fix,” especially in the heat of the moment when your frustration is running high. A little honest soul-searching away from training can help you hold tight to your beliefs.

Table it – If a specific behavior really has you stumped, step away from it for a while. If needed, manage the dog’s environment to prevent rehearsal of unwanted behavior and concentrate on things that allow you to celebrate success.

Comments (5)

Judy K's suggestions are excellent. I would only add that you can start reinforcing calm behavior even before you get in the car. Each time you see your pup relaxed at home, treat her and say something like "Good calm" or "Good easy". This is capturing the behavior you want with a cue. Then, when you
get in the car take your treats with you. The second the pup calms, give her the positive reinforcement
cue and treat. Consistency, repetition and patience is the name of the game here. Using high-grade treats such as chicken or cheese cubes is great incentive when first starting to train.

Posted by: Kate L | October 28, 2013 3:25 PM    Report this comment

Judy K. Oct 27, 2013
Try this...
Wait until she relaxes (no panting or whining). Don't say anything, move or even look at her. When she is relaxed you may start to get out of the car.
If the barking starts when you stop the car and start to get out, as soon as she starts barking STOP! Don't continue to go through the process of getting out and going to get her. When she is quiet and calm again, start moving through what you normally do. Go slow. Keep repeating every time she starts barking or becomes anxious you stop moving until she stops. Don't teach her that her frantic barking gets you to let her out. Could be sep. anxiety and you may need to start doing other things much differently. Does she show any signs of separation anxiety in other situations?

Posted by: JACQUELINE G | October 27, 2013 8:54 PM    Report this comment

Another thing that we need to do is take a step back and consider WHY we are training. This can help us see another approach to a hurdle we are encountering.

But if our answer to ourselves is "to get a title" we need to stop and think, does this dog WANT a title? Or NEED a title? Would this dog be happier training for a different venue? Or does all this dog want is to be a loved and loving companion?

Posted by: Jenny H | October 27, 2013 8:19 PM    Report this comment

I have the same problem with my puppy (11 months old)
she barks like crazy when it's time to get out of the car.
as soon as i park she starts to get anxious (at home in driveway, in parking lot...doesn't matter...and i do have her buckled in a harness) when i open my car door the high pitched barking starts & continues until i open her door.
Otherwise she is GREAT in the car...very relaxed...until i park.
any suggestions??????????? (i am a trainer & i'm don't know how to fix...i've tried click & treat for silence...open and close door a bunch of times (mock trials) not sure what to do.HELP PLEASE!

Posted by: judy k | October 27, 2013 1:09 PM    Report this comment

Don't see who wrote this article; but it certainly is right on the money. Gidget had started a barking when I get out of the car routine...not that there was anything to bark about, just she thought she was expected to do so...I of course yelled to shush! Translation: Well, if Mom is barking there sure as heck must be something to bark about!" Needless to say the problem grew.
Enter Leslie. Gidget won a certificate for 2-sessions in a raffle. She had a great time with Leslie and I learnt a lot. We are not over the issue, my inconsistent fault, but things are much better. She not only peggerd that problem but helped with a socialization issue. Leslie is a real heaven send. Gidget is 13 now and not in good health; but when a new dog enters my life this school will definitely be on the list of training to-doo's.

Posted by: Ann Mary R | September 13, 2011 12:23 PM    Report this comment

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