If you are feeling frustrated or overwhelmed at all in your dog training pursuits, pay attention to the time you have when working with your dog, without setting specific training goals. You should look at the amount of time you have to train so you can find “quality” time to train where you can focus 100% of your attention on your dog’s behavior.
Turn off cell phones, give the kids some coloring books and focus on dog training.
Frequently I see frustration with novice trainers when they try and do too much in each session. One example is when someone has a puppy that is a rambunctious puller on the leash and the guardian wants to walk him to a specific location such as an outdoor cafe. The cafe might be 4 blocks away and the puppy pulls them the entire way because he has not learned proper leash walking yet. The puppy’s guardian can then get really frustrated because he knows that he should not allow his puppy to pull, yet he wants to go the cafe to socialize his puppy to new events and to meet his friends.
What should he do?
He should focus on the time that he has and work on much smaller training goals in order to build up his puppy’s skill level so he can eventually walk all the way to the cafe while not pulling.
I always talk about “training goals” vs. “real life goals” to help my clients understand how to realistically set their training expectations. The real life goal in the above example is to walk to the outdoor cafe without the puppy pulling. However, that is going to take many training sessions to reach that goal. So, there needs to be smaller training goals that are practiced in order to reach a long term training goal.
This is where it pays to look at the time you have to train your dog, without getting frustrated if you do not meet your long term “real life goal”. If you have 30 minutes, for instance, and your puppy is a puller, you should stay very close to your home and work on teaching him not to pull even if you only travel 10 feet on either side of your doorway. As his performance improves really close to your home, you can add more distance to your walk and reward your dog with more distance and the joy of new smells and sites. What will happen is that you will focus on your puppy’s individual behaviors and limit distractions and thus improve performance more quickly then if your puppy learns to pull on every walk.
A Sense-ible harness will also help prevent pulling in dogs of all age which will make training more efficient.
If you focus on the time you have to train combined with small successes that your puppy exhibits, you will notice faster gains then if you try and do too much and get frustrated.
There is one catch with the above example, however. I mentioned that part of the reason that the person in the example wanted to go to the cafe was to socialize his puppy. Socialization is EXTREMELY important for young puppies. I am not implying that puppies should not go anywhere until they are perfectly behaved. If you follow that rule, your puppy will not get the appropriate socialization. What I am recommending is that you have to pick your battles and focus on one goal at a time. If you need to socialize your puppy, go socialize him even if training takes a back seat for a bit, but then make sure you are focusing on training other times of the day.