If you have ever worked with a talented professional dog trainer, there is a good chance he or she probably demonstrated a technique to you and made it look easy. The trainer then explained the intricacies of what you should do to duplicate the techniques, handed the leash over to you, and your dog didn’t do anything that you wanted! Sound familiar? What does a skilled professional dog trainer do to make this “magic” occur? Is it magic? Is there something that the dog trainer has that you just will never have? Should you give up right now?
Most of my clients talk about the challenges of their schedules and sometimes apologize to me for not training their dogs as much as they would have liked since our last appointment. I don't think my job is to make my clients feel bad for not training their dog. I am positive that if most people had the choice of going to their jobs or staying home all day and training their dog or running him in the park they would choose the dog activities every time.
Hand signals are one of the ways to communicate with a dog. If you are not using them, you are limiting your ability to communicate, limiting the behaviors that you can teach as well as missing out on one of the most enjoyable aspects of working with a dog. I equate using only verbal communication with dogs to only speaking to people and never learning how to read or write.
On his website, Cesar Millan stated the following:
“I don’t know what dogs dream, but they are definitely doing something really fun. Most of the time, their legs are moving, and they’re barking. In all my years working with dogs – at one point, I had 65 dogs sleeping with me – I’ve never seen a dog panicking in the middle of his sleep. They just don’t have nightmares like we do. You have to envy that!”
One of my jobs as a professional dog trainer is to quickly troubleshoot a situation to solve a problem and save my clients training time. I feel incredibly lucky to train dogs for a living because I have had the pleasure of meeting and working with thousands of dogs over the years.
There are a few preventative measures you can do with your dog to lessen the likelihood of problems later on. Unfortunately, even if you have the best intentions and do all the exercises properly, there are no guarantees of eliminating the problem later on. Regular maintenance is also a good idea.
Retrieve and Frisbee are two great training exercises to work on with your dog. As always, focus on keeping your dog engaged and interested in each session instead of getting stressed out about finishing the final behavior in one session. Have fun with it and ask questions in my Forums if you need more help.