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#7 – If you think you can, you CAN!

By Christy Paxton DogLife Skills Instructor, Kindness Specialist

This is a continuation of my series “The Top 10 Training Traps and How to Avoid Them.”

TRAP #7:

You expect failure, and so you get failure: “My dog will never be able to….”; “He’s going to react when…”


If you set your dog up for success, he will succeed most of the time. By predicting/expecting failure, you are ensuring failure.

Ever heard of a self-fulfilling prophesy? How about the power of positive thinking? Should I mention at this point I was a Psych minor in college?

This never ceases to amuse me: I start working with a dog and she does NOT display the behavior I’m supposed to fix. The client is clearly disappointed: “She never acts like this. Usually by now she’s ___________. Do you want me to see if I can get her to ________?”

I gently remind them that, after 10-plus years in the biz, I have seen quite enough of that behavior and don’t really need to see it again, thank you very much. I point out that this is the way they would like their dog to act, so they should be happy to see her behave this way. And, oh by the way, they may want to tell her that they like the way she’s acting, so she may be inclined to, you know, keep acting that way without a trainer around.


Keep trying! I have worked with dogs as old as 21 years. If they have a working brain in there, you can impact their behavior!

I have said the only part of my life in which I exhibit patience is working with dogs. But I now am realizing it’s not so much patience as perseverance, which comes from knowing where the dog can go, knowing what she CAN do, and knowing how to get her there.

How to do it:

• Adopt a “can-do” spirit. Not to go all Wayne Dyer on you, but thinking that something is possible can help make it possible. If you smile, you feel better, right? When you show confidence, your dog will notice and respond.

• Instead of thinking, “What do I do when she (fill in “bad” behavior)?” think “What can I do that will prevent her from (fill in “bad” behavior)?” That will help you come up with lots of acceptable behaviors to teach her that will get her the rewards she craves.

You can do it!

For more on how to fix problem behaviors, see my DogLife Skills Guide Problem Solving Formula! For ANY behavior problem. [click here to order from Christy]


Christy Paxton is the owner of Hand in Paw: Rewards-based Training for You and Your Dog and Cat, based in Brook Park.


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