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#4 – Stop the insanity!

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 #4:

You keep using the same methods even though they are not working, believing that somehow, one day, your dog will magically “get it.” For example:
• Every time your dog pulls on leash, you yank or call him back, make him sit, give him a treat or praise, then start walking again—and he goes right back to pulling. 
• Every time your dog jumps up, you say “Off” and push him down, and yet he still keeps jumping.
• You base all your training on the assumption that everything dogs do relates to pack and/or dominance, yet when you try to dominate your dog, it doesn’t fix the behavior.


If you are familiar with Einstein’s definition of insanity*, you know where I’m going with this. Your dog is only acting on the information you are giving him. So, to change what your dog is doing, you have to change what you are doing.


There are sooo many ways you can deal with this trap. Here are a few:

Change what you do: Experiment with changing one thing in your method and see how your dog responds (e.g., use a totally different tone, laugh when you would usually yell, walk your dog away from a reactive situation instead of trying to deal with it right there). Dogs’ behaviors come from trigger sequences; messing with the sequence can tone down or prevent the behavior.
Change when you do: Start thinking of doing something before your dog displays the “bad” behavior so he doesn’t practice it. So, rather than set off on your walk hoping today he won’t pull, stick a treat on his nose and lure him forward with it. Voila! — he follows the treat instead of running off.
Update your knowledge base: Science and research have disproved or brought into serious question most of the dominance/pack/alpha thinking. Many longtime dog parent/owner/guardians (POGs) and some first-time POGs (and, unfortunately, some dog professionals!) are not aware this is no longer gospel. But there are lots of resources out there to get you up to speed! To start, see Recommended Reading under the Resources tab on my Web site.
Stop the insanity! Start changing today.
Christy Paxton is the owner of Hand in Paw: Rewards-based Training for You and Your Dog and Cat, based in Brook Park.
*You do the same thing over and over again and expect a different result.

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