Which issues when resolved will make the biggest difference to your life. Which changes will be most beneficial to your dog?
I've been thinking a lot about the dog training industry sets itself up to help people and asking my favourite question 'can I do a better job to help you, the client, get the most effective solution for your dog, your time and your budget'?
It is very tempting to grab your attention and money by promising a one session, quick fix, and I can appreciate the attraction of a thirty-minute T.V. programme, but these rarely tell you the full story about what is involved.
From experience dog behaviour change solutions can happen in one session but this tends to be the exception rather than the rule. Even one block of lessons, or one intensive course is unlikely to provide you with all the information and skills you will require.
Over the past 20 years I've refined my own helping process and have four principal goals.
Goal one: To help owners understand why their dog is behaving in this way, what is fuelling the problem emotionally and physically.
Goal two: To look for opportunities to improve the situation as quickly as possible.
Goal three: To introduce new strategies from my experiences of living and working with 100's of dogs.
Goal four: To provide you with resources to help you develop your skills for managing and training your dog.
At the end of this process I want owners to feel better able to manage and help their dog on a day-to-day basis when I am not there.
To accomplish the above I need to look at several areas of your dog's life - their diet, health, breed type and breed typical activities, how they play, social and emotional learning, cognitive learning (training). I need to take time to listen to you, hear about your experiences so far, understand how you want to live with your dog, consider your goals and ambitions.
All of these time for assessment. During assessment I'm looking out for gaps in knowledge, what information do you need that I can give you from my experience. I may need to challenge mis-information or cultural bias such as 'Border Collies need to always be on the go'. I have to design programmes that are realistic for the amount of time you have, whilst factoring in your previous experience of teaching dogs.
Next I need time with you to decide which issues you would like to work on and in which order. Which issues when resolved will make the biggest difference to your life. Which changes will be most beneficial to your dog.
With all this in place we can begin the practical work, begin learning and implementing the new strategies. This is the stage where we begin to experiment, gather evidence and carry on learning. This is the point where we discover the strategies that are going to help, where we find out which activities work best for your lifestyle and which exercises you and your dog enjoy the most.
At this stage you and I are working together regularly to help your dog. We have set a schedule that works for both of us. You'll be sending regular feedback in the form of email or video, whilst I'll be double checking the programme is still effective and sending you more resources to help your progress.
Helping in this way is so much more than 'a session'. When it works well this is a collaborative process, where we work together to help your dog.
Clients are successful when they participate fully in the process, practicing 'out there' in the dog's day to day world and providing regular feedback. This regular feedback is essential because we cannot sit down and have a conversation with the dogs, rather the dog's behaviour provides the evidence for the efficacy of the programme. When a programme is right for a dog and their person changes happen quickly, but if things aren't improving then it is the programme that needs altering, not you or your dog.
If you are looking for help for your dog, I hope this article gives you a realistic picture of the amount of time and commitment you may need, and why it make take more than one session.
Drop me a line if I can help in any way or you have more questions.
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