If you don't have a solid foundation for your house, it will collapse in an earthquake; if you don't have a solid foundation in understanding how dogs really tick, your dog in particular, you're going to accept disappointment and possibly the canine equivalent of an earthquake or tsunami.
Other than using that disappointment to rake in profits by writing best sellers like MARLEY AND ME (I could neither finish the book or the movie btw, which is very uncharacteristic of me), I want people to develop increased desire in increasing accountability of their dog's behavior by taking a greater role in the process.
I think the key begins with understanding learning styles. People often know their own learning style or can tell me what their best learning style is when I tell them their choices; if I ask them what their dog's learning style is they look at me with a blank look.
Having worked with thousands of dogs, including my own pack of shifting canines since very very young, I have developed by observation and working the dog, briefly, what the dog's learning style is. And I see that regardless of age, breed, temperament, gender or any other variables, that the learning style in a dog is the learning style in a dog -- it doesn't change.
So here are the three I have discovered:
1. Learns something new very quickly but can't sustain it without lots of reinforcement, i.e., learns sit but gets right back up. (MOST COMMON IN MY EXPERIENCE).
2. Learns beginning and end of a behavior but has trouble with the middle, i.e., can sit and stay but wiggles in a sit position) (LEAST COMMON BUT NOTED FREQUENTLY ENOUGH)
3. Has a heck of a time just taking in the information to learn the very beginning of a behavior but with patience, eventually gets it (MOST CHALLENGING BUT MOST SATISFYING FROM THIS TRAINER'S PERSPECTIVE).
Once you figure out your own dog's learning style and you can commit to a positive approach to training, the unruly adolescent can be tamed into the amazing, intelligent animal you never even knew you had!
Here's a little clip of a brilliant dog, Nina, who because she was misunderstood, initially presented as a monstrously unruly, defiant, and at times, scary dog. Polishing off the rough in a single session revealed the diamond that she really is. Hopefully her people are continuing the journey. Here she demonstrates how she learned a simple command that is complicated to teach (not really, you just have to really understand clicker training and have good timing and patience) but was done in under a minute once she stopped reacting and started thinking:
Can you tell what Nina's learning style is?