When you’re working on a complex training project, such as cooperative care, leash reactivity, or off-leash reliability, you may encounter roadblocks. It might feel like you’re going nowhere or going around in circles. It can be frustrating to see others making huge leaps in their training…this is like FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) for dog trainers. When that happens, try taking a break from training, at least from that specific project. A day (or a week, or a month) off can change everything!
If you still don’t see improvement when you start back up again, consider these:
–Is my dog distracted/tired/bored?
–Is my timing off?
–Am I even rewarding the right thing???
–Is my reward actually rewarding?
–Is this environment too much for my dog?
–Have I broken this task into small enough pieces?
–Is my dog physically up to this task? Is he strong/agile enough?
How I troubleshoot training issues:
- Take a LONGER break. Work on something else!
- Set up a phone or GoPro to film while I train. Video is always honest and may show you something you can’t see.
- Go back to an easier stage of training.
- Increase the volume and/or the value of rewards.
- Work in shorter sessions.
- Work in a quieter/calmer area.
- Evaluate your expectations. Is my dog ready for this?
- Phone a friend! Get a fresh perspective from someone who doesn’t see your dog every day.
When you do start to make progress, keep it slow! Only increase the difficulty when your training sessions feel easy. Rushing things often ends up slowing things down. Progress is progress. Pay attention to every step in the right direction, and be positive with yourself as well as your dog. Look back to where you and your dog were a year ago, or even two, three, or four years ago. Think about how much you’ve both learned, and what you’ve accomplished. Remove any pressures or deadlines you’ve placed on yourself–while goals can be helpful, stress isn’t. Keep calm, reward your dog, and take a break.