This is something that I constantly remind myself of in many areas of my life. Many things seem out of hand, overwhelming, too big of a hurdle to climb. How can I do it all? Start a business, keep my house clean, be a director of a dog rescue, maintain relationships, train the dogs in my care...The list goes on and on.
One paw at a time.
This translates when training your dog as well. Life may have gotten busy, you intended to take that dog to puppy class, but now he is seven months old and a jumper, a puller and an underwear thief! You are lost at what to do. It is not too late, and he is not a bad dog. Not unlike a child, a dog needs to be taught how to act in our society. They are not born knowing our rules and expectations. It is our job to teach them and set them up for success in our lives. Take a breath, and a step forward. Connect with a trainer. (Now this is a whole other discussion, but for the sake of staying on topic I will recommend that you look-up a modern, science-based trainer.) A trainer will give you insight, a plan to proceed and the skills needed to work with your dog and achieve the desired behaviours and relationship.
The plan is paw number two hitting the ground. You are in motion! I have started to implement written plans for my foster dogs like I would for a client. Why? Well if the plan is not in front of me I get lost in my routine. My current foster dog Maizey is walked separately from my dogs as we are working through her leash reactivity and fear of dogs. While we had made a ton of progress in this department and practiced daily, we had lacked on some of the basics like "lie-down", or "stay." I also asked myself what skills will assist her in her new home when it is time? Well she needs another activity to mentally stimulate her and burn off some energy if her new family is not up to walking her everyday, or if she needs a break from seeing other dogs. So we are doing a lot of scent work. This translates into so many solutions for Maizey. She learns to use her nose, which she does need practice with in meeting other dogs. It is a confidence building exercise for this under-confident gal. It is also great physical and mental exercise and gives her an alternative exercise when she just needs a break from the world.
You now have connected with a trainer, have an action plan and the know-how to follow through with it, now you just need the time. Some of the things that are in the recommended plan will be practiced throughout the day. For example, if you are working on not darting out the front door when it opens, you will be practicing this all of the time, with any door. But to learn new skills like stay, or kennel training, set yourself a 10-15 minute time frame once or twice a day. By dedicating a few minutes each day to practice what you learned with the trainer, you will see huge improvements in your dog's obedience, skills and in your relationship.
One paw at a time, and just a few minutes. So take that first step, connect with a force-free trainer that will help you implement a plan to get those juices flowing and paws moving.
Originally written by Tara Craigen, Dogsession Behaviour & Training 2017
Tara is also the Founder of Rosier Days Dog Rescue Society