There is no doubt in my mind that the person in question loves their dog to bits and pieces.
Their husband is quite devoted, as well. ‘She’s a great dog. A fantastic dog,’ he’s said over and over.
But there’s one small problem..
The husband/ or wife is in charge, and under no circumstances will they allow a trainer into the home to instruct their family in what to do. Because that’s their territory. And no one – no one can tell this particular person that the approach they’re using might not work for their dog. And according to the partner – the puppy just doesn’t get it. “Our other dog who passed away a while ago was older, and calmer. I think we might have been used to that for so many years, that we weren’t sure what we were getting into when we got this little one.”
I can imagine pretty well the inside of a puppy’s mind…. it’s fairly simple: They want to know what’s going on, and what they should do.
Where do I go when they say this? Hmm… maybe they want me to go in here?
What do I do to signal I have to pee? Uh-oh. I guess looking at them and barking didn’t work….. Ooops.
What do I do when they say this loudly? Okay… now they’re saying it even louder.
I’d better do something…. they seem to want something. Hm. Maybe they want me to get on this rug over here? They walked over to it and stood on it and made loud noises. I’ll bet that’s what they mean! Yeah! I’ll walk over to them right now…..
Okay. That’s not what they wanted at all. Huh. I wonder what they want me to do… they’re getting louder again.
Poor pup. She is loved, and has run of a large house with a family and the best part? Toys and treats and a warm bed at night and affection and if only… if only the instructions were clearer. Then everything would be perfect. And much calmer.
Here are some things you can do when your partner isn’t on-board with training:
1. Express to your partner your firm belief that there are different learning styles for everyone, and your dog is no different – that the type of instruction needed is different than the way you’re used to doing it. This gives them the sense that they aren’t wrong… you’re both just missing the mark and need some help. There is nothing wrong with needing to learn a new technique to accomplish something!
2. Go ahead with training anyway. Get yourself and your pup out to see the trainer, and take some lessons in the basics. Once you and your pup have a common language, when your partner gives confusing commands and your pup doesn’t know what to do, they’ll get what instruction they need from you. Will this frustrate your partner? Probably. But they’ll also come around once they see how calm things are when they tag along on your walks, and how much easier it is for you to communicate with your dog. And either they’ll come around, or they’ll give themselves a reason why your pup listens to you rather then them.
3. If you can’t afford a trainer, read the training blogs – I have several listed here in addition to mine. And remember – if you have a large rescued or elderly dog, I will come and train you for free. But go reading too – Pick a lesson and try it out! And remember – training takes time each day. You are essentially training yourself in another language, so pick one word, and one meaning for that word, and work on it until it works.
Example: Learning the words “grass” and “sidewalk”. “Grass” will simply mean that soft stuff that is not sidewalk. It might be dirt, it might be covered in leaves, but it isn’t the sidewalk material. “Sidewalk” will simply mean that light-colored hard stuff with the lines on it that gets hot in the summer and cold in the winter. When you’re out on your walk together say the word and lead your dog to it. Point at it and say “Sidewalk” whenever you’re on what you define as “sidewalk” material. Then lead them to “Grass”… and then back onto the sidewalk, and then onto the grass. As soon as your dog’s feet hit the sidewalk, say the word in a happy tone of voice. Repeat for Grass, and be happy.
Once you’ve done this for the entire walk, stop in someone’s driveway, where there’s an option for grass or sidewalk, and point, and say “Grass” and indicate with body language that they should go step on the grass. Then, if they don’t get it, lead them to it, and say the word clearly, pointing at the green stuff. By doing this, you can build a common vocabulary, so your dog knows what it means when you ask them to go to bed, or go to the grass. This takes the mystery out of commands… and makes life easier.
One of the first big dogs I worked with, Brutus, didn’t know what outside was or what inside was…or that certain things were okay outside that weren’t okay inside. So when I asked him if he needed to go pee outside – he had no idea what I was asking. Once I started saying “Good boy! Pee Outside!” over and over whenever we were on our walks, he suddenly figured it out.
And then there was never a doubt in his Newfoundland mind that I was a GIGANTIC sucker who would ask everyday if he wanted to go outside and pee every afternoon I got home from school.
Silly girl! Of course he did!
But then again – when he would get up in the night and go “Bwoof!” in a low voice at the front door – I had a question he could answer in the affirmative or in the negative – and whenever he went “Bwoof! in the middle of the night but didn’t need to go outside? I knew to go and get Mom because that meant something Suspicious was outside of the house.
Common language is important, and the right trainer who can work with you and your family – or should the case be just you and your pup – can show you how to begin building a language that works. Don’t let anyone stand in the way of you building the right kind of language with your canine friends – it will make the world an easier place to navigate and bring you years of joy.
For example…. Want to go swimming? Hiking? Like to go fishing? Throw a ball in the back yard? A few key words can make these activities a lot of fun for both of you.