When working with canine behaviour we often get asked how long will it take and how many sessions?
The reality of that answer is we don’t know every dog is unique for various reasons such as genetics, environment, upbringing, life experiences and breed!
It also depends upon how much you are willing to put in. If you expect the Trainer or Behaviourist to come and work with the dog and you do nothing and don't do homework then you won't make progress. This lack of progress and lack of change in behaviour is not that the Trainer or Behaviourist or even the Dog failed. It simply demonstrates you did not invest the time and energy into your Dog.
There are also some learning roadblockers that we need to consider that can slow down the learning process:
STRESS Has the dog had any changes that could be or is causing stress it might be they have recently been adopted or rehomed, we might as owners be asking too much from them, has something happened that is causing pre-existing stress this could be in relation to genetics or negative life experiences or poor socialisation. Have you moved home. Ended or began a new relationship. Have you had a baby? Has the dog been attacked and you've took them out for yet another walk within the 72 hour decompression period?
MOTIVATION We need to evaluate are we asking too much with too little of a reward, would you work for free? No so the same applies to our dogs. It might be we need to explore and create a hierarchy of rewards for our dog find what they love! We also want to create variety when it comes to treats you wouldn’t want the same sandwich every day. Don’t hold back with the rewards – we want it to be re enforcing and for them to know they have done a good job. Lots of people that they don't want to give the dog treats. Why? Would you expect a reward for work. Did your parents reward you for good school reports, homework completion, chores etc. Your dog is no different. If there is no incentive there for an intelligent being why should they work with you to only be corrected, told off, shouted at or worse. Question your motives for not rewarding your dog. Weight isn't an excuse with either human grade food such as chicken which doesn't contain fat or low fat option treats at pet shops.
HEALTH it is vital we consider a dogs health before implementing behaviour modifications as this can be the cause sometimes for the behaviour. We often advise a full vet check to ensure there are no underlying pain, discomfort, injuries, allergy’s. When looking at a dogs health it is also important to look at nutrition and diet – often what food we are feeding or way of feeding can be influencing their behaviour. This isn't a myth or a fob off. Lots of people follow Karen on Facebook or the media. The most expensive product on the shelf ie Pedigree or Bakers is actually the worst food you can give your Dog. Also research the damage of Grain free food. Big money for pet shops and your wallet but research why the FDA only want Vets to give Grain free food via prescription and not a shelf. If you suspect an allergy only Vets can diagnose this by skin tests which is costly but is mostly covered on Insurance this will determine the true allergen for your dog and it might not be grain at all.
ENVIRONMENT when doing training consider your environment is there a lot going on lots of distractions, smells, guests, family members this can make learning harder for our dogs. This is why it is always good to start training somewhere quiet without distractions and building it up to where there is more going on this is proofing the behaviour! Do you have a multidog household? Is another dog likely to cry or distract the other dog. Is there someone who can occupy the other dog whilst your Training and they are waiting their turn and vice versa?
We need to set our dogs up for success not failure. We need to think like a Dog. Would you succeed in the conditions you have created? Would you have succeeded as a child in these conditions? If not then maybe you should consider these points further and adapt for the success and relationship of your Dog!