I recently saw a meme that talked about separation anxiety. The owner dressed up a “lookalike” human dummy and left it with her dog. It kept the dog company. The dog’s behavior improved. He began to relax when the owner was not home.
It’s not hard for me to see why this might work with some dogs. The smell of the clothes to snuggle up against could give the dog comfort and if the dog is feeling more comfortable, anxiety might reduce in that dog. If anxiety reduces and the dog is happier? What more could you want?
I was intrigued by some of the responses I saw. Sort of a pushback against the idea that there could be a quick fix to a complicated problem.
Recently I offered a webinar called “Cutting corners to Loose Leash Walking” and I got pushback on that too! Doesn’t cutting corners mean a quick fix? Doesn’t it mean lower quality?
That’s asking the wrong question. The question we need to ask is about the RELATIVE value of the solution. Effort put in for results turned out.
So back to the dog with separation anxiety….let’s say you put a pile of clothes with the dog or you dress up a pretend dummy and the dog’s behavior improves. What is the effort in? A few minutes. And what if the dog’s behavior improves 50%, 60%, 80% or 95%? That’s an amazing return on investment!
Now let’s say there’s another method that can get your dog to 100%. Unfortunately, to apply it takes 50 hours of training time and a lot of additional expense. Which method is better?
For the vast majority of pet people who need to get on with their lives the quick fix is better. Of course that assume it works! But if you can get to 80% with a few minutes of effort versus 100% with a significant investment in training? Try the quick fix first. Keep the complicated solutions in your back pocket and use when the easy answers fail and you think you can inspire handler compliance.
Heck, even if the quick fix fails 90% of the time? Think how happy that 10% is going to be! It’s worth it as a first line offense.
If you work with the pet dog community, I certainly hope you see the value of the quick fix as your initial “worth a try go to” solution, even if the end result is not as impressive.
Back to my method for loose leash walking. The reports I’m getting back are that it works pretty much instantly for a sizable number of dogs. It’s pragmatic, kind and effective – my three criteria for all “manners” pet dog training. If your dog is going to benefit, then within a few days your dog will be walking much more nicely on a leash without relying on food, frustration levels will be way down for both of you, and odds are pretty good that your reactive dog will behave better to boot – an unexpected side benefit that I plan to thoroughly explore because…we need a pragmatic, kind and effective method for improving the behavior of reactive dogs going out on walks!
What more could you want? The dog is happier. The handler is happier. Everyone goes for walks now because they are…happier! The relationship around the house improves because the dog is getting exercise, and all of a sudden we are closer to our ultimate goal – time enjoying our dog rather than training our dog.
Let’s face it, most people get dogs to enjoy them and not to train them, so our “go to” training solutions should start there. Not working? Okay – bring out the bigger guns and work hard to get handler buy-in.
I’m all about the quick fix. If there is a simple way to get from here to there, it’s pragmatic, kind and effective, and a person gets to 80 or 90%? I’ll start there every time.
And if I’m training for competition? That may be a different matter. If scores or competition are involved, it is perfectly likely that I need 100% to reach my goals, but keep in mind that I am a professional dog trainer who owns dogs not only to love them but specifically to train them. And honestly, a lot of my training for competition also involves cutting corners and it works out just fine. This blog is full of simple solutions that work quickly. Lots of corner cutting!
Pragmatic, kind and effective.
Pet dog training should be about getting the dog and handler happy with each other. If you are a pet dog trainer I truly hope that is your focus with your clients. From there the rest falls in the place.
I’d like to explore this direction of dog training in more depth – to see pet dog training strive to be as pragmatic, kind and effective as possible. Maybe we need to start doing more “out of the box” thinking – what else can we try that might be new or different? Can we share our most successful strategies more broadly? How can we address the specific requests and interests of our average pet person? It’s not always an easy group to work with! What can we do to more effectively reach them – help them fall in love with their dogs and apply training that solves their problems to a “good enough” degree and keep both the dog and the handler happy? I hear professional trainers complain a lot about pet people! Pet people don’t want to rely on food long-term! They don’t want to practice every day! They want to get on with their lives and have their dogs fit in! Frustrating? Sure. Now let’s talk about solutions that work for that audience. Because if the dog is happy and the handler is happy then you have a winner.
If you want to learn more about my “Cutting Corners to Loose Leash Walking” method, sign up for the webinar on April 4th at 6pm PT. It’s okay if you cannot attend live because you’ll have the recording. People who attend live can ask questions. The first time this webinar ran it sold out, so this is a repeat and I expect that this one may sell out too, so if you’re interested then sign up sooner rather than later. This webinar is appropriate for pet dog owners, professional dog trainers, and anyone who wants more options for reducing reactivity in dogs.
And if you have found a solution to a common pet dog problem that is pragmatic, kind, and effective, feel free to describe it in the comments! As long as you meet all three criteria, I’d love to hear about it. Management solutions count too!