Before we start, I have to say that I have zero qualifications in dog training and I won’t be telling you how you should be training your dog. Nor is the point to argue what methodology you all use. It’s to be able to relate our (as humans) emotional rollercoaster!
When you first get your dog whether it’s a puppy or older, we all have visions that it will be the best behaved dog. It would constantly be looking at you for instructions. You would be able to emergency stop your dog on cue and it would listen. You could walk freely with your dog by your side and everyone would comment how amazingly trained your dog is!
And then you realise, your dog is not a robot.
We did all the things we were ‘supposed’ to do when Winston was a puppy. We went to socialisation classes, puppy school, didn’t pamper or react to certain situations, did HOURS of training. And then just when you start to feel like a proud dog mum/dad and your puppy is starting to understand commands, you finally feel like this mass amount of training is getting somewhere, suddenly you notice your dog has been swapped for the devil.
Ok well not literally, but I remember coming down stairs one day to do some training with Winston and it was like he didn’t even remember one command. He didn’t know his name. I couldn’t keep his attention for a second before he ran off with a sock, a shoe, or started chewing my hair or just me in general. I felt deflated, I cried (a lot) which wasn’t helped by Winston attacking my feet every time I tried to walk away. And then when he fell asleep in that cute puppy pose enjoying a snuggle, all is forgiven and you become proud dog mum/dad again. Welcome to the first loop of the emotional rollercoaster!
So you go through those loops for what seems forever, and then you have more good days than bad. The teething and biting stops and you’re rather proud of yourself for getting through it. And then, boom, ready for the next rollercoaster loop, TEENAGE PHASE!
Most of you would have heard about teenage stage, if not experienced it yourself. It can hit at any point between 8 months and 2 years and this is literally when the puppy thinks it knows more than you and becomes the cockiest thing you’ve ever known. It’s mentally slamming doors in your face and you know at what point it’s giving you the finger. You half want to laugh as it parades your dirty laundry stolen from the basket in front of your friends, or cry when it’s eaten the entire roast beef from the kitchen worktop. I found this was the stage that Winston did things he has never even attempted before. You push through laughing, crying and frustrated until you reach the end of this second rollercoaster loop!
Well done! You made it! You (and your dog) survived the first years! Then you’re out walking one day and your dog decides not to come back, or barks at everything, or can’t sit still in the pub! Yup, here comes another emotional loop.
Those of you who follow us on Instagram (and if not you totally should @winston.woof) will know that Winston’s recall is unreliable. I’ve lost him twice when we’ve been out (he came back though) but I have never been so scared. Since then we’ve been working hard on his recall, using enclosed and partly enclosed fields to gain trust. He also began barking at other dogs for no particular reason. What felt like a MASSIVE step back for us. The barking got so bad that we decided to get the help of a behaviourist, who was amazing! She taught us his body language, how to help him and ultimately make him a happier dog! It has taken months with this training and even now we are not perfect. We have more good days than bad but most of you know the amount of steps back we’ve had to take.
Training a dog needs consistency and patience. Both of which I want to add as attributes to my CV! You’re not on your own when you feel like you’ve failed or taken a massive step back or wonder whether you can even do this. Reach out and ask for some help, but I can guarantee all dog owners have been there.
Let us know what you’re working on and any funny stories (that you can now laugh at) of your dog!