“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” Aristotle
Consistency. Perhaps the single most important aspect in dog training and rehabilitation, other than timing. As humans, we deal with a lot of gray areas in life. However, our furry companions do not. Dogs are very black and white. They learn in pictures, patterns and repetitions. Consistency in training means that, not only is the dog’s behavior the same, but your response to the behavior is the same. On top of that, you are repeating and practicing on a regular behavior to turn that behavior into a known pattern or habit.
Let’s put this into a real world situation. When we teach dogs positions or commands, such a sit, down or place, we are, over time teaching the duration of that command as well. Meaning, when we say “place” that means stay in your place until I release you. The dog is not allowed to break whenever he feels like it. For most clients, we use the place command to introduce a very clear protocol on how the dog is to deal with people entering the home. However, place is useful for SO MANY different things. Let’s say you put your dog in his place while prepping dinner. You are busy cooking and then finally get the meal to the dinner table. In all the insanity of cooking, you forget that your dog is in his place. Eventually, Fido gets up and wanders away, never having been released by you. The next day, your friends come over and you put Fido in his place, but after a few minutes, he gets up. You are annoyed and correct Fido to let him know that he was incorrect. You’ve done all your practice of teaching place in low distractions before introducing it at higher distractions (you HAVE been practicing before people come over, RIGHT?!) and here he just gets up!
In that instance it was you that needed the correction, sorry to say. You corrected your dog for a mistake that YOU had made by being inconsistent with his training. Fido learned that he could get up without direction from you the day before and then the next day was corrected for doing so.
I talk to countless people every month who are interested in training with us. And a good majority of those people want to know if our program will work…and my answer is, “Yes, it will…but only if you are consistent.” That means practicing your homework on a regular basis (repetitions), showing your dog the same pictures and patterns, and having a set of non-negotiable, but fair rules to live by that you always adhere to. Our dogs, while beautiful and complex creatures, don’t operate the same way we do. Having a dog means learning their language and how to speak it or show it. Ah, yes…another segue into my next article. Your body language as interpreted by your dog…stay tuned!