Why I Don’t Like Seeing The Word Guaranteed in Dog Training Articles
If there’s one thing that really bugs me when it comes to dog training articles it’s the inclusion of the word guaranteed. I don’t use it because A) I’m not a dog trainer, and B) I don’t think there are guarantees when it comes to training.
I write a lot about training, and I try my best to keep it informative rather than definite. I’m very careful with the wording I use. I say “this is what worked for my dog,” rather than “this will work for yours.” I say “this worked for my dog after a couple of weeks,” rather than “this will work for yours in 14 days.” And I don’t make guarantees.
That’s not to say that there aren’t some (nearly) fool proof training techniques, it’s just that it’s impossible to make guarantees on things that include so many variables.
Dogs aren’t all the same, we’re not all the same, and neither are the circumstances that surround why we’re training to begin with.
A 4 year old dog that’s had limited human contact will react differently to training than a 3 month old puppy. Trying to train your dog in the middle of a dog park will yield different results than working in your living room. And a dog that’s been scared of fireworks for 6+ years is going to be more of a challenge to calm on the 4th of July than a 6 month old puppy. They can’t all be cured with the aid of a thunder shirt or essential oils.
Meaningful Progress Takes Time
Training is an ongoing process, and progress is made over time. There’s not always going to be a quick fix or method that works 100% of the time.
If you’ve been training your dog for years you’ll start to develop skills that help you train the dog in front of you, whether you’re conscious of it or not. Over time you learn how to communicate with them clearly, and you’ll know how to keep them motivated. When it comes to starting over with a new pup you don’t have that foundation; it has to be built.
That’s not to say that all training is difficult, or that it’s always harder to train a puppy rather than an adult dog. It all depends on the variables. What are you trying to train? Is this going to require your dog to do something they’re uncomfortable with? Teaching your dog a new trick will be easier than training your dog to have a different emotional response to something they find scary. There is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to training.
When Something Doesn’t Work We Blame the Dog
Our dogs aren’t all the same, and when it comes to training they each present their own quirks and challenges. But if we read an article that says “guaranteed to work for your dog in 7 days” we expect it it work. If a “guaranteed” method doesn’t work we assume it’s because there’s something wrong with our dog. We start to think that our dog is just being stubborn, or that she’s just stupid and/or impossible to train.
But the thing is there aren’t any guarantees when it comes to dog training, and articles that make those claims are misleading. If a method doesn’t work for your dog it doesn’t mean she’s defective, it means that the method you’re using isn’t producing results. That may be due to a lack of communication on your part, it might have to do with distractions, or it may be due to an issue with the method itself.
The “yelp to make your puppy stop biting” method doesn’t work for all dogs, and in some cases it makes it worse. The “use a crate so your dog doesn’t eliminate during the day” method doesn’t work because it’s impossible for some pups to hold it for 8+ hours, and others won’t bother trying. Some dogs can be potty trained in 5 days, and others take months. Not every method will work for every dog, no matter how many times someone uses the word “guaranteed.”
When it comes to training we need to remember that our dogs are different. A method that works perfectly for one dog might take weeks on another, or it may not work at all. When it comes to training we need to understand that it’s not always going to go as planned, and it’s certainly not always going to happen in two days.
Find What Works For Your Dog
The best advice I have for training your dog is to stick with it. Don’t give up just because method A didn’t work. Vary up the rewards to find out what keeps your dog motivated. Train in distraction free environments. Make your training sessions 5 minutes rather than 10.
Find out what works for your dog and build on that. Over time you’ll start to see what techniques work best for your dog, and once that foundation is in place it’s easier to keep moving forward.
Don’t Be Afraid to Question the Motivation
If you come across an article that’s “guaranteed to work for your dog” don’t be afraid to question it. Is it too good to be true? Is it light on information? Are they just trying to sell you an online dog training system? If so move on, there’s a thousand more articles where that came from.
Not all dog training articles are bad, most of the ones I’ve read have been pretty good. But sometimes it takes a bit of sifting to find those gems. When you come across a training article ask yourself if the author presenting good information you can use right now, or just promising results if you buy their program. Close the ones telling you to “click here to learn more” and move onto the next one.
And if you come across a dog training article that didn’t work in “seven days guaranteed” as suggested, just remember – don’t blame your dog. It’s the authors fault for making a promise they couldn’t keep. A stranger has no business making guarantees when it comes to what will work for your dog; unless of course their whole business is trying to sell you their online training system.
If you need help with training: A good dog trainer can teach you more than any article. Reach out to dog trainers in your area. Find one you’re comfortable with, and one that works well with your dog. Working with a good trainer is one of the best decisions I’ve made.