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Your Dog is Not an Oven

My oven broke this past weekend. My husband Phil made dinner Saturday night, used the broiler, and turned everything off properly after the fact, but for some reason one of the heating elements wouldn’t turn off. We realized the oven wasn’t cooling off (in fact that corner of the kitchen kind of felt like stepping into a volcano...) and immediately turned off the power to it for safety. Monday morning rolled around, I called a repair man, he was there by noon and out of my house after fixing the oven in literally 30 minutes. It was a thing of beauty, and I had my oven back. I was definitely a happy customer.

What could this story possibly have to do with dog training? It’s because your dog is not an oven. Our dogs are not ovens, or dishwashers, or computers, or plumbing, or any other inanimate object that we can open up and tinker around with. Your dog is not an oven.

A beagle and brown mixed breed dog stand on a sidewalk

I think some people (not most, because to be frank most of my clients are amazing pet parents who are willing to put in the work, but it’s definitely something I run into at least once a month when new clients speak with me) think they can hire me, have me in for one session, get some hot tips from me and have a changed dog after a few days. It's not their fault; after multiples TV shows with dog trainer quick fixes, and no regulation in this industry, how are they supposed to know any better?! But the truth is, that’s just not how dog training works. Your dog has learned their undesirable habits after weeks, months, and years of repetition; these behaviors are not unlearned in one hour long session.

Let’s say you have a dog that is barking and lunging on leash at other dogs. I have to instruct you on the following:

  • Why your dog is behaving this way

  • How we’re going to change the behavior

  • Proper equipment for reactive dogs

  • Different values of reinforcers

  • Leash wrangling skills

  • Treat delivery mechanics

  • Managing your dog to prevent over threshold exposures to the best of your ability

  • Discuss threshold distances and when you can push to next steps

  • Basic attention exercises

  • Basic maneuvers such as find its and emergency u-turns