Training Dog Owners in Patience
Extensive research and experience has established the incontrovertible fact that successful dog training is premised upon utilization of positive reinforcement. Once-used training techniques that were premised on physical punishment have been abandoned-and in many cases outlawed.
The difficulty inherent in non-violent training steeped in positive reinforcement is that it requires a greater commitment from the owner. The old methods relied on intimidation as a shortcut to results. Although far less effective than today’s techniques, they were simple to administer. In order to use positive techniques, the owner must not only possess a good knowledge base, he or she must also have patience.
Over and over again, the necessity of patience is emphasized in dog training literature. “Be patient with your dog.” “Do not expect overnight results when dealing with a difficult dog.” “Maintain your cool when dealing with your dog.” The presence of patience is preached as the ultimate virtue for anyone training a dog. No one providing dog training guidance overlooks the value of patience.
However, patience is not necessarily an attribute possessed by all dog owners. As a result, the impatient owner may often delve into his bag of intimidating dirty tricks when things do not go according to plan, and we all know the negative impact such a deviation from the positive-reinforcement route can have.
What needs to occur is that the owner must be trained before the dog can be trained. Owners must be trained to be patient when dealing with their dog when that personality trait is not already in place. All of the time spent teaching techniques premised on the idea that an owner can be patient are doomed to fail if that the owner cannot remain calm. As such, dog owners must teach themselves to be patient during the training process.
Training an owner to be patient is no easier than training a dog to behave in line with one’s expectations. In fact, adult humans, with their personalities formed by years of experience and socialization can be even more different to train than dogs!
It is advisable, however, for anyone planning to train a dog to take steps to train themselves to be patient. There are a few helpful recommendations that can allow a trainer/owner to improve their patience skills.
Initially, owners can be taught to walk away before losing their temper. When one feels their patience is at an end, instead of losing their temper or acting in a manner inconsistent with the chosen training methodology, the owner can simply call an end to the training session. This insures that training does not degenerate into an angry battle of wills. The sessions can be resumed at some point when the owner feels he has regained his sense of calm. By following this approach, owners will soon find they are able to focus on the training project for longer durations before they are at wit’s end. Frustration is the enemy of patience, and avoiding overly frustrating training sessions reminds the owner there is no need for intense frustration-they recognize they are not trapped in the situation.
Additionally, owners must consistently remind themselves of the fact they are dealing with a dog. This sounds remarkably obvious on its face, but too often owners look at the pet as a soulless project when training becomes difficult. By reminding themselves they are dealing with an animal who does not share our understanding of the world or our communicative powers, they are less likely to lose their patience. It is when the animal is seen as an object upon which one can force their will that patience dwindles most quickly.
Finally, an owner should have a realistic understanding of the time commitment required to train a dog. Impatience results when one’s goals are not met within anticipated time frames. Too often, unfortunately, dog owners are not really aware of the length of time they should expect successful training to take. By outfitting the owner with a clear understanding of dog training techniques and a commensurate understanding of the time required to implement those methods, realistic expectations can be created. With a realistic outlook regarding what is ahead, an owner is less likely to find himself or herself feeling agitated or impatient.
The idea of retraining an owner before he or she trains a dog may seem unusual. However, modern dog training techniques require a level of patience and calmness not always possessed by dog owners. By increasing the dog owner’s ability to remain patient, the likelihood of successful training is increased significantly.
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