Behaves at Training? Nightmare at home?:

By Matt Wiggins
behaved dog

I’ve pretty much seen everything that a dog can throw up after two decades of training.

No problem is as common as the dog that behaves at training and then reverts back to its usual behaviour when at home. 

In fact, it presents that much of an issue that I dedicate a lot of time to find ways around it and understand what is happening better so you can make the progress that you need to.

This article is going to explain why it happens and how to overcome it. I trust you will find it useful.

Reason 1)

Unsure in the environment – This applies most to reactive Dogs, dogs who are behaving the way they are because they are nervous. There are two ways in which a Dog can display its nervousness, it can be aggressively reactive (outward show of aggression to scare off the problem) or inwardly avoid (pretend that the thing that makes it nervous doesn’t exist). Nervous Dogs are also at their most confident in their own environment (either inside the home or on regular walks). This is the most common reason that your dog will not show its usual level of behaviour at a new location. What happens is you take your dog to the trainers and invariably the environment is overwhelming to the point that your dog doesn’t feel strong enough to give an outwardly aggressive show but rather recluses inside him or herself.

You then do the training session, the trainer believes you have wasted their time, you feel awful and that you have wasted even more money and go home. Upon reaching home, your dog immediately goes back to normal and the circle begins again.

Reason 2)

This is the opposite of reason 1. For this reason, your dog is too familiar with the environment and so becomes relaxed, feels safe and knows the other dogs and owners well enough to no longer be nervous of them. This one happens lots with group training sessions or sessions where a trainer uses the same stooge dogs again and again for example. The most common reason for its occurrence though is because the trainer you are using has taken so many sessions to help you that your dog by default has got used to where it is and no longer feels the need to react the way it does at home.

Again, you do the session, your dog behaves, you pay your money, go home and immediately you are back to square one

Reason 3)

This one is very common. Something, or someone, has caused your dog to feel unsure in the environment. Usually caused by the trainer ‘showing’ you how to handle your dog, them applying too much pressure and then, forevermore, your dog in their company or the environment where the thing that upset it happened will not perform as it would do at home thus rendering the environment and the trainer a pointless addition to your regime.

So, now I’ve explained why it happens, let’s have a look at how we can help avoid it.

The easiest way to deal with the unfamiliar environment (reason 1) is to simply train your dog in the environments that you walk him/her in on a daily basis. Hands down, this is the quickest route to success. The only other option is to take your dog to the training environment enough times that he/she becomes comfortable. The problem is, it’s very easy to do too much, get your dog too familiar and then you are straight into reason number 2 without realising.

To avoid reason 2 you need to ensure that your dog does not become overfamiliar with the thing that makes it nervous. If your dog is reactive for example, exposing him or her to the same people and/or dogs will only result in your dog realising that everybody there is ok. This is lovely while you are there but as soon as you return home and a new person/and or dog rounds the corner you are back to square 1. The best way to overcome this issue? Train in the Real World, just like how you can avoid reason 1! The idea that you can train away from an issue and expect your dog to perform again when exposed to it is nonsense. 

If you have an issue with strange dogs, for example, you need to train your dog to behave around strange dogs in the real world.

Finally, how can we avoid reason 3? You need to train your dog yourself. When I am working with clients, either face to face or online I NEVER touch their dog until they have changed its behaviour. I may at that point show them something but they have already created the difference. This is so common it is untrue. Why do most trainers handle your dog? Because they aren’t good enough to show you how to do what they can. If they can’t teach you without handling your dog to change its behaviour yourself you will never enjoy results when you are alone at home.

So, overall, what is the best way to train your dog to avoid the common issues surrounding a different performance at training to the ones you get at home?

Train your dog from home, on your own, following a trainer support process which is proven to get better results than most trainers to get face to face! Ever wonder why hardly any trainers show before and after videos like ours? 

You know why 😉

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