Consistency between household members: why it matters
In an earlier video I talked about how all training really is, is forming new habits and keeping them, so that training your dog becomes an ongoing process that you don’t even think about. Today I want to talk about the importance of the consistency between household members, in applying those habits.
When you hire the services of a reputable, competent dog trainer, you will undoubtedly have a “wish list” of things you want to achieve with your dog; behaviours and commands you would like to teach, and perhaps behaviours you would like to eliminate.
When I sit down with you, my new client, and we agree a programme of training for you and your dog, I make it clear that training is an ongoing process; a series of habits that, as I mentioned before, I teach you to form and to stay in, so that you become your dog’s trainer. I train you to do what I do. I even have a section on my website that I ask you to read and agree to before we get started, so that we are all on the same page before we begin. I make it very clear that if you don’t work at forming those habits, your dog’s behaviour will never change. I also make it clear that if there is a member of the household or family who cannot be bothered, or does not wish, to form the same habits as everyone else, the training will not be successful. A confused dog is a disobedient dog.
If there is a member of the household who discounts, or wishes to discredit what I teach, you are also wasting your time and hard-earned money engaging me, because that individual clearly believes that they know more about dog behaviour, communication, and training, than a professional dog trainer does. And if that is the case, then perhaps it should be they who are training the dog. It is very simple: if you cannot all be on the same page, you will not get the results you want. Case in point: a former client’s dog was recently bitten very badly several times because one family member refuses to adhere to the, “No on-leash meetings” and, “No play” rule when out with the dog. Despite me explaining on multiple occasions that what was happening was not play but the establishment of a pecking order between dogs unknown to one another, and that lunging toward another dog whilst on-leash was also not play or a desire to greet, their attitude remained, “But she just wants to play.” The danger now, of course, is that this dog, having had several negative interactions with other dogs, will start to see them as threats, and feel unsafe, and become reactive and possibly even aggressive towards them. It’s at this point my services are once again called upon not just for training, but to undo the damage caused by one household member refusing to advocate for their dog because maybe they think dog training’s all a bit of a joke. You may think I’m laboring the point here, but the point is that the knock-on effect of choosing to ignore your trainer’s advice can be that you end up with a dog that develops severe behavioural issues.
I’ve also observed that the greatest number of repeat callbacks I get come from the households with the greatest amount of people, or the least amount of structure (or both) – even when I’ve drummed it into heads that structure and consistency are your greatest allies when training your dog. I get calls from despairing spouses, upset that the obedience they have worked so hard to achieve with their dog has been ruined because their other half thinks it’s not only acceptable but perhaps endearing when their 140lb mastiff jumps up and puts its paws on their shoulders. Naturally, this behaviour hasn’t been received too well when the dog does it to grandma. I get calls asking why a dog has become reactive and/or aggressive, or why it resource-guards, from couples where the dog has learned (just as a child does) that it can play one half of a couple off against the other. Where one half of the couple is the disciplinarian, while the other is the soft touch who cossets and mollycoddles the “baby” when their spouse enforces rules. If my dog misbehaves and I give it a correction and send it to its Place, and my other half immediately starts making kissy noises, calls the dog over and tells it, “Come here, baba, it’s okaaaay” in a baby voice, it’s going to become very confused very quickly, and start misbehaving as a result.
So let me emphasise to you: if you’re serious about training your dog, you need to be properly committed for it to work. The entire household. Otherwise, you may as well just take a bundle of cash, and set it alight, instead of hiring a trainer. Please, please remember to put your dog’s needs ahead of your feelings and beliefs, and provide them with the structure, boundaries, and consistency that they need to feel safe and advocated for. Then, you won’t be calling me back in three months’ time to fix behaviours that shouldn’t have started in the first place.
Thanks for watching, folks!