Is your dog too smart for training?
Relationships are real things. You and your dog have one. It might be healthy, balanced, and awesome, or it might be toxic, disrespectful, and disheartening. Or maybe it’s somewhere in-between. Whatever it is, it’s been built by your interactions. What you’ve allowed. What you haven’t allowed. What you’ve asked for. What you’ve reinforced. Who you’ve been and how you’ve behaved.
Everything you’ve done has been information your dog has used to determine your relationship. All this information has told your dog who you are and what role you wish to play in his life. It’s also informed him about the rules of life. What is and isn’t okay.
While trainers can teach your dog behaviors, commands, acceptable behavior and unacceptable behavior, your dog is simply too smart and too emotionally evolved to take the information as universal. Eventually, if you don’t keep up the work, your dog will see the cracks. He’ll realize that while he knows and understands the rules and commands – consequences and expectations with you are different than with the trainer. And when he realizes there’s wiggle room, he’ll likely take it. Not because he’s a bad dog, but because he’s opportunistic… just like you and me.
Just like us, when authority and rules are foggy, or not consistently enforced, we tend to take advantage of them. Whether we like to admit it or not, it’s always consequences – or the possibility of them – that tends to keep us on our best behavior. The more predictable and dependable, the better our behavior tends to be. And of course, the less predictable and dependable, the worse our behavior tends to be. (If anyone isn’t sure about how the lack of predictable and dependable consequences affect behavior just look at any time when there’s been social upheaval, riots, wars, or catastrophes that have broken down authority.)
So our dogs are reading us. All the time. Who are we? Are we strong? Are we needy? Are we inconsistent? Are we soft? Are we stressed and overwhelmed? Do we share love generously and discipline begrudgingly? They take what they see and make decisions accordingly. You can’t cheat the universe, and surely can’t fool your dog. What you are and what you share is what you get back..from both.
While us trainers can build the foundation for the new, more healthy patterns and choices to stand on, it’s only you – the person who enforces the rules, structure, and expectations daily – that can make these changes permanent.
We can only start you on the path, from there it’s up to you to maintain it. Dogs are too smart for it to be any other way.