Training Dogs and Baking Cakes
Training dogs and working on dog behaviour problems is something that we here at Mutts with Manners have been doing for a very long time. Over the years we have learned from each other, from listening to what other behaviour consultants have tried and very importantly (and perhaps surprisingly to you) from every dog and person team that we work with. That teamwork is critical in getting changes in our dogs - especially when it comes to dog behaviour issues (separation anxiety, barking dogs, dog aggression, not coming when called at the park, destructive dogs, are some of the more common ones). We often work with dogs who have been progressively getting worse in their behaviours whilst with their current people, even more often we work with rescued dogs or adopted dogs who have a 'history' - they have damage.
Working in dog behaviour, regardsless of the history, involves firstly assessing the dog and the dynamic in the household, and this is where our 'therapy' starts - getting everything in place in that nice safe environment first. We spend quite a bit of time discussing your expectations of your dog, what dog training they've had, what behaviour problems we need to address and what your end goal is - and then we put together a "dog behaviour program" just for you.
Our dog behaviour programs are much like a recipe for a cake, and this is where we sometimes (just sometimes) have problems. We love that people want to help their dogs and do lots of research and try lots of things to get their dogs right. Those things tend not to work or not work particularly well which is why we are then called in. So we go through what we just mentioned above and give them their specific program to get their dog back on track. They have their very own recipe - and sometimes people change the ingredients. They say to themselves "Ok, we've been told to do X, Y and Z and our Dog behaviour consultant checked and double-checked that we were ok to do that but you know what? I'd rather not do Z because she likes doing G instead and I really don't mind if she does G. And on the 'net I saw P and R and that looked pretty sensible so I'm going to do those as well."
Imagine telling your mum that you want to make Grandma's Banana Bread. So she looks and searches and finds Grandma's recipe (which EVERYONE in the family loves) so that you can make it for the family. But when you're looking at Grandma's Banana Bread recipe you say to yourself "You know what? I'm going to take out the eggs because so-and-so is vegan and can't have eggs and I saw this other muffin recipe with caramel and blueberries in it and I like caramel and blueberries so I'm going to put those in too." So you turn up a week later and everyone's there waiting for Grandma's Banana Bread and get.....some weird gooey thing that didn't bind properly because there are no eggs in it, it's a bit sloppy because the banana bread recipe didn't account for the fluid from the blueberries and people are almost breaking their teeth on the caramel. You (and they!) didn't get the results you were expecting.
We always tell our clients to let us know if there's anything that they feel they can't follow through on because we need our recipes to work. We don't want your dog to still have separation anxiety or aggression or whatever the issue was but without following the recipe you just won't get the results that you (or we!) expect. We also tell our clients that once their dog is where they want them to be, they can then start playing with the program (vary that recipe) very carefully because they NOW know how to make it all succeed.
So what I'm asking you to do, whether you work with us or another consultant, please, please follow the recipe which they have negotiated with you :-)