Updated: Jul 22, 2022
James Clear's Atomic Habits is a stonkingly good book that I reference and recommend all the time - learning how to make good habits and break bad ones are skills that are phenomenally useful in life let alone dog training!
It therefore comes as no surprise that his 3-2-1 newsletter is invariably good, and one of the very few things I'm subscribed to that I will always take the 5 mins to read each week it rolls into my inbox. But even I was impressed when, with this week's 3 ideas (3 ideas, 2 quotes, 1 question), he outlines quite possibly the top 3 tips for success in dog training... without even knowing!
I'm going to paraphrase ever so slightly but hear me out:
1) “It is not necessary to change a person (read dog) in order to change their behaviour. Just change their environment.”
I've seen many renowned trainers and behaviourists including Chirag Patel and Amber Batson among others, mention how much the environment can influence behaviour. By making changes to the environment - adding something, removing something, changing where things are in relation to one another, carefully selecting where and when we go for a walk, and selecting what situations we put ourselves and our dogs in - we can set a dog up for success, and start building in the right direction.
2)“Many problems are minor when you solve them right away, but grow into an enormous conflict when you let them linger. As a rule of thumb, fix it now.”
If I had a quid for every time someone contacted me with a behavioural issue that would have been far easier to solve a month ago, 6 months ago, a year ago... well I'd still need a shit load more money, 'cos prices just keeping sodding rising but you get my point.
The vast majority of training or behaviour issues are not going to improve by themselves if we just leave them be and cross our fingers and hope. In fact most of the time they're just going to get worse. Act early. Address something before it's ingrained and it will save you time, money and effort in the long run. This applies particularly to puppy classes - GO TO A GOOD PUPPY CLASS! If you've just dropped a couple of grand on a puppy and all the kit, don't be a tight arse - spend the £100 odd quid on a good puppy class (shameless plug alert - but it is MY blog) like these ones I have starting soon and it will save you so much more with the problems it prevents before they even happen.
3)“Raise your ambitions. Lower your expectations. The higher your ambitions, the bolder your actions. The lower your expectations, the greater your satisfaction. Achieve more and be happy along the way.”
Good behaviour modification is usually subtle. Gradual. And yet our increasingly insatiable need to have things right now means people often want quick fixes. Instant results. Beware the dog trainer that promises to fix your dog in an hour! Slow and boring is almost always more effective in the long run. Strive for perfection, but be willing for it to take time and effort to get there - and most importantly, set small raises in criteria at every step. As Bob Bailey once said, "be a splitter, not a lumper!" Don't underestimate the importance of setting small, achievable targets.
Comments? Questions? Get involved by letting me know below.