My Smart Puppy

with Dog Expert, Sarah Wilson

Are Things Getting Better? A Question Worth Asking


Changing behavior – ours or our dog’s – takes time. It is rarely a straight forward process with a steady progression of hiccup-free improvement. We start, we stop, we try, we get sidetracked, we reinvest effort, we get tired – that’s just the way of it.

But sometimes, often without even being aware, we fall into a relational dance with our dog, and only a moment of clarity (or a forced moment of review) shows us what has happened.

Here’s the thing: If doing something 1000 times hasn’t gotten you the results you want, why will doing it 1001 times magically make a difference?

It won’t.*

This does not mean that the issue is unchangeable, simply that what you are currently doing isn’t changing it. That is not debatable, that is fact.

This can be a surprisingly bitter pill to swallow. You may like the method you are using. You may like the trainer who taught you. You may dislike what you think your alternatives are. None of that makes a bit of difference.

Close your eyes, take a deep breath and let all that go.



Now, either you give up on attempting to change the behavior (a perfectly viable option in some cases), you change what you are doing or how you are doing it .

Those are your options.

And those last two are excellent options. They represent a chance to learn and grow, something both you and your dog will probably benefit from immediately. It is, often after getting over the shock of realizing you’ve been spinning your wheels, an exciting time. Embrace that and move forward.

Try new things. A new approach. New timing or emphasis with the old approach. Get new input on the problem. Consider a new tool or method. Brainstorm with your current teacher or try a new one. Go out with an open mind and learn.

Change doesn’t always come easy, but it rarely does. Change requires a certain amount of discomfort or else we probably would not make the effort.

But success? Well worth it.

Every time.

* This is not to be confused with trying something for 15 minutes, getting frustrated and quitting before it has a chance to make a difference or for changing methods/trainers frequently with the same result. Both are different sorts of patterns and each one warrants its own article. This piece is about people who have been diligently making an effort over a long period of time with no real success. Thank you, Pooch Professor, for pointing out this possible confusion.

by Sarah Wilson,

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