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A Positive Feedback Loop

I know this method can seem amorphous at times, and we'd like for there to be "steps" or a sort of recipe for success. Since we approach our canines holistically, and treat every dog as an individual, it's not so easy to break it down into a repeatable pattern. Therefore, I created a template to help those of us who prefer structure and a sort of dog training to-do list.

The first step is always to observe what's happening with your dog. Take the time to look at what is actually going on: their body language, their state of "mind." After you've reflected on your observations, maybe even written them down, it's time to acknowledge and accept what's going on. This can be difficult if your dog is acting in undesirable ways, but is probably the most important step of all. Long ago I was deep in denial about my own dogs' behaviors and it lead to a lot of issues that could have been addressed early on. This happens for many reasons and will probably show up in a future blog post!

If you have accepted and come to terms with what's going on, e.g., my dog does not enjoy receiving affection from strangers, then it's time to manage the situation and protect everyone involved, including your dog! This can involve avoiding certain situations, using a crate, coaching house guests, and setting boundaries.

Ready for the fun part? Let's train and transform. Notice I did not say: "Let's fix the problem." It's more helpful, I find, if we just focus on changing things for the better rather than reaching for some sort of goal. Your dog might not ever be 100% the way you think they "should" be. So realizing that a transformation is possible without having expectations that are out of reach will keep everything in perspective.

Once you've done some training and you are seeing changes in your dog's behavior, let's repeat the process. Observe what is working and what is not. Is your dog feeling better? Is he more confident? Making observations and keeping notes or a training diary is a good way to make necessary adjustments. Don't just blindly continue with one course of action (even if it was prescribed by your trainer!). As your dog's behavior starts to change, you may need to change your own behavior in order to keep things evolving and moving in the right direction. This creates a positive feedback loop that will amplify the transformation.

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