Sometimes training isn't pretty. Sometimes it looks rough, sloppy, and hard to watch. This is what trainers call the “Messy Middle.”
While some dogs go through training looking like they've been pros all along, most dogs don't learn so effortlessly. For a loving owner, this can be daunting or even frustrating. Working hard and not seeing the results at the rate you think you should can make you wonder if you are doing the right thing, or if training is even possible.
This is the messy middle. It's called “messy” for a reason. It doesn't look pretty, but it means that change is happening. Your dog is working to learn what it is you are asking of them. Sometimes this means your dog is on place quivering. Is he scared? No, he's trying so hard to control himself that he is expending energy in a way that isn't typical. He no longer has the option of being distracted by movement of his own choice.
Think of it as the canine version of therapy. When a person commits to working out their anxieties and struggles through therapy, there is often a transition period which involves a lot of processing and re-organizing of thoughts and patterns of behaviors.
Both dogs and humans often take the easiest paths. The path of least resistance. If it hasn't failed us, many people think “why not.” Since dogs learn very early what behaviors work, and which ones don't, they would be foolish to keep doing the behaviors that aren't rewarding in one way or another.
Change often causes stress. But stress isn't necessarily a bad thing. Stress on your body allows you to make physical strides, and stress on your mind allows for educational and emotional growth. Once the training wheels come off of the bike, there's a pretty good chance you will fall before you learn to ride.
If you are in this position, whether with your dog or personally, my advice to you is to stick with it, and you will come out on the other side. While perfection might not be attainable, you can get pretty darn close with some sweat and persistence.
Challenge yourself and your dog, and see what abandoning your habits can do for you both.
Welcome to Everywhere Dog Blog!
Tips, tricks, and lessons learned from Everywhere Dog and their journey!
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