Why does “predicting” often tend to interfere with training and what can we do to break the cycle?
Example: This morning I was walking my usual route with Mila. She knows that first we so some polite, non-pull leash walking and at some point we will be going to play a round of fetch, then walk back home without pulling and dragging.
When we get closer to the point where we usually play fetch, anticipation kicks in and the excitement level rises. In expectation of the upcoming game she starts to be less responsive and tends to fall into a more chaotic walking style.
This is a situation many people also encounter when trying to take some trained obedience to the next level – with more distractions around, more excitement etc.
Anticipation can have the same effect on the dog’s ability to focus and pay attention as any other form of distraction or excitement, such as smells, noises, crowds, other dogs etc.
For some people this is ends up in disappointment and frustration, because they simply expect too much from the dog and the training success too soon.
I see it as a chance to correct my strategy, take things to the next level more gradually and to improve impulse control.
But this situation also makes clear why especially obedience training can’t possibly be successful when ONLY tried to perform IN the critical situations it is intended for, as they often occur in every day life.
Training needs a proper amount of time and cannot be done in a hurry. It needs the full attention of the owner. And as long as the trained behavior is not working reliably, a “staged” and calm training environment with a controlled amount of distractions is the best way to start. Raising the bar gradually und using lots of repetition allows for the training success to sink in, good habits and automatisms to build in the dog.