Mind over Matter

What do you do during your training session when your dog starts to refuse to do a particular task or activity? Whether it be blowing off a sit command, refusing to go up the A-frame or running off to chase another dog?

Do you stop and assess the situation or just push your dog to complete the exercise?

When this  happens, and it happens to even the best dogs and trainers, you need to take the time to stop and assess why the dog is not completing the requested behaviour. You need to think about:

  • Does your dog know the behaviour?
  • How reliable has your dog been in the past?
  • Have you increased difficulty (i.e. duration, distraction or distance)?

If you are happy that this is a task your dog should be able to complete, then you need to consider further:

  • Have you done the strength and fitness training to allow your dog to physically complete the task?
  • Have you warmed your dog up?
  • Is your dog sore or injured?
  • Or are they just tired cause you've been working them too long?

There are lots of reasons that your dog might not be completing the behaviour you are asking of them, especially if it is a behaviour that they are usually reliable with. This could be an injury or medical condition that is impairing their ability to fulfil the task, or causing pain when doing the task.

However, there may be many different factors playing a role in what is happening during a training session. In most situations it will likely be a problem with training, however physical competency should be considered before taking the next step in problem solving. 

Continuing to train when your dog is physically unable to complete the task will frustrate the dog and potentially cause a breakdown in the communication system between you and your dog. Further, asking them to perform a task that is painful can mean even after that pain is resolved they may associate that activity with pain and be reluctant to do it. You are also training muscle patterns that are incorrect and will impact on their ability to safely perform the task in the future.  

They can't say 'I keep over balancing', or 'This makes my back hurt' or 'I am waaay too fatigued to pull myself up the Aframe today!'.

Regular health checks and conditioning training will ensure you know exactly what is happening physically with your dog. It's not fair to ask our dogs to push through pain or discomfort, prevention is always better than cure. I hope that this gives you a bit more information so that you can critically analyse your dog's performance during each training session and competition and make decisions about when to discontinue training. 

When I treat performance dogs I begin by looking for areas of pain, injury or weakness. Then I look at the tasks that you want them to perform. I then use this information to create a program designed to address any pain, injury or weakness and make it easier for your and your dog move toward your goals.

We put your dog in situations where we target specific muscles to ensure they are strong enough to perform each task. It's always important to aim for these to match up to the final function we are aiming for. 

If your dog is showing symptoms that you may be having something more than just a training problem then call me on 0429 443 314 or email me on jaime@primalpaws.com

Dr Jaime Jackson