A new client asked me a great question yesterday and I wanted to share it because I feel like so many people expect instant results when it comes to training or just about any service. The question was, "Can I get through all 4 training sessions before Christmas?" Having spoken on December 14th, my immediate thought was "are you nuts?" But that wasn't my response.
For context, I built this specific program for behavior modification for anxiety and some hyperactivity. My consultation calls are usually about an hour or more so I gather tons of information and figure out what the owner's goals are so we can build off of that. It was towards the end of our call that this question came up about finishing and having the perfect dog in two weeks.
Now trainers, before you go bananas on a two week request, remember that most of what we have at our fingertips is instantaneous, so it should come as no surprise that there are people out there that think long term problems have fast and easy solutions. Creating this understanding that dogs are not like vehicles and service doesn't fix the issue promptly is something that you should know how to approach if you're in the business of helping people with their animals. My answer boogies off of the average amount of time it takes someone to get through the same program, but I prefaced the answer with this...
Because every dog is different, there is no set amount of time for how we plan our training sessions. For some humans, they are in therapy for 3 weeks and think the problems they have are fixed. And for some people, that's actually true. For some, 15 years and they're only scratching the surface of the issues. The difference? The issues and the willingness to change how they are living. We have to be honest with ourselves about how we cannot control everything and moving beyond the past can be difficult. In our attempt (because that's what this is, an attempt to change behavior), we aim to accomplish your goals in the most efficient ways possible, but it will not be efficient or effective to attempt to breeze through all that we have to teach in a two week period right before one of the biggest holidays of the year. This expectation is unrealistic, but that doesn't mean you can't enjoy your holiday with your dog! On average, my clients get through a 4 session package in about 75 days. Most of these clients are in for similar issues surrounding the modification of bad behavior that has persisted for more than a year. But here's the thing...
The program started the moment you committed to changing your life with your dog. For some behaviors, you'll see an instant change when implementing rules I've provided. But for some behaviors, it may take months to truly see your dog transform into how you want them to behave.
During training sessions, owners marvel at how well a dog behaves when I'm holding the leash, but look, I'm a dog trainer. I do this for a living. What comes easy to me took years to learn and I stumbled and fell several times along the way. So, give yourself time to learn. During this time, you'll build an amazing relationship with your dog.
While it's totally possible to get through 4 sessions in 2 weeks and reach your goals, don't think that you have to rush through it. You and your dog will benefit a whole lot more if you take your time, ask questions, and give yourself and your dog the opportunity to make mistakes and get it right.
I think the same can be said for any type of goal that involves changing behavior; living a healthier lifestyle, gaining or losing weight, spending more time with family & friends, giving up the use of drugs or alcohol, stopping yourself from angry outbursts, working through anxieties... the list goes on.
If you're reading this and you're trying to change behavior that's been well-practiced for years (whether it's your dog's behavior or yours), remember to give yourself time. If you're not seeing results, but you've been at it for a while, perhaps find new mentors that can tell you where you may be falling short. We will make mistakes along the way. If we rush through a process chasing the end goal, we miss out on all the struggles and successes that happen along the way.
If reading this was a wake-up call or it moved you in some type of way, please share it. I'm just a dog trainer, but I'm also a human seeking to help other humans live a better life.