Morrissey: Consistency: the foundation of learning & trust |

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Morrissey: Consistency: the foundation of learning & trust

Consistency in your lifestyle, expectations and reactions to your dog makes it easier for your dog to understand what you what him/her to do. Deciding proactively about what your dogs are allowed to do or not to do will help you give them clear, fair instruction and feedback.Most dogs do not like surprises and do not handle chaos well. Consistency in lifestyle creates a routine for your dog to follow and count on. It removes anxiety from your dog’s life, as they will know what to do and what to expect. Conversely, inconsistency in expectations, training or lifestyle creates confusion and erodes the trust in a relationship between dogs and their humans, especially when aversive punishment is used.For instance, dogs jump up on people to get attention and to play. Any attention you give them, whether it is encouragement or yelling at them and pushing them away tells a dog that jumping works. For better or worse, they got your attention! Say that for a long time a dog has been rewarded with attention and indeed encouraged for jumping. Then one day they get a knee to the chest. They will be surprised, confused and may back away. However, they will not learn what to do in order to have a polite greeting. No one took the time to train them that “four on the floor” is what works. Instead, they will learn that the person who kneed them is unpredictable. They will become more vigilant about that person and less motivated to work with them. However, when a person decides proactively what a dog is allowed to do (be greeted while not jumping); teaches the dog how to do the task (sit/stay and then get attention); and consistently reinforces the behavior using positive training techniques, then a dog feels confident and relaxed. A good leader is consistent, fair, clear and motivating. A solid relationship is based on trust. Consistency is a key element of building trust.Louisa Morrissey is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA) and owner of Skijor-n-More. She is also a professional member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers and a licensed Victoria Stilwell Positively Dog Trainer.