The Comfort Zone in Dog Training

I saw a excellent image on another trainers page the other day. Saying all dog owners should get out of their comfort zone, take different dogs to seminars, learn a new skill or push your dogs boundaries if fearful.

Comfort zone 1

I originally thought it was a good graphic, and made sense. But after some thought I realised its total bull crap.

Your comfort zone with your dog is where all dog owners strive to be. You work hours and hours training that recall so your comfortable on walks knowing your dog will come back. You spend days socialising your puppy to the sights and smells outside your home, so you know they won’t freak out when you decide to go to the cafe after a long walk. You might even spend money on a trainer to help you get there, money invested in your future with your dog.

You don’t get a dog to make your life harder, you get it to complete it.

Step out that comfort zone? I don’t bloody think so. I work with hundreds of owners a year striving to get into that comfort zone and stay there. Yes some owners want to push themselves further and learn more join sports, and strive for that perfect dog. I work hard and push myself out of my comfort zone to learn more to be able to teach you, but I also am very happy to return back to my comfort zone and just walk my dogs without worry or thinking.

I’m currently out of my comfort zone, I’m on holiday (dedication to you guys to be working on holiday),I’m in a foreign country and away from my dogs. I’ve enjoyed it, but I can honestly say I’m ready to get back to my comfort zone. Ready to have that feeling of calm and happy.

I realised for my dog owners this feeling is only there in part of your life with your dog. Mainly in the evening when your settled on the sofa, dog next to you sleeping. When your walking your dog you’re out of your comfort zone because your dogs nervous or reactive, or because you know they have high prey drive and next doors cat has started a war. It didn’t matter the reason why, what matters is you need to keep extending that comfort zone as much as you can, while maintaining your own self care.  Leaving that zone causes all stress which we learn from in small doses, but in large doses daily it can effect us mental and even physical.

I’m not on about stopping walking your dog, I’m on about ditching the routine and maybe playing with a flirt pole on a walk first to help your dog relax, and you calm. Focusing on learning a new command or trick. Joining a social club or training group, maybe not to become the best agility start but to push your boundaries in a way that means other are around you. Getting a trainer who understands your dogs needs, and your emotions. Sometimes solutions to problems, instead of management are the best way of expending your comfort zone.

Some days its ok to be be snuggly in your comfort zone, and others miles away from it. But what ever happens do not feel bad for sitting in it some days, and don’t feel down if things don’t go to plan when you do go out of it. Its always easier to do with support but dip a toe out now and then.

I want all of us to be more like this graphic:

Matrix-cards-set-1-ft-round-510x340

I am guilty of not helping with my own self care, and I think all dog owners should be conscious of it. There is no right and wrong in dog training in general, but there is what feels right with us and wrong with us. Be that training methods, our dogs behaviour, other dogs behaviour and our behaviour to others.

Kathryn Jones

Clever Fox Canine Training and Behaviour