The Success of Failure in Training Your Dog – We All Make Mistakes.

We’ve all been there, working on something that starts out a joy and something you look forward too.

Little things start to go wrong, these spiral into bigger things.

Suddenly you feel awful working on that thing, your motivation disappears.

You stop wanting to work at all, convince yourself you have other things to do.

You give up, you convince there is no options left. You feel a failure.

Their are always options.

Failure is not a permanent, it is changeable.

The definition of failure is a lack off success, not never being successful.

You should see each perceived failure as a learning process. There is always a solution to the problem.

With dog training I often hear from clients that they have tried everything. That I couldn’t possibly solve their dog training problem. They have read every page on the internet, read every book on the shelf and talked to every dog owner with a well trained dog. But yet here you are on the phone to me. Looking for that answer so your failure isn’t permanent.

Often the reason for failure isn’t because of a lack of knowledge, or lack of training. Is is due to a lack training in the real world, proofing the behaviour in the real world. We often reflect on the things we did wrong instead of the things that went right, sending us into the spiral of blame. Blame yourself, others, the dog and the environment.

We need to reject our old beliefs of “I can’t do this” or “He’ll never be trained”, replacing them with “Their is a solution” and “I need to find the right way to solve this”.

You can lay blame on yourself from over working, from setting unrealistic standards or goals, and comparing yourself to others. This self criticism will attempt to destroy your work towards change or bettering your training. Getting past it can be tough but accepting your weaknesses as well as strengths, make them less scary. Remove that self critical voice, and making a mental list of all the things that are going well  with the training, and focus on that.

Uncertainty within your training can create an internal conflict, but it can also be a change to experiment and learn. Reasonable options might not always work, but there are other options. We turn to trail and error with our dog training, this can work in some cases but often it leaves our dogs confused and without consistency. It also drains us emotionally and mentally, turning each session into a workout for your brain.

Learning from mistakes and trying little things one a time, often lead to the right result. A side effect of failure is innovation. See each little failure as a way to build and improve the training you are doing, as well as help innovate your own self.

Anything that goes awry is progress, it might not be in the direction you wanted but it is progress. We can’t predict each training session as there are many factors out of our control, but regardless of it each walk is a training session. Setting us to learn from, good and bad. A Bad walk can help us pinpoint the areas we need to focus on, a good walk helps boost those focus areas.

Dog training isn’t easy. It can lead to tears, arguments, frustration and a breakdown in relationships not only with your dog, but also your family and friends. I often think people are shocked at how much something that was destined to join their life to make it better often makes it worse, until we find the solution to the problem.

Dog training always has a solution, but it isn’t always what is expected. Thinking outside the box and understanding your dog better is often the best way to find a solution. Understanding is learning, and learning about your dog. Its habits, and real motivations, not the ones we want them to have. Looking at your dog as the same as others, using food when your dog isn’t motivated by it, or using your behaviour as a reward in the wrong way.

The main point to all blog post is this. Don’t let yourself stand in the way of your dog training goals, and journey. There is a solution to every problem, but sometimes there needs to be failure to be learned from.

Kathryn Jones FdSc AAB
NTIPDU, MoGDT, ABDT, CFBA, IACP – A Clever Approach to Dog Training and Behaviour

Investing in YOUR Canine Education

When you start training your dog, you are investing in your relationship together. Building the bond, and teaching them about the world they are in.

So why are you going in blind? I see so many owners teaching their dogs things, but without the knowledge themselves. Watching things on TV, or reading books is very different to applying it in the real world. It seems a very long winded and difficult way to do dog training, when you have other options there to guide you though the whole process.

There is very limited advice for you as dog owners, aimed at education before getting a dog (I’m working on this!). But that is a crap excuse for not get help as soon as you get that puppy, re-home or rescue. There is so much education going on for when you add a dog to your life, such as classes, webinars, Facebook groups and one to one training.

My biggest gripe and why I’m writing this blog is to urge people to get educated in the issues their breed faces, what a dog could have training issues in and understanding the dog is more than an ornament programmed to do what you want. Understanding your dog as a dog.

So many people contact me saying they are struggling with things like recall or lead manners but they are trying to train their dog in a way that doesn’t suit the breed. Training a Spaniel with food can be done, but so many are prey motivated that they leg it off. There is no treat good enough for a recall from a fresh bunny on the move. BUT if you have a puppy you’ve trained on play with you to pent up prey drive, you tend to have a much better chance of getting that recall around distractions. This is because you are controlling the prey they want, be that a ball, tugger or disc. The toy comes through you so why would they go else where?

Some breeds prefer reward from you in the form of eye contact, verbal and physical praise. These might be your more people based breeds such as Doberman, Shitzus and Collies. These breeds can’t always be bribed with food and thrive on consistent and calm behaviour from their owners, calm and confident can’t really happen if you are not sure what you are actually doing in dog training.

Education can come from speaking to other dog owners before getting a certain breed, or meeting breeders who are passionate about their puppies and breed. These people are the people in the know, they live with and own these dogs. They are often very honest and to the point about the breeds good and bad points. They will point you in the right direction for advice, and knowledge.

Seeking professional help is right, but it can be so very wrong if you go to the wrong person for you. Talk to the trainer/behaviourist first, before you commit to anything. Speak to someone who actually knows how to teach, lots of people in the canine world are fantastic with dogs, and have terrible people skills. Call them up and ask questions, ask what they are achieved with their own dogs and clients. Look for real experience and training, instead of a cheap price. This is your future you are investing in, do not skimp on the education you and your dog will be getting.

Dog trainers are training you to train your dog. It is a weird concept, as you call in a plumber to fix the boiler, not to give you the advice on how to fix it as well as a plan on how it can be done, and then demonstrate it. They fix it. Dogs are so different from any other part of the family and household, they need specialist considerations which means a different way of learning for you, as well as the dogs. Think of dog training as learning a new job, your learning new skills and applying them to the job at hand. The biggest issue is the dog has its own mind about things, so its not just applying knowledge but it is also about adapting and building on that knowledge to match your dogs change.

It is TOUGH! Being a dog owner is one of the toughest things in the world. You are there to look after this being that needs you, but also doesn’t understand your world and often not even their own if they haven’t been socialised. These tail wagging, slobbering and bouncy beings are there because we choose to have them, not the other way around. We owe it to them to educate ourselves about how they learn, how they understand the world and how they want to live, instead of fumbling about missing ways of preventing issue that stress us and the dog out.

Go educate yourself as a dog owner, or future dog owner. No matter how many dogs you have owned, there is always new knowledge out there. Investing in your education, is investing in your dogs happiness, as well as your own. There are books, webinars, online coaching, one to one training, classes, telephone consults, workshops, breed seminars, behaviour seminars, experienced owners, breeders, and the internet. While it can be overwhelming to start, it soon makes more sense and broadens your horizons in order to benefit you.

Invest in that knowledge and then apply it. Lots of dog owners think 8 weeks of training is enough to build a bond forever and have a well trained dog, its more like 8 years of hard work and bond building. Once you know what your doing keep applying it daily, re training the things you know to build on and further your relationship. Keep the basics in every training session you do, and apply it to real life.

Invest in your education, to better your future together.

Kathryn Jones FdSc AAB

A Clever Approach to Dog Training and Behaviour

Rewarding or Releasing Behaviour in Dog Training?

A basic mistake in dog training I think all dog owners have made is to reward a dog too early, and accidentally release it from what your doing.  A common and good example I see is on the recall. The owner is calling their dog back, and as the dog is running towards them they shout, “GOOD DOG”, and the dog then runs off in the opposite direction, leaving a very frustrated owner (By now screaming “COME HERE POPPY!!!”) and a happy dog thinking it has done the right thing.

Here is what is going on, so when we get any dog, be that a puppy or a rescue we always start training in some way. Mainly it is the sit, we get them to sit then reward them with the “Good Dog”, then allow them to get up for a fuss, or walk away from what you’re doing. Releasing them from the exercise. You are telling the dog they are doing it right, so creating a learned behaviour, you are also accidentally teaching them that that combination of words means you’re finished now. This comes in to play a problem as the dog is off lead more or working away from the owners even in the home. When your dog is not directly focusing on you for one to one training and is distracted by the environment it is most certainly going to be seeing the “Good Dog” as a release word in order to do what they want, as well as please you. We see it as encouragement as that is how we interpret it.

We are the teachers of our dogs, and we need to get into their head a little bit and understand how they understand us.

Efficient and reliable dog training for any command requires you to put in the basics, and the mechanics for all the training. A good reward word, a good encouragement word/voice, and an actual release word.

To combat the reward word becoming a release, keep repeating the word along side the command. An example would be “Sit, Gooood Dog, Sit, Gooood Dog”, rewarding with longer words than short sounds are slightly less exciting, and less likely to pull the dog out of the position you want them in. Reward them for staying where they are. This elongation of words allows you to encourage the right behaviour from your dog, rather than them moving off every 10 seconds and you becoming frustrated. I sometimes also use a separate encouragement word such as “GoGo” to help maintain a behaviour at speed, like a recall. I am not releasing them from what were doing, but instead encouraging it.

An actual release word should be taught during training and is easy to teach. I do some basic training, such as the sit or down, and once I want the dog to be released from this training. I use a word such as “Ok” and walk away from the dog or throw a treat/toy for the dog to play with away from what they were doing. Do this for short time periods, then build it up over time. It is important that you allow the dog to do what it wants during these periods of time, and call them to re engage when your ready for them. What you are creating is a taught release, so the dog waits for you to release them instead of them deciding to move away. The release command is a consistent signal that you have finished training/focusing, the dog can do what they want. This can be used for training, or on normal walks where when you are walking throw in the “Ok” to allow the dog to sniff the grass, greet another dog or walk away off lead. If your dog doesn’t want to, then they don’t have to.

What I have found both as a professional, and as a dog owner myself that the power of being consistent to these words training has a massive impact not only on your dog, but also on the way you interact with your dog daily. Giving you the empowerment to head into situations and know how to continue your training, and know your dog is focusing on you for the time you need. It greatly improves recall, and focus around other dogs for some dogs.

This blog post is a little intro into the difference and training, rather than a full on guide. Its easier to show the training, then write it down. It is hopefully going to make your think about what your dog might actually know, rather than what you think it knows, or thinks about the words you are saying. No dog is too old to learn the difference between the release word and reward. Rewarding a dog is easy, but pin pointing the right behaviour is hard as dogs behaviour changes from second to second. Consistency is key, and always being 100% sure in your head what behaviour you are rewarding, as well as aiming for as an outcome.

In summary, use a word to reward and encourage the right behaviour, and teach a release word to end the training or interaction, an off the dog a way to do what they want to do. Think dog, and think human. No one wants to, or can focus all the time. Why should your dog?

Kathryn Jones FdSc AAB


A Clever Approach to Dog Training and Behaviour



Adopting a Rescue Dog… Are you Ready?

Its a great thing to want to add a dog into your life, it’s an even better joy to bring a rescue dog into your home. It isn’t for everyone, but someone willing to bring a rescue dog into their home is starting a new journey with this dog.

Rescue dogs can be seen as something to fix, or change to suit your home. What people need to understand, that most of the time these dogs need someone, or some place to adjust to their massive change in circumstances. These dogs have had their whole life turned upside down, and need time to adjust to new things. While many settle into a new home quickly, some get over looked as their are not “quick fixes”.

Are you ready to walk into that rescue centre and not be drawn in by a look, but by that dogs personalty. Their behaviour, and exercise needs to suit you. To look past a fluffy breed, or a small dog in favour for one that really suits your home, and life. To be told no that dog isn’t suitable for you, no matter how hard you’ll work. Rescues are looking for homes that suit their dogs, not for you to change the dog to suit your home. These dogs need homes that match them most to help them settle in fastest, and forever.

Rescue dogs no matter how long they have been in rescue need time to adjust to new things. They need time to work out what is happening, and how their life is going to be. You cannot explain to a dog what is happening, they simply have to experience it. They cannot control their environment or day, but they can control how they interact with you. This little control is all some dogs have, and this is why they can lash out at the people trying to help them, why they turn into themselves or generally act out of character.

Even when that dog gets into a new home this behaviour can carry on. Dogs have no control of their life generally, and the choice to not got for a walk, or tell you to buzz off with growling is how they can make their own choices. Instead of deciding the dog is aggressive or not suitable see it from their point of view. See how all this change is huge for them. Yes your saving them, and offering them a new home, where they will be loved, but remember they don’t get to choose, and sometimes they want a choice.

When adopting a rescue dog, don’t dump them straight into the routine you want. Your busy life style might be great for them in time, but right now they might need a calm, and settled routine. They need to ease into the new life, of new walks, and new places. Of new canine and human neighbours. Of new home rules. Of new family. They need easing into the new home and its differences to their old home, or some dogs have never been in a home.

Do not expect a dog to just settle in straight away, they can do in time, but dogs need several weeks to feel at home in your home.  Some dogs takes up to 3 weeks to settle in a new home, this can seem like an age to most dog owners, and is why I often keep all my rescue dogs in for assessment for at least a month. After this time you’ll see the dogs true character. It is not uncommon for dogs to get worried or act out in order to cope with all the change. What you might see as normal, say having the family over for Sunday lunch, could be utterly terrifying for a new rescue dog. People coming in desperate to see them, cuddle them, or play with them. People this dog has never met, invading their new home. Well it is not surprising when this kind of crazy event takes place, that the very friendly dog suddenly becomes unfriendly.

Are you ready to commit time, training and your emotion into that dog? Is your family to make some adjustments to help that dog settle in, or work around their behaviour issues? Are you all ready for a dog that might take a year or more to become the dog of your dreams? If you are then a rescue dog is for you, if not you need to wait til your life can take one on. A rescue dog should never be an impulse idea.

Rescue dogs aren’t always hard work, they can benefit your life and change it for the better. Taking on a dog that needs lots of exercise can get your fitter, and healthier. A dog needing time to adjust to the world, can provide you with cuddles, love and attention. A young dog needing some retraining can help you sort out your organisation and time management skills.

Rescue dogs are amazing, and all deserve a home that suits them. But you need patience to help them settled.

Some top tips are:

  • Give the dog its own space, somewhere it can settle in the main room your use as a family, but not be bothered. The rule of thumb is that if the dog has taken themselves there you leave them alone, even if its time for a walk. Sometimes it is better to leave them settled then force a walk if they can’t cope with going out again.
  • Show them how to exit the house into the garden. This is a simple one. Most rescue dogs are house trained, and find it very stressful when they aren’t sure where to go to the loo. Showing them where the door into the garden is, and hovering there til they go, then rewarding it can help them settle.
  • Hand feed them, as long as the dog doesn’t have food aggression issues, then hand feed them. Show them you can provide them with the basic primal things such as food. In that food, add in the odd goodies such as chicken or treats. Obviously some dogs might be too nervous for this.
  • Look into a calming product such as Adaptil, Pet Remedy, or Rescue Remedy to help your dog settle in. They might need help to cope with the stress, and all this products can help de-stress the dog.
  • Play! Play is a huge bonding and learning exercise for dogs. They learn about you through it, it burns energy and reduces stress. Throw a ball about, hide treats for them to find, play rough and tumble games.
  • Seek help where needed, call the rescue and ask about the dog if theirs anything you need to know. Ask to work with a dog trainer when needed, to help nip some issues in the bud as soon as possible.

Also understand that sometimes the rescue dog you have chosen, might not be the one for you. You might be told by the rescue centre before meeting, you might have doubts after meeting them, you might not click in the home trial and you might find that over time, their behaviour still isn’t something you can deal with in 6 months time. Their is no judgement of anyone if a dog doesn’t suit you. Obviously rescues want dogs to find homes, but the right one, and they are happy to help anyone pick the right dog, but will also put their foot down if you are not the right home for that dog. You should never feel guilty for not being able to provide a home for that dog, because their will be the right dog for you somewhere.

Kathryn Jones FdSc AAB

A Clever Approach to Dog Training and Behaviour

Recent Behaviour Changes? Do Some Backward Thinking.

Recently a long term dog training client mentioned to me that their dog was chewing the end of the bed at night. Their routine hadn’t changed, the dogs normal behaviour hadn’t changed. Nothing was different when I asked the main questions, we carried on with our normal training.
Still stumped by the chewing thing.

Part of being a Behaviourist is working around an issue, asking questions and getting answers in order to find a solution.

Then I walked into the room and saw the dentastix, I mentioned if the dog was now getting them before bed? “Of course” cried the owner. Well there was my answer.
The dog was getting a sugar hit before bed!

I’m not going to go into what you should, and shouldn’t feed your dog (Do your own googling on that one), but I am going to stress, that tiny little changes can have a big impact on your dog.

In this case, adding in a bit too much sugar before bed was causing the dog to wake in the night and start chewing. Something she has never done, I could have applied loads of different training, and routine management to change it, but actually all that was needed was to not feed her sugar before bed.

Little changes can mean big differences for your dog.

Lots of behaviour changes in dogs can be environmental for small changes. Yes, sometimes they cause big changes but quite often subtle little changes in your dogs behaviour can be pin pointed by a small change.

Any unexplained behaviour changes must be changed out by a vets consult, in order to rule out any medical issues.

Uncomplicated things can make big differences. Think about the things you do with your dogs.


Kathryn Jones FdSc AAB


Clever Fox Canine Training and Behaviour