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Why does my dog work better for the trainer than for me?

“He only listens to you!” is a complaint that almost all dog trainers hear from time to time. It can be frustrating to see your dog perform brilliantly for somebody else, and then become a hot mess when you take the leash. Many owners even think the dog is doing this on purpose, maybe to “get back at” them for some perceived slight.


Nope; the cause is usually much simpler! And preventable!


Here are some of the most common reasons.


You weaned off treats too quickly. Trainers don’t mind doing a lot of treat rewards for a looong time, because the more you train with treats, the more solid a behavior gets. Don’t get worried about treats. We can wean off treats in the same calm and orderly manner we’re doing all the training. It's rarely a problem unless you do it too quickly.

The trainer knows exactly what a young or novice dog is likely to do in any situation, and is immediately prepared to deal with any behavior the dog offers. The trainer is equally prepared to deal with a correct response by rewarding it, or an incorrect response by interrupting or preventing it.

The trainer knows that when a dog is misbehaving or performing incorrectly, there is generally an underlying reason other than that the dog is “bad” or “stubborn,” and can identify these causes and deal with them; then the dogs behavior suddenly improves. An example would be if you are trying to get loose-leash walking, and the dog is highly aroused and running around. Rather than continue to insist on loose-leash walking, a trainer might first take a moment to calm and compose the dog.

The trainer does not allow frustration to creep in to a training session. Even if the dog is being quite frustrating, trainers do not allow this to show to the dog. The trainer should always present a confident, calm and friendly persona to the dog.


The big theme in this list is just “experience.” The more experience you get, the better you will be able to get dogs to work for and with you. And there’s no way to gain experience other than to just jump in and start doing it!


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