Why Has Our Dog Regressed? What Do We Do?

Naughty Dog

QUESTION:

Hi Don! I’m in love with your Command Collar. I have two dogs, both chocolate lab/Rottweiler mixes. With your collar I’m able to take both dogs walking at the same time. We hike a lot and they’re able to walk off leash when we are on the little used trails. However, recently something’s happened. Suddenly when they see other dogs, or deer, or squirrel, they’re off like shots before I can grab them. And, it’s taking longer and longer to recall. When I have them on the long Freedom Training Line and they’re close, they come back and sit immediately. Any words of wisdom? I love taking them both with me, but now I’m uncertain.

ANSWER:

It’s so great to read about your enthusiasm, thanks! I appreciate the feedback.

Regarding your dog’s regression: Whenever anyone experiences some degree of regression in the training, they need to go back a few steps to where they feel it’s appropriate (according to the severity of the problem) and start from that point. Their goal should be to rebuild the dog’s respect for their authority because that’s the where the problem lies.

Another critical step is to consider what they’ve done (or haven’t done) to cause the regression. Dogs never regress for no reason. And, the specific regression problem may be completely unrelated to the negative influences that have been a catalyst for the regression. For example, your dogs may be chasing after critters now and resisting recall because you’ve slackened off in some other area of your life with them (e.g. suddenly allowing them on your bed and furniture, or failing to correct them for possessiveness over toys, etc.).

Even if the negative influences have crept in from elsewhere, an owner is generally always responsible for what their dog is allowed to experience and how the dog is allowed to react in situations. Even if it means ruffling a few feathers (e.g. telling a certain permissive and coddling family member or friend to abstain from interacting with the dog), the owner needs to consider what’s best for the dog’s training because, ultimately, the quality of life between master/canine is at stake. I’m not afraid of telling it how it is, so I would label it negligence if an owner is unwilling to do what it takes to eliminate (or at least thoroughly minimize) negative influences upon their dog and then the dog ends up leading a restricted life because it can’t be trusted. One of my famous comments is this: “Your dog didn’t have a choice who he went home with, so you’re fully accountable for the kind of life you give him.”

So in your situation, I would recommend that you go back and do some more reinforcement work using the long Freedom Training Line. At the same time, be very sensitive to the “little” things you’re doing and saying around your dogs. If you let your dogs get away with anything at all, that will lead to bigger problems (like the one you’re currently experiencing).

Also review the “Equipment” section on DVD #1. Sometimes using one or more of the specialized training techniques (discussed in this section) for a time can help nip a problem in the bud a lot quicker, especially for particularly strong and/or stubborn dogs. Also review the “Chasing Critters, etc.” section under “Problem Behaviors” and, very importantly, the “Golden Rules” section on DVD #1.

– Don Sullivan

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