Whether you lost your cool and yelled at your pup, set him up for failure instead of success, or just ran low on the patience to give him the support he needs, here are a few ways to reset when things aren’t going well.
1. Play with your dog. Many dogs love a good game of tug of war, and it can help you both burn off bad vibes and bond again. If tug’s not your dog’s speed, try a quick round of fetch. Or, try a search-based game, and watch your dog enjoy doing something he naturally loves.
2. Breathe in; breathe out. When your dog does something frustrating, let it be a cue for your behavior. Breathe in slowly to a count of 5, and blow it back out just as slowly. Smile at your dog at the end of the breaths, and try to move on or redirect him in a more helpful way.
3. Change your tone. If you’ve started yelling, or if you notice yourself getting unnecessarily stern, try changing your tone to a more playful tone, even if you’re faking it at first. Watch for your dog’s body language perk up, and let that happy dog face reinforce your kinder words.
4. Say something nice about your dog. Tell him you like what he’s done with his fur today. Ask him how he got such beautiful ears. Remind yourself, through these words, the things you love about him, and let him take your nice words as an invitation to interact peacefully.
5. Find something to praise. Anything. Tell your dog he’s a good boy for one little sliver of decent behavior. Give him a treat for making eye contact. Practice his favorite trick that he’s sure to do well. Find any little starting point that’s better than when things went awry.
6. Change the scenery. Walk outside without your dog. Go to another room of the house. Chat with a friend. Take a drive. Reset your environment in some way so you can de-stress a bit before reconnecting with your dog.
7. Pet your dog. Dogs are our often our most forgiving friends. Petting your dog (if he enjoys being pet) can improve your bond, and your mood, in an instant. Remind yourself of how much your dog loves and needs you, and soak in a moment of good ol’ doggie time.
8. Remind yourself how far you’ve come. Whatever the situation is in your home, it’s likely you’ve been putting a lot of your heart and soul into training and making small bits of progress. Review your training journal (in your mind, at least), and remind yourself where you were when you started down this journey with your dog. Progress in training and relationship-building with your dog is never a linear process. When you’re relaxed, you can get back to your training plan or consider ways to modify it to suit your needs and help your dog learn better in the future.
What works for you to reset with your dog? How do you get yourself back on track when your dog pushes your buttons or your training session doesn’t go as planned?