‘Complex behaviors are just the mastery of the basics.’
Ive heard this quote from so many different great trainers, and yet every time I hear it, it still hits home and fascinates me. Its so true and real, a powerful statement. All complex behaviors stem from a great understanding and ability to perform the basics.
The ability to read and understand Shakespeare, starts with the ability to read and understand Dr. Suess.
The ability to cook the perfect thanksgiving dinner, starts with the ability to make mac n cheese.
The ability to solve complex equations starts with the ability to understand 1 + 1 = 2.
So when we are working on complex issues with our dogs, keep in mind that first you must master the basics. Too often people think that if they have a behavior problem such as dog aggression, then they should only work on staying calm around other dogs. They pack their dog to the dog park, and attempt to force their dog to remain calm in that chaotic environment. The thing is, doing that is like asking someone to take a college level exam before they’re even out of elementary school.
Instead of diving in the deep end with a really challenging behavior, ask yourself does my dog have the basic behaviors mastered that are needed to be able to overcome this behavior problem? Can my dog focus on me in new environments? Can he respond to well learned cues, like sit, look at me, and down here? Can he take treats and other reinforcement reliably?
In order to learn complex skills, we have to start building a foundation of really strong basic skills to hold up to the challenges we may face when we ‘level up’. Make sure you keep things clear, consistent, low stress, and fun for both you and your dog. Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed by training. Just go back to the basics. And remember to #treatplaylove.