No One Can Train Without Pressure

After a recent post by Denise Fenzi called “Pressure“, I decided it was a good idea to make a post about pressure as well. Truth is, you can’t train without pressure. Pressure is an “attempt to persuade or coerce (someone) into doing something” according to Google. Pressure to perform is natural – it’s asking your dog to do something for something it wants. It’s up to us as trainers and dog owners to pay attention to our dogs and understand their body language. The dog is under pressure to work correctly to get the reward he wants and to please you.

Other than the pressure to perform what is being asked, be aware of other pressures that the dog may be under. Being able to perform under these circumstances is tough:

  • The Environment – outdoors, in an arena, in a totally new place
  • Distractions – dogs, prey, other humans watching

Limiting the amount of pressure put on the dog benefits the training process and the dog’s moral. Too much pressure and the dog can shut down. Each dog can handle a different amount of pressure. As the human in the relationship, we have the power to change or vary the amount of pressure a dog is under. We also have the ability to teach them how to handle changes in environment and other distractions. Keeping training fun is so important to alleviate some pressure to perform.

According to the book Control Unleashed; The Puppy Program, you can also put too much pressure through play. Meaning, if play is usually something you use to reward the dog during training and the dog is too uncomfortable to play in the situation he is in (ie. other dogs around), you can accidentally push your dog too far by asking him to play in that environment. As a trainer it is important to be able to adapt to each situation. Always be willing to change the strategy and the rewards at any given moment. Pressuring your dog to keep playing even though he is uncomfortable can back fire.

Basically, be aware of body language, be aware of the environment, change your strategy or rewards, and adapt! Be conscious of the pressure you put on your dog.