Inevitably when I talk to people about raising their puppies or work with them on behavior issues I talk about “follow through” and “consistency” and they think of me as a serious disciplinarian.

I do think that culturally speaking most people make that association.

Loosey goosey is fun. Clear and consistent is not.

But why?

Does that have anything to do with how we ourselves were raised….either loosey goosey or with tons of strictness?

In a collaborative relationship I associate low expectations with a lack of trust.

If I trust someone I want to be able to trust blindly. I want to live with someone who is reliable, predictable and in return I feel comfortable and safe. There really is no reason to be anxious or doubtful. This is what happens with a dog that has been taught with positive reinforcement. Cues are viewed as invitations to engage in rewarded behaviors.

That is why consistency is so important.

From the dog’s point of view it means: “My life is run by a person who is unreliable and I am not sure of the meaning of the cue”.

In this context unreliable can mean: not being consistent. If the rules of the game change according to mood, then the inconsistency leads to confusion and by the same token the human becomes “untrustworthy”, even if the manipulation veers toward being more lax rather than expecting words to have the same meaning every time.

What happens ultimately is that the dog does not trust himself or the human because there is no consistent consequence to the human cue. It creates a deficit in the trust fund.

If “sit” means: “sit” one day and the next day means “sit…or not” then we are in trouble.

Positive reinforcement training is really rooted in trust. Both parties are engaged in benevolent, reliable behavior. The consequence of the communication is rewarding for both parties.

Elisabeth Weiss is a highly certified, experienced dog trainer in Manhattan, NYC. To learn more about dog training services, contact us by phone at (917) 783-1473 or our contact form.

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