You’re a Dog Trainer: Why Don’t Your Dogs Behave Perfectly?

 Back to blog
You might think that because I’m a dog trainer my dogs always behave perfectly, do exactly as they are asked or in fact behave brilliantly without being asked at all. 

Of course my aim is to train them to be well behaved dogs who fit in with social expectations, however there are a few reasons why they aren’t perfect and why I wouldn’t expect them to be.

1. Because I’m human and I make mistakes

First of all, dogs don’t instinctively know how to be ‘good’ dogs in a human world. They don’t know that they shouldn’t jump up at visitors, take that tempting piece of food off the table or bark at that pigeon who likes to sit on the fence. We, as humans, have to teach them.

And here lies the problem. 

We aren’t perfect. We make mistakes. We inadvertently teach our dogs behaviours we don’t want. We don’t always enforce boundaries we know we need to. We run out of time, or energy or both! We sometimes allow our dogs to get away with undesirable behaviours because at that moment, it’s easier. We aren’t consistent. 

If we aren’t able to be 100% perfect when teaching our dogs, how can we expect them to behave perfectly? 

2. Because dogs aren’t robots

Dogs aren’t robots who can simply be programmed to make the same choice over and over again. Dogs are sentient beings. They can think and feel for themselves, which will affect their behaviour. They will assess their choices given their learning history and the factors at play in that moment.

Should they carry on playing with this fun dog, or should they go back to you when you call? 

Should they bring their toy to you for a game of tug or should they parade around showing off their prize?

Should they remain on their bed when visitors walk in or should they run over and jump all over them?

The list is endless…

Our job is, through training, to shape our dog’s choices making the ones we’d like them to pick seem more appealing to them. With a strong history of being rewarded for certain choices, we can make it more likely that our dog will pick that choice again.

However there are no guarantees. Your dog’s decision making will be affected by how they are feeling in that moment, just as your feelings will affect your choices. 

Had a bad day at work? Perhaps you snap at your partner over something trivial, or you lose the self control to stop yourself from eating that chocolate bar. It’s no different for your dog.

3. Because the world is continually shaping their experiences and their behaviour

We know that a dog’s choice is shaped by their previous experiences, or learning history. However what we don’t always account for when sharing our lives with dogs, is that the world is throwing them learning opportunities all the time, and often ones we didn’t intend for them to have!

From a puppy, my younger dog was always great in the car. A few minutes after setting off she’d be settled and often asleep. And then one day, when she was a year old, we were in the car and I had to brake suddenly. 

My dogs are crated in the boot of my car so she was perfectly safe, but she’d had a shock. And that one instance was enough for her to lose all her confidence in the car. Several months on and we’re still working on it. 

That’s a pretty big and obvious example, but there will likely be hundreds of minor events happening in your dog’s day that will be shaping their future choices and behaviour. And that’s why you are never ‘done’ with your dog’s training. It’s an ongoing process that will continue for the rest of their lives.

4. Because your version of a perfect dog might look different to mine

Just as the saying goes that, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” the same is true for what we deem to be perfection from our dogs. We all have different expectations, house rules and behaviour that we will put up with.

When lead walking your dog, do you simply want them not to pull, without any preference to where they walk in relation to you or if they swap sides? Or do you require them to practically glue themselves to your left leg? Or perhaps you want something in between? 

Someone watching you walk your dog down the street won’t know what your expectations of loose lead walking are, they’ll only know what they would require. And it might look completely different. In your eyes your dog might be doing exactly the right thing, but to the onlooker they may think the dog is behaving far from perfectly. 
Now that I’ve covered reasons why a dog may not be acting perfectly, please don’t think that this is a justification for having a badly behaved dog. There’s a world of difference between someone who has never tried to train their dog and someone who is working with their dog to try and improve.

The point I’m making is that there are lots of reasons why a dog may not be behaving perfectly. You don’t know what that dog has been through which may be affecting their current behaviour, you don’t know if that behaviour is usual for them or if they’re having a bad day and you don’t know if the owner of that dog even sees it as bad behaviour.

Nobody sets out to have a badly behaved dog. 

And no dog sets out to be one. 

We need to look upon dogs, and their owners, with a little more kindness and understanding. Nobody sets out to have a badly behaved dog. And no dog sets out to be one. 

So if you’re looking for a dog trainer who lives in the real world, will treat you and your dog with compassion and who will work with you to meet your training goals - then please get in touch!

However, if you’re looking for a dog trainer who has perfectly behaved dogs, 100% of the time - it isn’t me. And I’m fine with that.
Created with