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Plateaus in Dog Training: I was making progress with my training and now I'm not. What gives?

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What do we mean when we say our training has hit a plateau?

Generally speaking, a plateau refers to when your dog’s training has hit a point where you no longer are making progress, but are not regressing either.

Plateaus can be frustrating, disheartening and confusing. Here’s how to start troubleshooting.

Health Check

It will be difficult or impossible to make progress if your dog is in pain, discomfort, or has high anxiety/fear on a regular basis. Rule this out and/or treat if necessary.

Management Check

Are you effectively preventing your reactive or anxious dog from being triggered and/or practicing undesirable behaviour? If your dog is being triggered regularly, you are likely to plateau or regress.

Threshold Check

Is your dog under threshold when you attempt to train them? Is the dog training being executed properly? Are there other exercises or protocols that might be more helpful than what you’re currently doing?

Expectations Check

Consider whether this might be the best your dog can do. When dogs have practiced certain behaviours for a long time, sometimes we hit the end of the line for them, and that’s okay. It’s okay to stop training and just enjoy your dog.

Remember that plateaus are normal. Some can be overcome with training and some cannot. Take the time to troubleshoot why your training has plateaued, but don’t beat yourself up about it.

Remember dogs are sentient beings who are not at all aware of our goals and desires for them. They really are trying their best! Give yourself permission to take a break from training and come back to it when you feel ready.

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