Push Button Dog Training

It’s always surprising to discover where it’s possible to find enlightening analogies that can be applied to dog training.  Unfortunately, the snow and ice on the ground has forced us inside to run on the treadmill at our gym.  An hour’s worth of jogging provides a goodly amount of time for “people watching”.  Because we are accustomed to observing dogs, Suzanne couldn’t help but notice the sequence of events taking place on the treadmill next to her on a recent morning.

When Suzanne stepped onto her treadmill, a person was just finishing a workout on the treadmill to her right.  The equipment didn’t stay vacant long, as a young woman stepped on a few minutes later.  She pushed the start button once and nothing happened – the belt didn’t start immediately.  Quick as a flash, she was off that treadmill to try another one.  Suzanne watched this happen with three different women who all appeared to be in their 20s.   None of them pushed the ‘start’ button more than once or attempted any other action to try and make the treadmill start.

We knew the treadmill worked because we’d both seen it operating properly as we started our workouts.  After a few minutes, a fourth woman, who we judged to be in her late 30s or early 40s, stepped on.  She put in her headphones, set her towel and water bottle on the shelf at the front of the treadmill and pushed start.  Nothing happened.

Rather than instantly bailing out, this “older” (more mature is perhaps a better term!) woman pushed the start button a bit harder several times, studied the control panel for a few seconds, next pushed the reset button, then pushed start again, and voila, in less than a minute had the treadmill going.   

So how does this relate to dog training?  In recent months a common theme in conversations with and emails we’ve received from trainers, has been frustration with the lack of “client compliance”.  This issue certainly isn’t unique to the field of dog training.  Veterinarians, human mental health professionals, physicians, dentists (do you floss regularly?) and others face the same problem.

It’s not that we don’t share your frustration, but hopefully we’ve learned to be more realistic.  People are conditioned to expect instant gratification in many areas of their lives.  And this may be heightened for the younger generations that have never known a world without cell phones, texting, the internet, and more digital gadgetry. 

If someone won’t take an extra few seconds to even push a start button on a treadmill more than once before giving up and moving on, it’s not too surprising that they have a limited amount of patience, persistence, and willingness to follow through with what are often relatively complicated training procedures that may also require significant changes in daily routines they are accustomed to with their dogs. 

So, what’s the take home lesson here?  First, don’t waste mental and physical energy lamenting over what you wish your clients would do.  Stewing about other people’s behavior stifles your creativity, makes it difficult to have a positive outlook, and interferes with your productivity. 

Second, re-evaluate what you are asking people to do.  Make sure you are making it as easy as possible for people to consistently do the homework exercises you give them.  Deliver your recommendations in bite size pieces.  Break a program down into daily “to dos” or action steps.  Examine your communication techniques and your follow-up procedures. 

Consider getting feedback about your training plans from friends and family who aren’t ‘in the business”.  Often, what seems easy to a professional really isn’t easy at all for clients.  Make the best use of your time and energy by maximizing the quality of your interactions with clients. 

By the way, if you want more proven strategies for better communication with clients and for having a successful behavior and training business pick up a copy of the “Pet Pro Behavior Guide: 7 Key Strategies to Build an Effective and Profitable Behavior and Training Business that Enhances Your Professional Reputation.”  Visit www.PetProBehaviorGuide.com today.


  • marlin beck,cpdt-ka

    Reply Reply

    is the material a book or binder or dvd?

  • I have noticed that if I can get client’s attention at the beginning of a lesson by quickly getting their dog to react differently (“better”), they are more willing to listen and follow directions because they want to do it too. I’ve had lots of people proclaim I’m the Dog Whisperer (they mean it as a compliment) because I make change happen so fast.

    I used to do more talking/explaining before I worked with the dog, but I got a lot of impatient interruptions (“But what do I do when she…?”). When clients see how quickly changes can be made, they are more interested in doing the work (no matter how long it ends up taking). It’s a little “show bizzy” but it works!

  • Suzanne & Dan

    Reply Reply

    Great response Christy and it is evidence of the point of the article – quick results are impressive and help to instill an owner’s confidence in your abilities. The “quick change” obviously won’t be a total resolution of the problem (with rare exception) but it let’s the client know you have good skills. Now all you have to do is the same thing, repeatedly – small but reasonably quick changes – until you reach the training goal. Good job!

  • Suzanne & Dan

    Reply Reply

    Martin – You receive the Pet Pro Behavior Guide in several formats to make it easy to use – the streaming video, the downloadable video, the downloadable mp3, the complete downloadable pdf transcript (that you could certainly put in a binder!) PLUS more than a dozen supplemental materials to help you implement the strategies. You can also obtain just the video in DVD format from Amazon.com by searching in the Movies and TV category, for “dog training business”. Hope you give it a try – it does come with a guarantee!

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