Pick your battles. It’s a saying that we use a lot. I would venture to say that I use this phrase at least once or twice a day in all kinds of contexts. Today, I’ll be using “pick your battles” in the context of training your dog, because let’s face it, in the real world, a well-trained dog is a subjective matter.
Related: Our Top Pitbull Puppy Training Tips
The Inspiration for Pick Your Battles
A couple of things converged for me the other day that prompted me to write this. First, I was watching an episode of The Dog Whisperer and thinking to myself, “I have never seen this result in a normal situation.” Then a person posted a question in the forums regarding playing fetch. It was a long post, but the short of it was that the owner wanted to get his Pit to play fetch, but the Pit had instead made the ball his reward. So basically, the Pit would not play fetch because the ball was the treat.
This is a classic example of what can happen on the road to training, and the owner’s desperation to get his Pit to play fetch – which may not ever happen – was another piece of the puzzle that got me thinking about the concept of training and how to pick your battles.
Pick Your Battles to Save Your Sanity
So you have a dog. You have big dreams for the classic dog owner scenario.
- Your dog will get your mail.
- Your dog will be the most well-behaved dog on-leash ever.
- Your dog will follow your every command as soon as you give it without question.
- You will be the undisputed lord and master of your dog’s world.
That’s not what’s going to happen. Here’s the real world scenario from one dog owner to another.
- Your dog will pee and poop outside, and that will be awesome.
- Your dog will get your mail… and devour it if you don’t get to it first.
- Your dog will mostly be well-behaved on the leash until he sees a small rodent, another dog, another person, or another interesting whatever, in which case your dog will become the wold’s hairiest large mouth bass.
- Your dog will sometimes listen to you, but only if you have treats and only if you have them in the right amount.
- You will be the undisputed lord and master of your dog’s world until something more interesting comes along, you run out of treats, or both.
If you’ve ever owned a dog, you will immediately recognize the humor of the above statements. If you haven’t, get ready. Because those are “funny because they’re true” statements. These statements are why you have to pick your battles.
If you can successfully potty train your dog quickly and teach him to sit, you’re already ahead of the curve. Let’s face it, unless you own a dog training facility, you won’t be hosting your own version of The Dog Whisperer anytime soon, and that’s okay. When you pick your battles, you learn to roll with what comes and use it to your advantage.
Pick Your Battles and Win the War
Let’s take a look at The Case of the Pit That Won’t Fetch as an example. The owner really wants his dog to play fetch. I get it. It’s the classic dog/owner bonding experience. HOWEVER, he wants it so much that he’s missing something amazing that’s happened. The dog’s currency is the ball, not treats. Which means when his dog does something well, he can give the dog a ball rather than extra calories. Awesome.
In addition to that, when you pick your battles, you learn to think outside the box and live a happier life for both you and your pet. Another example in the Pit case is that the dog loves to play tug of war. Rather than wasting hours trying to get the dog to play fetch, which he really doesn’t want to do and which doesn’t hurt anything, just forget it and play tug of war instead. Keep using the ball as a reward, have a classic tug of war game. Everybody wins. Everybody’s happy.
Pick Your Battles and Pick Happiness
When you pick your battles, you see more success, less headache, and more quality time with your pet. Of course, you won’t have the most well-behaved dog on the planet, but you’ll have a super happy dog, and you’ll be a super happy owner. In my opinion, the name of the game is having a happy dog and a happy life, not being the next Caesar Milan. So pick your battles and pick happiness.
What are your thoughts? Did you pick your battles when it came to training your dog? What things did you let slide? Which did you really push for? Share in the comments!