Dog training – training yourself and changing your mindset

It’s very easy to concentrate on training just your dog. But there is a HUGE element of training yourself. And I don’t necessarily mean getting your hands and timings right. I mean your state of mind.

I’m not about to get all life coachy on you now, BUT there is a MASSIVE effect you can have on your dog if you aren’t in the right place.  Something I’ve really tried to work hard on myself the last couple of months. Even when you aren’t training, I just mean day to day life stuff going on.

So what can we do about it?

These are the KEY things I do, and have learnt, to manage how you look at a situation which in turn effects your feelings and emotions.  It will have an impact on your dog too.

I am sooooo stressed out right now (ditch the negativity!!)

There is an awesome saying that Absolute Dogs have taught me, and that is to replace the above sentence with ‘I am being stretched right now!’ It sounds so much better doesn’t it!


I love a challenge, and I have to say I think my bucket is PRETTY big. I have a lot of patience. But even I can hit a wall. When I do, I want to just run and SCREAM. HOWEVER, If I tell myself this phrase it changes my WHOLE perspective of a situation. When my dog has decided that today, he is actually going to bark at ALL noises, I no longer see my situation as stressful, I see it is an opportunity to stretch myself.

“This experience is stretching me and what I am capable of. We are going to get through this, I am just being tested right now and stretched.” This in turn increases my capabilities and will benefit me, and my dog!

The same goes for: “I’m having such a bad day” and “Today has been awful”.  Just anything negative people! Turn it around in your mind. Positive thinking.

Every Challenge is an Opportunity

For a time while walking Buddy I might see other people’s dogs, off lead running up to my dog on lead, or 50 cars go past in my sleepy village on a ‘quiet’ Sunday afternoon, or my hubby leaving his shoes unsupervised AGAIN, and get sooooo mad! How dare they RUIN my day! Just what we needed – I haven’t got time for this.


Now, anything like this I try and see as an opportunity.

What have I learnt? What can I do in this situation right now? This is an opportunity to put my training into practice. We can’t always avoid real life so how are we going to handle this? Suddenly the world is full of opportunities, rather than just annoying people. YES there are still annoying people who you want to throw the contents of your dogs poo bag at – but lets not let it effect our day and our mindset.

Get up off your arse!

Move!!! If you are feeling lethargic, cant seem to get through a struggle in your mind, get moving. Get those endorphins pumping. Go for a walk (not necessarily with your dog who might be filling your bucket right now!) Stick your favourite tunes on. Go for a run. It doesn’t have to be ‘fitness’ as such unless that’s what you like – but do SOMETHING.


Change the picture

A great example of this for me recently, is crate training. We are re-training the crate for Buddy and employing solutions for different concepts. One of the things I did was change the position of the crate. Not even into a different room. Before the door was open at the short end. I turned the crate around and now, the door is open at the long end. By the end of the day at least once, Buddy had gone in there, all four paws in, his own choice (baited by food and rewarded while being in there) not once had I asked him to go in it. I can tell you now, that before that, he would not step a foot NEAR that crate. I thought I had well and truly broken it.


So you need to get creative. Think outside of the box, like waaay outside it. What can you do differently to change this picture?

Another example. We had a workman coming to do some work in the house. This was when Buddy was particularly barky and reactive to anyone coming in. We are open plan so there is no where to hide! And the noise would have been far more than an opportunity to train as it would have been all day. I considered booking our dog trainer for the day, but wondered if there was anything else we could do.


Then it came to me. The car is somewhere he will settle and sleep on journeys. So, lets do that. We will plan a day out, use the car as a boundary for him. We do the school run twice as well anyway, so we can easily be out from 8am to 3pm, and when we return he can either stay in the car, or I can use it as an opportunity for some DMT. It worked a treat.

What can you do to manage a situation, change the picture. Look around you.

Don’t Nag!

OMG its just the worst thing to hear isn’t it? NO! GET DOWN! OFF! STOP! NOT NOW! NO! NO! NO! People do this, I get it, I’ve done it too! It’s second nature. And when we don’t get the desired result? Well we just shout louder till the dog is scared into stopping still. They don’t actually know what you are trying to tell them mind you so they will eventually do it again. Nothing has been taught, except to be a little fearful of you.  Getting dogs to make their own good choices is a whole other blog… but what I’m trying to say is that nagging just doesn’t work.

Think about what you do want your dog to do. Often we nag, when we aren’t in the most optimistic mood ourselves and feeling a bit bucket full. So probably not the right time to try too much training. Just give your dog loads of opportunity to be calm with chews/bones/kongs and then go and empty your bucket – How do I empty mine? Gin!

Make time for you

It’s something we are told over and over but its soooo bloody important! Honestly if I didn’t have some downtime, even if that means telling the whole house we are all turning in at 9pm so I can have an hours peace to read a book, paint my nails, or have a relaxing bath, it’s GOT to be done. If you have a really busy life and think you can’t do that, think about HOW you can include it. On your lunchbreak at work? Can you drive out somewhere? Get a dog walker? Find a way to do something to give you some time that is dedicated to NOTHING but you. Switch off and enjoy what you love best.

Sam Milburn Headshot

I hope this has given you some ideas on how to improve your mindset with your dog not just in training but day to day! Look, no one is perfect and we all make mistakes. Patience and optimism however go a long LONG way and I know a lot of these are really working for me right now. Is there anything you do that helps get you into a more understanding and level sort of mindset? Let me know below!




  1. Thank you for your words of encouragement. I have a very reactive 20 month old dog who barks at people and dogs. This has caused a lot of stress in our family and at times I feel like giving up. I joined Absolute Dogs in March and that has helped a lot inside at home. It is great to hear a success story from someone who has had the same struggle. I love to read your posts. Thank you.


    • I’m so pleased reading it has helped! It really can all work. It’s almost always down to a full bucket and working on bags of confidence. You will totally get there and make sure you come and tell us when it does! Remember, you don’t have to walk every day either if it’s super stressful. You’ve got this xxx


  2. Hi Sam, great post, I had bad start to day with Star today, meeting family member today who has the perfect dog and wascalreading thinking of what I was going to say when they asked if Star was any better, thought would try to take Star out early in morning avoiding traffic.but my 200yds was hideous, walk itself not bad then had to get back. Man in the alleyway we walk down, tried to make Star to one side but she was having nonè of it and barked madly at him, then on the road got bikes can and then a coach, poor Star was a state and I lot the plot. Made if back rest of day not too bad and she is snuggled in her crate Joe. Let tomorrow be a new day. Thanks Sarah


    • Ah Sarah yes I have had those walks when you think all is quiet or maybe your dog won’t react! Tomorrow is for sure a new day! Maybe fun games in the garden to replace a walk and let her truly empty her bucket and relax! You are doing a great job! Have a lovely day xx


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