When you start training your dog, you are investing in your relationship together. Building the bond, and teaching them about the world they are in.
So why are you going in blind? I see so many owners teaching their dogs things, but without the knowledge themselves. Watching things on TV, or reading books is very different to applying it in the real world. It seems a very long winded and difficult way to do dog training, when you have other options there to guide you though the whole process.
There is very limited advice for you as dog owners, aimed at education before getting a dog (I’m working on this!). But that is a crap excuse for not get help as soon as you get that puppy, re-home or rescue. There is so much education going on for when you add a dog to your life, such as classes, webinars, Facebook groups and one to one training.
My biggest gripe and why I’m writing this blog is to urge people to get educated in the issues their breed faces, what a dog could have training issues in and understanding the dog is more than an ornament programmed to do what you want. Understanding your dog as a dog.
So many people contact me saying they are struggling with things like recall or lead manners but they are trying to train their dog in a way that doesn’t suit the breed. Training a Spaniel with food can be done, but so many are prey motivated that they leg it off. There is no treat good enough for a recall from a fresh bunny on the move. BUT if you have a puppy you’ve trained on play with you to pent up prey drive, you tend to have a much better chance of getting that recall around distractions. This is because you are controlling the prey they want, be that a ball, tugger or disc. The toy comes through you so why would they go else where?
Some breeds prefer reward from you in the form of eye contact, verbal and physical praise. These might be your more people based breeds such as Doberman, Shitzus and Collies. These breeds can’t always be bribed with food and thrive on consistent and calm behaviour from their owners, calm and confident can’t really happen if you are not sure what you are actually doing in dog training.
Education can come from speaking to other dog owners before getting a certain breed, or meeting breeders who are passionate about their puppies and breed. These people are the people in the know, they live with and own these dogs. They are often very honest and to the point about the breeds good and bad points. They will point you in the right direction for advice, and knowledge.
Seeking professional help is right, but it can be so very wrong if you go to the wrong person for you. Talk to the trainer/behaviourist first, before you commit to anything. Speak to someone who actually knows how to teach, lots of people in the canine world are fantastic with dogs, and have terrible people skills. Call them up and ask questions, ask what they are achieved with their own dogs and clients. Look for real experience and training, instead of a cheap price. This is your future you are investing in, do not skimp on the education you and your dog will be getting.
Dog trainers are training you to train your dog. It is a weird concept, as you call in a plumber to fix the boiler, not to give you the advice on how to fix it as well as a plan on how it can be done, and then demonstrate it. They fix it. Dogs are so different from any other part of the family and household, they need specialist considerations which means a different way of learning for you, as well as the dogs. Think of dog training as learning a new job, your learning new skills and applying them to the job at hand. The biggest issue is the dog has its own mind about things, so its not just applying knowledge but it is also about adapting and building on that knowledge to match your dogs change.
It is TOUGH! Being a dog owner is one of the toughest things in the world. You are there to look after this being that needs you, but also doesn’t understand your world and often not even their own if they haven’t been socialised. These tail wagging, slobbering and bouncy beings are there because we choose to have them, not the other way around. We owe it to them to educate ourselves about how they learn, how they understand the world and how they want to live, instead of fumbling about missing ways of preventing issue that stress us and the dog out.
Go educate yourself as a dog owner, or future dog owner. No matter how many dogs you have owned, there is always new knowledge out there. Investing in your education, is investing in your dogs happiness, as well as your own. There are books, webinars, online coaching, one to one training, classes, telephone consults, workshops, breed seminars, behaviour seminars, experienced owners, breeders, and the internet. While it can be overwhelming to start, it soon makes more sense and broadens your horizons in order to benefit you.
Invest in that knowledge and then apply it. Lots of dog owners think 8 weeks of training is enough to build a bond forever and have a well trained dog, its more like 8 years of hard work and bond building. Once you know what your doing keep applying it daily, re training the things you know to build on and further your relationship. Keep the basics in every training session you do, and apply it to real life.
Invest in your education, to better your future together.
Kathryn Jones FdSc AAB
A Clever Approach to Dog Training and Behaviour