Traditionally, dog training was based on teaching dogs obedience commands through punishment based techniques with a serious lack of understanding of the dog and what motivates them.
Some people still train by these outdated methods and sadly I hear some horror stories still. I recently heard about how their dog was punished by the trainer and they were taught how to inflict pain upon the dog to make them "understand" they were doing something wrong.
Science has evolved and a lot of time and money has been spent on understanding how dogs learn, what methods work and how to successfully maintain a relationship of trust between you and your dog. We are in a society where the majority of dogs still have no formal training but as they are such a large part of our lives and it is more important than ever to offer your dog a good education to make the best out of theirs and your lives together.
Many dogs in rescue homes are there because of a lack of understanding between the dog and their owner and many could have had a very different life if the owner had understood just how much basic training and relationship building can affect a dog.
So what would you and your dog get from training?
Problem behaviour elimination and reduction – training a common language between you and your dog can reduce the frustration and stress between you. For example, you don’t like something your dog is doing, you tell it off, they have no idea why you’re angry, that makes them more stressed and they are more likely to give you a behaviour you don’t want. Instead, try thinking of it a different way. Instead of shouting at the dog to get down from the counter in the kitchen, reward them for sitting nicely in their bed or lying on the floor in the kitchen. You’re much more likely to get them to repeat a behaviour and, in time, eliminate the other bad behaviour because they get something positive from the good behaviour.
Positive training builds a positive relationship – positive training allows you and your dog to foster a relationship based on trust and respect rather than fear and intimidation. In the human world, think of all the leaders who have ruled through fear and intimidation, what do they get? They may get a behaviour they’ve asked for but it wouldn’t voluntarily be repeated generally and what happens when the ruler turns their back? We’ve watched enough films and heard enough stories throughout history to know this is not the way to create a balanced, positive society. Remember this when you’re working with your dog. A good example of this would be shouting your dog to come, using a deep threatening voice. Yes, they may come eventually, tail between legs and unwillingly but try with a high pitched, fun voice. You get a dog that wants to be with you quickly, a dog that is happy and trustful and willing to learn anything you ask!
Social skills and life skills – social confidence with manners is the ideal dog for most and this takes work. Young puppies need a balanced approach, they need to meet lots of different people and dogs but be able to do it without force and worry that they’re going to be hugged to death. Even if they are just observing situations, this is socialisation too. It doesn’t always need to be touching. Remember some dogs will never like lots of fuss and it's not a failure on your part. Observe your dog, understand they have some limitations and find a balance for you both. With regards to life skills, you need to meet their requirements for mental exercise and physical exercise. A dog without these things can be destructive or aggressive and it is so important to find the balance. Not every dog is the same so do your research and understand your dogs breed. Owners often say their dogs chill out after a class more than they do after an hours walk, this is because like us, we can sit using our brain all day and be absolutely shattered so remember this with your dog, mental training can go a long way for some dogs.
So, to have a balanced, happy dog that is part of your family in whatever shape or form that takes, you need to find the training that is right for your dog and your life. This does not always mean you have to go to obedience classes, run flyball or agility, you can do so much in daily life. Ask a dog for a sit before leaving the house, a lie and wait before dinner, learn some tricks from YouTube to impress house guests and enjoy some time together by playing. Hide and seek is usually a favourite with a dog when you have a rainy day!