Properly trained, a man can be a dog’s best friend ~ Corey Ford
When it comes to training your dog, many people think of or have taken their dog to obedience classes. Obedience is great in that it builds a common language between you and your dog. Obedience builds trust and respect between you and your dog. Obedience can help control a dominant dog and create confidence in an unsure dog. Obedience can also help keep your dog safe. An obedient dog is more enjoyable in that he can join you on adventures outside the home and will listen to you in any situation. Many people are involved in competition obedience which can be fun for both human and dog.
So, if obedience does all this, why is it that we have heard many people say, “I took my dog to obedience class but it didn’t stick.” There are three reasons why obedience classes do not work for some people.
- Most people will work with their dog during class and will do the homework for the six weeks that the class is scheduled for. After this time however, many people do not work with their dog daily if at all. People assume that the six-week program is all their dog needs to learn how to be a “good” dog for the rest of its life. This thinking is comparable to saying children only need to go through kindergarten. A dog’s training goes on for its entire life. Basic obedience teaches a dog basic commands that you then use daily for their entire lives in many different situations.
- People are not consistent with the training. They may do obedience “drills” with their dog but do not work the dog in other situations such as in public, when guests come over etc. The dog quickly learns that the human is not consistent; he only has to do these obedience commands during the drills but at no other time. Dogs are contextual which means you have to work your dog in every situation that you want him to be obedient in. Obedience should be used in every aspect of your dog’s life; when you go to the park, to a friend’s house, out for a walk, in your neighborhood, or to the veterinarian. Anywhere you take your dog , obedience should come into play. This is how you get an obedient dog in any situation
- Leadership or behavioral problems, not obedience. Obedience classes do not solve behavioral problems and sadly people wait until they are having behavioral problems to start an obedience program. Obedience helps with leadership and behavioral issues but alone does not establish leadership. Obedience with a solid leadership program is what helps solve behavioral issues.
Several years ago, on a camping trip, was a woman that had rescued a large dog that she brought with her. The dog was tied out on a corkscrew ground stake. On two occasions, the dog lunged and tried to bite two people, one being a child. Upon bringing it to the woman’s attention, she put her dog on leash and proceeded to do obedience drills to show “how obedient her dog was.” The dog performed the drills as expected. Despite the dog understanding obedience, the owner clearly used obedience improperly. It was also clear that she did not establish a leadership program with the dog. The dog has an aggression problem that obedience can help if used in the right context. Most importantly, the owner needs to put a leadership plan in place in conjunction with obedience.
The proper way to handle this dog was first to never put the dog in a scenario in which he could potentially harm someone or behave in an aggressive manner. You cannot change a dogs behavior if he is tethered thirty feet away from you. The dog should have been tethered to the owner. At times when this was not possible, he should have been kenneled. While on leash, the human could work on sit/stay and down/stay while the dog was tethered to her and around other people. She would have the ability to reinforce good behavior, create positive associations with people, and also the ability to correct unwanted behavior if necessary. She could have taught the dog what is allowed and what is not allowed around people. Instead, the dog learned nothing accept that after an outburst he had to do obedience drills.
Obedience can create a trusting bond between you and your dog. Obedience is a great way to teach your dog what behaviors are acceptable in your home and in society especially if started early, practiced often and in the right context.
So, the next time you find yourself or someone you know saying that obedience didn’t “stick”, stop and consider these three possible causes and adjust accordingly.
Cindy Quigley is a Canine life cycle coach, owner of Super Mutts Canine training and author of Puppy Montessori. She has 20 years experience professionally working with dogs. She has worked in grooming shops, boarding facilities and veterinary hospitals, all of which taught her how to read canine body language and understand dog handling. She is an AKC/ CGC, CGCU, Community Canine and S.T.A.R. puppy evaluator.
You can read more or purchase her book at www.supermutts.com