Must I Train My Dog?

Written by Candee Teitel on . Posted in Training Information

Most people think back to their first dog and remember a dog that “just knew” what to do and how to act without being trained. My 5 yr. old son became upset when the new puppy took the steak off of his dinner plate. I had to explain to him that “they don’t come trained.”

Your relationship with your dog will become much more peaceful and harmonious much faster if you learn some basic principles.

Many people think that they should wait for their dog/puppy to get accustomed to its surroundings before teaching it the house rules. Unless and until the dog knows the rules, it is not only apt to make a lot of ‘mistakes’ but it will be making them without ever knowing that they are mistakes and that a particular behavior is unacceptable. The dog will also have lots of chances to practice ‘making mistakes’ (unacceptable behaviors), such as jumping on guests or eliminating on the carpet.

Think of it another way. Imagine that you just moved to a new neighborhood. A person shows up at your door with a smile and a name. Would you just nod and walk away, leaving her to figure out that you wanted her to follow you into the living room? Perhaps you would smile and indicate with your hand which way you wanted her to move into your house. What if the guest was about to light up a cigarette in your living room? You certainly would not give her time to get used to her new surroundings before jumping in to intervene, as nicely as possibly. Help the dog to learn the rules as soon as possible.

The very best relationships between a dog and its family occur when people learn how best to communicate with their dog, so that it will respond to instructions involving basic household manners. Most dogs are more than happy to comply, as long as there is some benefit attached. For example, dogs easily learn to sit at the door when they want to go out. They will happily sit because the reward is a trip outside.

It is important to learn some basic principles if you want the training process to proceed as quickly and easily as possible. Just remember, reward the behavior you want to occur more frequently and show the dog how to be right if it is wrong.

You have several options when it comes to training your dog

You can and should train your new companion to have basic household manners.

You can also train your dog to compete in AKC events such as conformation, rally, and obedience, lure coursing, agility, fly ball, etc. You can train your dog for tracking, for search and rescue, even as a bed bug sniffing dog. You can train your dog to be a therapy dog, a service dog, or even a Broadway star.

Everything mentioned above requires the dog to have a certain set of very basic skills before he can specialize. It’s like a medical student taking biology before he or she can specialize in cardiology.

You can choose to train the dog yourself

There are numerous articles and video clips on the internet that can help you train your dog.

You can take your dog to a big box store

These stores often hire trainers from among the employees of the store, most of which have passed a written test.

When looking for a trainer or facility, their experience is the key. Book learning will never be a substitute for experience, while it is a great source of information.

How to Choose the Right trainer

When looking for a trainer, note the relationship between the trainer and his/her own dog. Many trainers use their own dog to demonstrate an exercise. Does the trainer’s dog look anxious, or timid? Does the dog engage enthusiastically with the trainer? Your dog should view training as a wonderful opportunity for one-on-one time with you. Positive reinforcement to encourage cooperation might be anything from a tummy rub to a treat. Both can be equally rewarding.

Your Dog Training Lessons can be Group or Private

Both approaches have their advantages and disadvantages. In general, puppy/beginner group classes seem to be controlled chaos. Some people find it difficult to control their exuberant dog while trying to listen to the instructor, let alone take notes. Most dogs will be highly distracted by all the new smells, the other dogs, and the commotion. This is a great place to take your dog after it has learned some of the basics in a distraction-free environment. It is a terrific way to take training to the next level and actually work at getting your dog to perform the same behaviors that he can do at home, in an environment that if full of distractions.

Private lessons are excellent because they can usually accommodate flexible schedules and often provide the best way to train a shy or reactive dog because the environment can be modified to make the dog more receptive to learning. One-on-one training makes it easier for you to focus on the instructor and allows for addressing problem areas immediately.

Should I send my dog away for training?

No you should not. Your dog would then learn to be a model citizen in the hands of someone else at their house. When your dog returns home, it will follow the rules that were set in the house where it was trained, not where it lives. If you never set the rules where it lives, it will be the same dog at home that you had before it became a model citizen for someone else at their house. You can send your dog away, but you will eventually have to learn how to train him to live with you.

Needless to say, your dog must live with a family to learn to become a part of that family. A dog that is an “outdoor” dog will never develop the skills necessary to live indoors unless he is brought inside often enough such that proper interactions can occur.

Just grab some treats and your dog and start rewarding it for appropriate behaviors! You will probably be amazed at how good your dog can really be!