Why Should I Train my Dog?

dog is doing the command sit pretty

Remember, Puppy training is just the beginning 

There are so many different but rewarding ways to train your dog – training a dog to stop barking, or training a dog to go to their crate are just the start of what you can do with your pup. Once you are done potty training and crate training your puppy, the training continues every day!

Dog Training is worth the investment, and this investment never truly ends. Training requires a lot of up front time to get your dog on the right path, and then maintenance will continue for all of its life. Investment does not need to mean money, but also means time. You certainly do not need a lot of money to spend 30 minutes working with your dog everyday, and investing time is arguably even more beneficial to your relationship! Much like raising a human child, a dog is a living creature that looks to its handler for guidance. Investing in your dog’s training is a very important part of its well being and its relationship with its handler.  Dogs will make mistakes, develop bad habits, push your buttons ect, but that does not mean they should be allowed to get away with this. We need not strive for perfection, but rather let’s strive for improvement.  We don’t give up on our human children, so let’s not give up on our fur babies.  It is up to us to correct them and lead them in the right direction.  There is no such thing as a “bad” dog…..It’s all on us.  Once we accept this, training can truly begin.

We feel lucky that we never have had any dog resource guarding, fighting, dog reactivity or aggression issues but even those issues can be fixed, or at least improved.

Without further ado…

How can you benefit from training your dog?

Dog Training helps your relationship with your dog

When you train your dog, you are simultaneously improving your relationship.  Dogs love looking to their handlers for guidance, and when you are happy with them, they are happy too. Not only does training reinforce you are the pack leader, but also strengthens the bond you have with your “pack.”

Dog Training helps the dog community

Dog haters weren’t born that way.  It’s the negative associations that have developed with dogs that has led them to the dislike.  A lot of times, they have had legitimate issues with dogs – a neighbor’s dog barking all day, watching dogs lunging at each other in the street, seeing a dog draw blood on another pup, seeing dogs misbehaving in stores they aren’t even supposed to be in, peeing all over your neighbor’s yard, growling at humans, ect. Dog haters end up judging the dog rather than drawing the connection to the handler. Unfortunately it is actually the handler’s fault for this excess of dog haters in our communities.  

Training your dog will help you stop making excuses with “he’s just like that” (especially for smaller dogs)

These types of excuses often allow dogs to get away with severe reactivity and aggression.  Many behavioral issues are very deep and take a lot of time to improve.  We met a dog who was brought home from the shelter after having been used as a bait dog.  The poor girl had her stomach ripped open (likely by another dog).  As a result, it took years of rehabilitation to get her to the point where she can now walk by other dogs with no reaction at all! Although she cannot greet other dogs (that is why you do not approach dogs or let your dog approach dogs without asking the owner first) she has come very, very far. The first time we met her, we couldn’t tell she had suffered from severe leash aggression.  We asked her owner if the dogs could say hello, and her owner explained no because of her history and we totally understood. A dog with those types of issues requires rehabilitation and time dedication…not brushing off the issue, and acting amused with “oh he’s just like that” (so does that make aggression ok?). There is no shame in a dog requiring behavior rehabilitation – some dogs need more time than others.

Training will lead you to “oh he used to do this, but look how far he’s come!”

The best thing as a handler is being able to see how far your dog has come.  When you train your dog you will see constant improvement. This will hopefully push you to keep going for greatness!  If you can honestly answer that your dog has improved as a result of the time and effort you have spent teaching him, then you have already won. Just keep going and it’s all upward from there!

Training your dog is respectful to people around you

It is obvious that consciously putting your dog into situations where it may harm others is a blatant no no.  Unfortunately,  many are blinded by love and not able to be honest with themselves about behavior issues.  The hardest step is recognizing that a dog may need some extra help and that you cannot continue allowing their behavior to impact others. Some people recognize this but just don’t care (I don’t have a solution for rudeness, sorry). This moment of realization is the first step to positive change! If you are taking control of your dog, good for you and thank you! When your dog makes mistakes, apologize and keep moving forward

dog is holding an engagement ring on his nose

Tips for training success

Try to understand how your dog thinks

This will take trial and error and there is no one size fits all.  If you try one type of method and it doesn’t work, try another, and another, and another until you find the right one.

Don’t expect overnight results

Rome wasn’t built in a day. It takes weeks, months, or even up to a year to train a dog.  Keep at it for longer than those New Years Resolutions to “hit the gym” (we all know what happens in February).

Don’t expect perfection

Even top notch dogs aren’t robots. You will find that even Trained Service Dogs will sometimes make mistakes – They’ll slip up from time to time.  Although you cannot expect any improvement without committing, you also cannot expect perfection once you do commit.  It’s not fair to you or your dog to expect perfection but it is important to be able honestly tell yourself that your dog has improved over time.  If things are getting worse, it may be time to re-evaluate or seek more professional help.

Take a break when you get frustrated

You know when you are working on a hard math problem and it gets so frustrating that your brain clouds over and all you want to do is rip up the paper? Stop your training session before you get to that point.  If your dog is resisting and having a bad day, try again tomorrow. If you are having a bad day, try again tomorrow. Don’t let that negative energy build between you and your dog if they just aren’t having it.

Start small and build up

As a personal example, it’s easy to hope that your dog will immediately catch on to bringing you things and dropping them in your hand.  This just isn’t the case – you need to start small and then build up to the final behavior you are looking for.  With the “bring it” command, we started by rewarding just when Calvin nudged the item.  Then we built up to rewarding when he picked it up.  Then we rewarded when he brought it close to us, and finally we started to only reward if he brought it all the way into our hands.  It’s best to break up a process into tiny steps.

Here’s to improvement!
-Your Pal Cal

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