If you’re reading this, you can thank a teacher. Someone taught you how to read when you were younger. They provided you with an important skill that’s expected in our society. In fact, another person taught us most of what we know and do. The same applies to dog teaching.
So, it’s surprising that so many still consider dog teaching to be optional when it comes to the four-legged members of our family. Just as we do with a baby, when we bring a dog home we’re introducing a new member into our household. Neither the dog nor the baby understands our language, and both are completely dependent on us for every bit of information.
It’s a given that we must provide food, clean water and shelter for our dogs. Most understand the importance of regular vet check-ups and daily physical exercise for proper health. Dog teaching and training are no more options than any of these if you want a happy, healthy, well-behaved companion. Yet many forgo training until they are experiencing serious behavioral issues with their dog. Often times they are at the point of considering rehoming or worse.
The vast majority of pets in shelters were sent there due to preventable behavioral issues. This is a direct result of a lack of training when they first arrive at their new homes. Human behavior will never come naturally to dogs. Dog behavior always will. If we want our dogs to choose something other than jumping, chewing, digging or barking, we must teach them to choose other options. This is no different than teaching a young child to choose to wait and ask politely instead of yanking on your sleeve while yelling “Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!” Neither the child nor the dog comes preprogrammed with our adult human list of rules and acceptable behaviors. It is up to us to guide them.
Here’s another example: When you’re traveling in a foreign country and don’t speak the language, how would you feel if a local resident yelled at you for not understanding them? Yet, isn’t that exactly what we do to our dogs who speak their own language?
Our canine companions are a different species, yet we expect them to somehow figure out what we want them to do. Without our help, they are at a complete disadvantage. If we don’t accept our responsibility to teach them, we set them up for failure.
The great news is that our dogs are eager to learn new things and its loads of fun to train them using modern, force-free methods! Teaching and learning are some of the most universally accepted concepts in our society; you’d be hard-pressed to find a person who argues against that. Teaching our beloved canine companions should be no exception.
Tiffany Lovell, CSAT, CPDT-KA, AAI, operates Cold Nose College, Space Coast in Brevard County, Florida and offers force-free training and behavior consulting. She specializes in private in-home coaching & training, separation-anxiety training (local & remote to anywhere in the U.S. & internationally) and behavior consults. (321) 757-2059; coldnosecollege.com