The Benefits of Training
Some owners feel embarrassed about going to training classes – especially puppy classes. “We had dogs growing up and they just did what they were told” – is a common lament. It is important to point out that things have changed in recent years. Homes are empty for most of the day and dogs are no longer free to roam the streets, play with kids and other dogs, self- exercise and socialise. Rightly or wrongly dogs led a more natural ‘village dog’ existence and all that may have been required by owners was access to food, water and shelter. Today dogs must be confined on property, toilet in specific areas, walk on lead only, and socialize with other unknown dogs in concentrated off-leash areas. If a dog hasn’t learned to walk nicely on a lead , be friendly to strange dogs and children and come when called – it becomes very difficult to provide it with adequate exercise and socialization which may lead to a myriad of problem behaviours. (See ‘ backyard dog syndrome’ below).
Training is communication.
In most cases, what dog owners describe as stubbornness, willfulness, dominance or even stupidity – is simply a ‘failure to communicate’ between the owner and dog. Training provides a communication system. Dogs know how to sit, stand, down, come, follow a scent, pick up a toy and settle already. What they need to learn are our human signals for these behaviors and what relevance these signals have for them. ‘Signals’ can be verbal such as the word ‘sit’, visual such as a hand signal for ‘sit’, contextual – ‘at mealtimes, in the kitchen, your food bowl won’t hit the ground until you sit’ – or a combination of the three. Put simply, with training, dogs learn how to get what they want (attention, praise, rewards) by watching for, and responding to, ‘trained’ signals (verbal, visual, and/or contextual).
Some fundamental skills include:
- Toilet Outside – Dogs who do not learn quickly where to toilet may soon find themselves relegated to the backyard. This relative isolation deprives the dog of social interactions with the human pack and may quickly lead to other nuisance behaviors such as hyperactivity, barking, digging, destructive chewing, and possibly aggression – ‘the backyard dog syndrome’. Because of a simple training issue, the dog is now far more likely to land up another statistic in an animal shelter.
- Walk nicely on a lead – if a dog has learnt to walk nicely on a lead it is easy to satisfy his needs for exercise and exploration. If not, he may be left at home and again fall victim to the ‘backyard dog syndrome’.
- Come when called – so a dog can safely run free in off leash areas – an easy way to meet a dog’s needs for exercise and socialization.
- Sit or down – a stationary, control position as an alternative to action.
BENFITS OF TRAINING for the dog
- Training = communication. as a dog understand the ‘communication system’ learning new things gets easier and easier
- Training = attention. Dogs thrive on positive attention from their owners. Time spent training should be the best time dog and owners spend together.
- Training = physical and mental stimulation which combined is far more tiring than physical exercise alone. As most dogs were bred to do a job rather than sit quietly in a backyard, training will give a dog a constructive outlet for mental and physical energy.
- Training = a closer bond and enhanced relationship. Modern reward-based training methods are not only effective ways to train, but they do so in a way that strengthens the trust and understanding between you and your dog.
- Training= a chance to socialize. A dog that is well trained is more likely to be social and more likely to be invited to join you on family social outings such as sports days or picnics. Should you join a dog training club, both you and your dog will be able to enjoy the company of people and dogs enjoying the same special interests you do.
BENFITS OF TRAINING for the owner:
- A trained dog is a pleasure to be with, to walk, and take on outings – a valuable member of the family.
- A trained dog is far less likely to become a legal liability.
- A trained dog is more likely to see you as the leader of the pack because training reinforces your benevolent authority. A dog who has learnt to defer to you is both more co-operative and content.
- Walking, playing and training a dog is a great ‘time out’ from the stresses of modern living. The peace and tranquility of being with someone who wags a tail but doesn’t talk is immeasurable.
- Canine performance sports can be an inexpensive and enjoyable pastime. A pastime that can be shared not only with a canine partner but with other dog enthusiasts .
BENFITS OF TRAINING for the wider community.
A dog that is under control, is not a threat or danger to anyone. A dog that will speak and be silent on command is not a nuisance to anyone. A dog that is attentive to its owner and obeys all commands is a first rate ambassador for ‘canine familiars’ and helps to improve the image of dogs to the general public. Dogs that undergo specialized training are of value to the community in unique ways, serving as search and rescue dogs, security dogs, guide dogs, assistance dogs, pets as therapy dogs and hearing dogs to name just a few. The whole community benefits when owners accept that providing an ‘education’ for their dogs is an integral part of responsible dog ownership.
Every breed of dog was developed for a specific job.
Some were bred to protect and guard, some to kill vermin, some to retrieve and others to herd or hunt.
These days few dogs, regardless of breed, actually earn a living doing the job they were bred for. Most are ‘Companion Dogs’ and the behaviours needed to become a good companion have to be taught.
One of the major reasons dogs end up homeless is that the owner was unhappy with the way the dog behaved yet failed to train the desired behaviours. Dogs, like children, do not come ‘programmed’
Today, some of the behaviours associated with a particular canine ‘job’ e.g. digging out vermin, are not acceptable & they need to be modified & managed. The dog digging the garden is not being destructive – just imaginative & compliant to his breeding!
A Companion Dog must be a good member of a family –
- they must be house trained.
- they must be taught not to jump on people.
- they need to be taught alternative behaviours to destructive chewing & digging, etc.
- they must be a good neighbour – quiet unless there is a real need for barking.
- they must remain home rather than wandering the streets & neighbourhood gardens.
Training strengthens the bond between you & your dog.