I say it all the time and I’ll say it again, training your dog is the best thing you can do for them. There is just no way to compare the relationship that a trained dog and his/her handler have to the run of the mill Joe Schmoe who gets a dog just because he wants one. If you are debating whether or not training your dog is worth it, here are some things you need to consider:
1 – Eliminate unwanted behaviors
Although we sometimes treat them like members of our family, your dog is still an animal at heart. They are an animal living in a human world. While not as unruly as having a pet Rhinoceros rampaging through the house, a dog left to it’s own devices will still make inappropriate choices.
It’s not intentional or malicious, they just don’t know or care why they shouldn’t chew up your favorite pair of slippers. Every living creature has to learn the rules of the environment they live in. Dogs are no different. Obedience training opens the door for those rules to be taught.
2 – Improve your relationship
I had a client recently tell me that in all honesty, she liked her dog about 20% of the time before she met me. After we were almost done with my off leash program, she liked him 100% of the time. The comment was made in good humor, but it is a sentiment that probably all of my clients can relate too.
It’s stressful when your dog that you love so much just will not listen no matter how loud you yell. It’s embarrassing when you have friends or family visit and your four legged furry buddy turns into a Tasmanian Devil that jumps, licks and play bites in order to get attention.
Simply put, you will like your dog more. You will trust them to listen to you and not to misbehave, and they will trust your judgement and not second guess your commands.
This leads to a more content and happy dog, as well as owner.
3 – You will achieve a level of freedom you never thought possible
Many people tell me that their previous dog never needed to be trained. They fondly remember taking them for leisurely walks without the need for a leash, never having to yell at them for begging or having to put them outside when company came over. Then they got this new dog. “I don’t know what it is,” they tell me. “My old dog never had a problem, but this one is just terrible!”
Let’s set aside all the possible reasons why the old dog could have been so low maintenance and look at the matter at hand. You have a dog that you want to enjoy, but you can’t. The only way those fond memories of a relaxing relationship with your dog can be enjoyed with this current one is proper training.
Or maybe you are a person who doesn’t really have any issues with your dog. You really like them, you feel like they listen to you pretty well and no glaring behavior problems jump out at you or cause alarm. Your dog is pretty good, why do you need dog training?
Perhaps you don’t. But can you take your dog to a park without a leash and have a stress free time without having to worry about them running off after seeing another dog or a family with children? Are you confident that they will come when called the first time, even if some toddler is offering them a piece of their birthday cake?
Training your dog means practicing with distracting situations and environments until you are confident that they will obey you when it really counts. That means no stress when taking your dog out of the house. You and your dog will be able to enjoy a lifestyle that transcends walking around the block on a leash in a million ways.
4 – Safety. Training can and will save your dog’s life.
If this video doesn’t sum it up, I have a story for you…
Something like eight years ago I was using my Boxer, Mia as a distraction while training another dog. While working with this other dog she was doing her thing, walking around sniffing, taunting the other dog with playful stances and the occasional Boxer-esque sprint.
This was on a semi-busy road, but I felt confident in her training and having her off leash did not worry me. Dogs however, like humans make mistakes from time to time. They are not perfect and a trained dog is not a robot or remote controlled car. During one of her Boxer burns, she began to head right for the street. I immediately recognized what she was doing and yelled, “No, sit!”. To everyone’s relief she sat on a dime.
That level of reliability would not have been possible without the training I had done with her. The real world is a different beast from a structured training environment. It is impossible to predict what situations may arise throughout your dog’s life. But if you teach them to trust and respect you, then you are able to respect them back and trust that they will listen when their life depends on it.
5 – Avoid having to give them over to a shelter
To some of you this may sound preposterous, there is no way you would give your dog up. However, the sad reality is that a huge number of dogs are given to shelters every year due to bad behavior on the dog’s part. A study done right here in Columbus, Ohio found that about one third of dogs relinquished to the shelter were because of behavior problems. Another 21% were due to the dog requiring too much time, work and or money.
Potentially close to half of those dog’s included in that study could have remained with their family had they sought out proper obedience training. Unwanted behaviors could have been fixed, and they would have become much lower maintenance as a result.
The cost of owning a dog can’t be helped, but all the other issues these people had with their dogs could have been.