A long title, I guess, but I want to be pretty clear and to the point. Sometimes when someone contacts a trainer about help with their dog, it’s because they are really looking for a way to save their relationship with their dog. But sometimes, they are tired, worn down, and hoping that training will be a quick-fix miracle for them.
Let’s start with the things that Training is Not:
Training is not a quick fix.
Having the type of relationship you are dreaming of with your dog takes time, and it takes effort. While we get your dog started for you in our Residency Programs, and we teach them structure and commands, we’ve still got some work to do when he goes home. To achieve my ideal relationship with my own dogs, it takes a couple of months to get us on the same page and level, and it takes a couple of years (yes, YEARS) for us to be living in absolute harmony. It’s a process.
Training will not give you a new dog.
When you bring your dog for training, expect to get back a dog that knows how to behave, knows how to perform his behaviors, and wants to please you. However, do not expect to get back a new personality or only the good things about having a dog. Learning at school will not change who he is at heart. If your dog is an 8 month old puppy, he will still be a puppy upon returning home. You will still have an energetic, often pushy, young dog, not a mature, calm dog.
Training is not One Size Fits All.
Every dog learns a little bit differently. If you’ve had a dog before who loved to work for his ball, do not be surprised if your new dog prefers treats, or may need a different style training collar. Some dogs respond great to prong collars, and love them! Some dogs are overwhelmed by corrections from even a regular flat collar. Some dogs get stressed and will not take treats while in a new place. Some dogs will only work well for 1/4 of a piece of a biscuit. It takes some trial and error to figure out exactly what it is that will make your dog work his hardest.
Now let’s talk about what training IS:
Training is essential.
If you want a dog that can live peacefully and happily with you, you’ve got to do some training. Dogs are not human, and so they do not automatically do the things that make them acceptable in human society. Dogs need to be taught to potty outside. They need to be taught how to walk on a leash, and how to politely accept pets from people. These aren’t things that they are born knowing. If you want your dog to fit in with your human life, training is the way to do it.
Training is about relationship, not just behavior.
It’s essential that your dog knows the skills to have manners and live happily in his human home. However, those skills are just not enough! You’ve also got to work to create a relationship that is based on respect and trust. It won’t matter if your dog knows how to walk on a loose leash if he still wants to jump up and nip you every time you start to walk! It won’t help you that he knows how to stay if he won’t let you examine his paws for injuries after a long trek through the woods. Working with a trainer does not just mean your dog will learn behaviors. You will learn what YOU need to do to help the relationship be a success as well.
Training is ever-changing.
If you start your dog’s training when he first comes home as a puppy, that training will look very different in two months. And then two months after that, it will change again. We often get stuck thinking that once the dog has learned the skills, that’s all there is to it, but as your dog matures and grows, your relationship will be growing and changing as well. You’ll go from nurturing and supporting a little baby to guiding and enforcing with an adolescent dog, and then to maintaining and exploring new things with a mature dog. It’s an adventure, a journey, and completely worth it for the joy and companionship that results.