By Saro Boghozian, Expert Family Dog Trainer
Dogs have been part of our families and lives for centuries. Domestic dogs have evolved in many ways. One thing that has not changed much is the way we train dogs. We are still using the old school practices of training dogs which is in need of updating. This has resulted in an increase in unwanted dogs in shelters and dog owners with bad behaving dogs.
Many dog owners do not realize training a dog is a must and should start as soon as the dog comes home to a family and continue throughout the dog’s life. I believe dog training has become a big issue for dog owners because of the followings:
Humans are not in tune with dogs.
Dogs are simple creatures but humans make them complicated because they don’t understand dogs. Understanding dogs mean learning everything about them and respecting to love them. Dog lovers and dog owners have a picture in their mind about typical, well-behaved dogs but they don’t have enough knowledge about dogs, in general, to be in tune with their dogs to prevent bad behaviours and develop a well-balanced dog. Most dog owners are dog lovers but not educated dog lovers. By starting training, dog owners are able to gain general knowledge about dogs.
Dog owners rely on gadgets rather than relationship.
Many dog owners rely on tools, gadgets and media to improve their dog’s behaviour rather than improving the relationship with their dog. No tools can replace the healthy relationship which is built by consistent, long term, positive training, knowledge and patience.
Most dog owners feel that since they own the dog it should listen to them automatically but the dog has not developed a healthy relationship with the owner in a way that is solid and makes sense for the dog to follow the human rules, therefore, dog owners do not see results right away.
Dog owners need to understand that a training method is different than the training process.
Training systems are methods that (dog experts consider) dogs learn but training procedures are the techniques that are used to get the information to the dogs.
There are only two dog training systems; classical and operant conditioning (more on these two, on later articles).
First, the dog owners use one or both systems to train their dogs. Second, they choose a training process on how to deliver the training systems to the dog. The available training process options are the use of shock collars, treats, brute force, choke chain collars, clickers and few other tools or gadgets, which I don’t recommend and I don’t use when training dogs. And third and the most important part that dog owners miss is that they need to continue to follow through the training process.
The process of the training is the most important part of this equation for seeing results and changing a dog’s behaviours.
Training a dog takes time. It is not a six-week course only.
In reality, to have a balanced, trained dog, it takes almost a year of consistent training. This means a dog that knows and responds to all the commands, does not misbehave, follows human rules and can be off leash in parks.
Many dog owners take a short 6 week course and feel that is all they need to do but the reality is that they need to follow through what they’ve learned and continued on the training for a long time till the dog forms an association between the behaviour and the consequences for that behaviour. This process usually takes about a year for a dog and a dog owner to achieve.
Many dog owners stop or give up the training system (whichever training process they have chosen) right after the training course ends or when some of the behaviours fade out or even if the dog is not misbehaving. It is not realistic to think that a dog can learn anything within a few weeks. You need to invest time, effort, consistency and determination for many months.
When dog owners do not follow through the training for a long time, the dog does not learn anything and develops unwanted behaviours and dog owners start blaming the dog for the dog’s misbehaviours.
Most dog owners need to train themselves too and that can start even before getting a dog.
Dogs are not wolves neither four-legged babies.
You’ve been told that dogs are wolves. We need to stop thinking like that and stop treating dogs like wolves. Their ancestors have been wolves and there are few similarities between them but not to the point that we should consider them as wolves.
Dogs are different species now. They are pets and should be considered as family members. For instance, dogs are comfortable with fire at the fireplace where wolves don’t even know what fire is.
Humans should not treat dogs like human babies or humanize them either. Also, humans need to teach dogs to respect us as “humans” and not as “alpha dogs”. Dogs should be treated and respected like pet dogs.
By following and understating these few facts you can start making big changes in yours and your dog’s life.
“Act like a human with a dog and the dog will respect you like one but if you treat a dog like a human, it will disrespect you like a dog”.