By Saro Boghozian, Expert Family Dog Trainer
There are many methods of dog training and each training method uses different tools, gadgets or ideas for training dogs. As a dog owner, you have many choices but which one is the best?
You should probably choose the one that makes sense to you and is the simplest and most realistic. In this day and age of many choices and a fast-paced lifestyle, you are most likely looking for a training system that can train your dog and change the unwanted behaviour in a matter of days. There is no such thing. You are dealing with an animal that has a smaller brain than you do but has conscious feelings, emotions and abilities.
Owning a dog should serve as a reminder that you need to pause, step away from your busy life, then focus and pay close attention to your dog. Many people get a dog for companionship but they are not utilized for that reason and eventually, it’s forgotten why they got the dog in the first place. Dogs can be and should be a life partner, coach and much more than just a pet.
My personal experience with regards to dog training started many years ago when I attended my first dog training class with Jonah my Beagle. Just like many other dogs and their owners, we were centred out as being the worst students in the class. I hated the experience and the course itself. It was not fun and we didn’t gain or learn anything.
I was fortunate to be off work for the first few months of Jonah’s puppyhood. I realized that he was learning more the longer I spent time with him. I was able to develop a deeper connection with him. I realized that he was smarter than I first gave him credit for. The off-time allowed me to learn many things from Jonah too; as much as he learned from me. Jonah had started to respond to me as a person, rather than to just treats. As a Beagle, it was odd that he was not interested in food so using treats as a training tool wasn’t working with him.
I started to experiment with some of my new ideas, at the same time, educating myself. I came upon Cesar Millan and a few other popular and non-popular dog trainers in my research. What all of them had in common was that the end result of dog training was to create a dog that would listen to commands – like a robot. They all ignored the fact that you need to have a connection with the dog in order to see more positive results.
I strongly believe that training builds a language between dog and owners which allows them both to communicate and connect with one another. I began to wonder if there was a training system out there that was more in line with my thought process at the time. I couldn’t find any so I developed one of my own.
In order for any training method to work, it’s important to understand that it requires you to invest a lot of time towards it. I am not saying that you need to take time off from your work. Just think of it this way. You never learn anything in a matter of seconds. One of my challenges as a dog trainer is always having a difficult time asking a dog owner to perform a new idea, technique or a move. Whether it is a repetitive move or a new technique, it always becomes a challenge. Not because dog owners are not intelligent but because learning something new for most people takes a long time and requires repetition. I have to (repetitively) correct dog owners for weeks and yet I rarely see results. So, you can’t expect your dog to learn in a day or two either. It takes months of repetitive teaching for a dog to learn a new trick or behaviour in order for it to become the norm regardless of what training method you use.
There are several popular methods of training. Most claim to be positive reinforcement training. The most popular one is using treats to train dogs. Then there are also clicker/treat training, or using tools like shock collars or choke chains, force/dominance-based training, lifestyle training, etc.
So, to answer the complicated question of which dog training method is the best, I will use a metaphor. Choosing which dog training method is the best is like asking what diet is the best for your dog.
Food has many benefits and it is a necessity for survival just as proper dog training is a necessity for a dog to survive in human society. There are many types of food that you can choose for your dog; kibble, home cooked food, raw food, dehydrated food, vegetarian food.
Now, which food is the best food for your dog? It depends on each individual and what they think is the most important. Some people aren’t really concerned about what foods their dogs eat as long as it satisfies their hunger, so they feed their dogs’ kibble. Other people are health conscious and only want to feed their dogs which is important for good health.
After much research, I realized that kibble is not a healthy or suitable diet for dogs. Firstly, it is full of ingredients that are not ideal or nutritional for dogs. Secondly, kibble is full of chemicals and unnatural ingredients. Thirdly, it is processed food. I began paying attention to what I was putting into my dog’s body. I started educating myself about ingredients and what happens when each ingredient is ingested. I quickly decided I will never feed my dogs’ kibble. It is a fast food form of diet. Quick to serve with no nutritional values and the fulfilment does not last long.
With other forms of dog diets like raw or home cooked, it takes more time to prepare and feed the dog but the long-lasting effects on the dog’s overall health are extremely beneficial.
I didn’t take a nutritional course but there are many legitimate resources on the Internet. I don’t suggest training your dog using online information but read up on it just to educate yourself.
Dog training must be addressed the same way and be considered just as important as a good diet for your dog. You need to accept and commit to the idea of training your dog. It has to matter to you. You shouldn’t do it because someone told you to but rather because you understand the importance of it. Training should be part of the regular process of owning a dog and it has to continue throughout the whole lifetime of the dog. I also suggest educating yourself. You don’t need to go to university but you should learn the basics of dog psychology and how dogs learn and then, ultimately, how you can best and most effectively teach them.
Once you accept the importance of dog training, you need to physically do it. You need to invest a lot of time and effort into practising the training.
I will share two training facts with you that you might not know or perhaps you have not realized. Here is a simple fact number one about dog training regardless of the training method you select. Dogs want to please their owners. Therefore they will do anything to satisfy them and always want to do the right thing. Now that you know this fact, I am sure it will make it so much easier for you to approach the idea of dog training.
Fact number two. Since you now know the previous fact, what tools do you think you would need to train your dog effectively? Here are some clues; it is not an object, it is free, it is available at all times and you never run out of it. The answer is, “YOU”. All your dog needs are “YOU”. Being there, putting a lot of time and effort into teaching and training him.
Once you know and understand those two simple facts, you will not need any of the following to train your dog. Treats, shock collars, clickers, choke chain collars, spray bottles, sticks, kicking, hissing, poking, etc.
Using yourself is the simplest and healthiest way to train your dog and using anything but, you can complicate the process of training and the relationship with your dog. I am not saying that using treats, clickers, and shock collars with dogs do not help to train them, but they are not necessary. All you have to do is acquire the knowledge and the techniques to effectively do the training.
Just like your dog’s diet, once you know the damage kibble can do to their bodies and their health, you will never consider feeding them kibble again. So the same applies to dog training. Once you know how dogs learn and what they best respond to, you will never think about using other training tools even though they may work. So invest the time and make a concerted effort to teach and train your dog. It’s simple, inexpensive and the most effective method.
I have taught my dog training system to hundreds of dog owners without the use of treats and gadgets. It is called the play, praise and reward training system and I use you, the dog owner, as your dog’s reward, as your dog’s motivation, as your dog’s mentor. I also teach you to consider and realize that your dog is a valued family member.