By Saro Boghozian, Expert Family Dog Trainer
Recently, I have been going around promoting my book “A Dog’s Five Essential Needs” and I came across a question from one of the TV personalities which made me think deeper about this question.
Do dogs enjoy being trained?
The answer is yes; dogs do enjoy being trained, but depends on the training system and the way the dog gets trained. The dog needs to enjoy the training time and have a good time. If the training time is fun it becomes more enjoyable therefore the dog learns better and faster.
I strongly believe that one of the essential needs of a dog is training which must be provided on daily basis. Since it is an essential, it needs to be in a positive form otherwise it becomes a chore for the dog and the dog owner so this would not only be effective; it will also have negative effects.
The training system and the sessions need to focus on 3 things. They need to be focused on mental, physical and emotional stimulation aspects of the activity. If these 3 aspects are established, the dog will have more enjoyable response to the activity.
The mental aspect of the training is the most important part of the task. It needs to provide a mental stimulation which helps to drain the dog’s energy level and relaxes the dog. It also needs to deliver information to the dog. Receiving information is the part that stimulates the dog mentally.
The physical aspect of training is the part of the exercise that provides movement to the body which also affects the overall activity and health of the dog. I recommend to include some form of movement into the training session. Walking or allowing the dog to play with you or other dogs as main forms of exercise for the dog are some great examples. Mixing training with exercise will make it more enjoyable to the dog as well. You can always include some of the learnt training techniques to the training sessions as reinforcer. For example asking your dog to sit and stay on every intersection before crossing.
The emotional aspect of training is the part many people ignore. Did you know that an untrained dog is a stressed dog? During the training sessions (especially with a poor training system) the dog may become somewhat stressed which is fine. This is because the dog’s knowledge is lower and when you provide information to the dog, it will help it to distressed as it learns more.
If the training is designed with fun and positive method, the dog is going to feel more relaxed and comfortable as it gets familiar with the information it is receiving therefore it becomes stable which helps the dog to become more confident and emotionally balanced. This will help the dog to like or even love the training session.
You need to make sure that the training system or the tools that you are using are not overstressing the dog. I have seen many dog owners and dogs being stressed using so called “training tools” like halti and prong collars. For example, there was a dog owner who was not sure about how exactly supposed to use the tool. The tool also was not fastened properly on the dog causing injury to the dog. The owner was feeling terrible using the tool not to mention the tool was not improving or solving the problem either. The dog was physically in pain and stressed.
The intention of the human was good and positive but the execution was poor and negative. In this case the dog would not enjoy the training session at all.
If you consider these three aspects of training in any training system, you will not only see results, but will change your dog’s behaviour while having fun.
I use play, praise reward training system which is a system based on the energy and the mindset of game play. Just imagine the energy or the mindset that you have when you are playing a game. You are, happy, focused and yet serious about the game and you are in positive mode. The same thing happens with the play, praise reward training system with a dog.
The benefits of play, praise reward training system is that the dog has no idea that is being trained because the dog and the handler are focused on play and fun stuff rather than the training itself.
In the following video, Harvey and I are demonstrating an example of a training session. I am using one of Harvey’s favorite games, “the fetch” that we play once in awhile. Notice that Harvey is being trained while he is playing. He has no idea that is being trained. He is learning and practicing few of the commands that are sit, stay, come and lie down. Enjoy the video and have fun training your dog.