Dog of Your Dreamsby Konnie Hein on 02/29/16
Whenever I take my dogs to public places, I inevitably hear comments like, "Your dogs are so well-behaved," or "Your dogs are amazing!" Some people have even commented that they would love to have a dog like mine (or even would love to have my dog!). It makes me feel good to hear this positive feedback, and yes, my dogs are usually very well-behaved in public settings. However, a more realistic assessment of their behavior would be, "Your dogs are so WELL TRAINED."
Although I do feel that my dogs are pretty darn great in their own right, their good behavior in public is no accident. Assuming that they are just "good dogs" leaves out a very important part of the equation - me! The breed I own has certain traits that can make them difficult for the average person (and even some experienced trainers!) to manage. Generally speaking, they have a very high energy level and a need to be doing some sort of work or structured activity on a very regular basis.
And even with all that energy and desire to do something, I still expect them to behave in public places. This means no jumping up on people, no pulling on the leash, no inappropriate aggression towards people or other dogs, staying where I tell them to stay, coming when called, and generally being as calm as that particular setting calls for. And I think most of us agree that this is a good, general definition for "well behaved."
So, given that my dogs (like most dogs!) are not born canine good citizens, how do I get them to behave so well in public? It's training, of course. I take the time to teach them to do the things I want them to do. Without that training, most people would not find my dogs pleasant to be around at all! They would most definitely be jumpers, would pull on the leash, and would probably rather run around to investigate their surroundings than hang around in one place. And this is the case for most dogs.
Sure, there are dogs who are just naturally calm and generally obedient in the absence of any training. However, these dogs are very rare. All dogs require some sort of guidance to understand what acceptable behavior is in public or in their home. When people first bring home their new dog, they have a vision of this dog becoming their dream dog - an amazing canine companion to share their time. And often the situation falls short of that dream.
The reason it falls short may be that the dog they selected is just the wrong breed or type for them (and we'll cover that in a future blog), but often it is the owner's lack of experience or knowledge to effectively train the dog to behave in the way they'd like. And there's no shame in admitting this! When clients tell me that they feel like failures because their dog misbehaves, I tell them not to be so hard on themselves. Nobody is born a dog trainer. We have to learn the skills necessary to make communication between our dogs and ourselves possible. And since all dogs are different, success with one family pet doesn't necessarily prepare you for the next one.
And this is where professional trainers are invaluable. Pro trainers have worked with hundreds (thousands!) of dogs from all different breeds and all different temperament types. A good pro trainer has many tools in their toolbox to help a dog understand how we'd like him or her to behave. They also typically have years of experience applying these tools, so no time is wasted on ineffective methods! While it is possible to glean helpful training advice from sources like Google and Youtube, it's also tough to determine what advice is truly sound, and what advice applies to your unique situation. Personalized training advice given by a professional trainer truly is the best way to get long-lasting, effective training results, and the dog of your dreams.