How To Get The Most Out Of Your Dog Training Lessons

There are many approaches to puppy and dog training. Some are very mechanical and impersonal. That’s not how I work or what I recommend. My approach is care based and family centered.

Here’s an example. You acquired your dog this morning, maybe from a rescue or a breeder. It is bedtime and you put your dog in a room or in a crate. Your dog starts loudly crying and yelping. Your dog is clearly distressed. The first approach would be to let your dog just cry it out. Toughen up, buster, welcome to the real world. The second approach would be to recognize your new dog might not be ready to be left alone. So, you sleep in the same room with your dog that night, even if it means being on the floor in a sleeping bag. Yeah, you know you probably won’t get a good night’s sleep, but you want to take the time to acclimate your dog to proper confinement through proper introduction and training.

Question: which approach do you think will be best for your dog’s development?

I will say this, I see a number of dogs that have been traumatized by the first approach. Now it is impossible to leave them alone without some kind of negative response by the dog (destructive chewing, digging, barking, whining, drooling, and sometimes medical problems). A good dog trainer wants your dog to develop a proper bond with their family and to be calm and stress free in the home.

Comfort and Bonding

A dog that isn’t properly comforted when in distress can either become withdrawn or become hyper-aroused. I know of a dog that became very snappy and would bite when being touched because it wasn’t handled enough as a puppy. We had to work on this to get the dog to not attack their hands or to allow a leash to be put on its collar. To complicate matters, if the handling of the dog is inconsistent with the needs of the dog, some dogs can become hyperaggressive towards their families and strangers. I know of a dog that had an owner who had some profound emotional problems. The owner would either shower too much attention and handling, or would withdraw for a day or more and totally ignore the dog. The dog became hyperaggressive and would attack the owner. Once I got the dog out of the home and into a new home, the aggression went completely away.

What Are The Characteristics Of A Good Approach?

First, a good program is family centered. I contend, if you send a dog away to some kennel to be trained, your dog’s emotional needs will probably be neglected. There is no way a trainer can make money and give your dog enough personal attention while at the same time doing the same for all the other dogs in their care. Thus, I’m not a fan of board and train programs. (Have you ever read about the Romanian orphans? Do an online search and see what neglect can do to a child. Have you heard about the experiments by Harry Harlow with Rhesus monkey mothers and their infants, using fake mothers?)

In my experience, the best results come from families that participate in the training and embed the training lessons into their daily routines.

Second, a proper approach looks and addresses the specific training needs of that dog and that family and is multidisciplinary. One size does not fit all. Advice and instruction should address linking up with a good veterinarian and other professionals; proper socialization; proper interactions and communication with other animals, family, friends, and strangers; step by step training; goal setting; motor development; supplies and tools; containment and housing; safety considerations; and good challenges and problems to solve which will simulate situations the family might encounter with their dog.

Lastly, a proper approach should consider how to incorporate lifetime enrichment and any resource constraints. Canine enrichment has grown and improved considerably since the concepts were first being promoted a few decades ago. Play and proper novel experiences provide continuing learning opportunities for dogs. Furthermore, enrichment, properly applied, reduces stress and makes dogs “smarter”. Too many dogs live dreary lives, resulting in a wide variety of negative behaviors ranging from destructive to anxious to aggressive. Furthermore, a good approach factors in the resources available to the family to provide to their dog. Rarely is a dog owned by a retired millionaire who can spend unlimited funds and time dedicated to their dogs. The average person, however, can provide an excellent happy life to a dog with thoughtful time and resource management. These concepts should be discussed and brainstormed along the way with a good dog trainer.

A dog is not a robot, to be programmed, wound up like a toy, and sent on their way. I feel sad for those dogs. I get calls from time to time from people who really shouldn’t own a dog. The dog is a possession not a family companion, and even when you try to explain what is happening, they usually don’t want to hear it and find someone who will tell them what they want to hear. There’s no point arguing with them, however. You can’t make someone bond to and love a dog that they would rather see as an object.

What Is Right For Your Dog?

I think by now, you know the answer to that question. A dog requires an investment of love and resources in order to live a good life. Those that won’t provide a caring family life will eventually find an approach that will do the opposite, but that dog will never really be all it could be or will it ever really be happy and well adjusted.

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