One of the first questions I ask a potential student is about the kind of dog they have. I do this because training should match the dog, not the other way around.
Once the breed, breeding, or mix of breeds, is established, then I want to know what kind of training the owner is seeking. This is important because sometimes what an owner wants isn’t going to be possible for their dog. At least if you plan on training that dog in any manner that would be considered humane.
Very “typey” breeds have very narrow talents and broad limitations. Yes, we get a bell curve of variations within any breed. We sort that out in the initial training sessions, to talent test that individual dog and see what primary drives that dog does naturally.
I’ve compiled a list off all the breeds in the world. It’s over 500 breeds. These breeds are categorized in the dog world, not just because of the way they look, but because of what genetics went into making that breed, how that breed is related to similar breeds or working types of breeds, and what role that dog is most suited to perform.
I’ve been privileged to be able to work with some very rare breeds. That’s always fun because you’ll never get a chance to work with every breed in your lifetime. When a trainer claims they have worked everything, well… let’s say I get skeptical.
For example, I’ve met, but didn’t get the chance to work with a Norwegian Lundehund. He was everything the books said he was, and his major problem was the major problem most owners report: almost impossible to house train.
I’ve had fun with some pretty rare breeds: Akbash, Alapaha Blue Blood Bulldog, Bedlington Terrier, Black Russian Terrier, Bourbonnais Pointer, Carolina Dog, Caucasian Ovtcharka, Chinook, Curly Coated Retriever, Dogue de Bordeaux, English Toy Terrier, Filas, Flat Coated Retriever, Irish Terrier, Japanese Akita (not the same as the typical Akita), Jindo, Keeshond, Kuvasz, Leonburger, Lowchen, Mountain Cur, Norffolk Terrier, Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, Pharoah Hound, and Plott Hound… just to name some off the top of my head. None of these breeds trained the same way, nor should they have been trained the same way.
There are also pitfalls when raising any breed improperly. For example, you’ll bring out the worst traits in all these breeds if you improperly socialize them. They won’t turn out to be like the dogs you read about before you got that breed of dog.
Good training figures out, first, what kind of dog. Then the training must be tailored to fit that dog. There are way too may shake and bake programs out there that treat every dog as if it can be trained to do anything. That should be a warning sign.
I’ve mentioned before I was asked to train a man’s 2 Irish Wolfhounds to obey like a competition Schutzhund dog. He wanted strict obedience, tracking and protection work. I explained that wasn’t what these dogs were bred for and to not try and do that. He was polite, but made it clear he was going to find someone to do it. I still feel sorry for those dogs. I hope he never followed through to hire someone to try.
You should not try to take the nature out of a dog to turn it into something it isn’t. No amount of treats or punishment will overcome breeding. You’ll either end up sorely disappointed, or you’ll end up abusing a dog to try and do the impossible. Your dog will suffer if the training method is more important than what the dog can naturally do.
So, let’s talk about your dog. What kind of dog do you have and what are your training goals? It’s worth having that discussion before any training commences.