I have had to really toy over what to write this next blog post about, the last few weeks have been so so busy i could have listed about ten different subjects to write about!
I thought what i would spend some time talking about is what is and what isn't important when training your dog. This subject popped into my head when i looked at the puppy class plan for my Wrington group tonight to see that i had written the following:
- Getting in and out of the car
- Man Trailing
- To Stay or not to stay
Each puppy class is totally different, we cover all the same subjects but we use different exercises depending on what breeds we have, owner capabilities etc etc and tonight we are doing the list as above. All the subjects we cover in class are things i think are important to bringing up a well balanced dog with all the skills that particular person needs to get on well. Yes we also do fun stuff like man trailing which isn't totally necessary but you know what, its fun, it keeps everyones motivation up, and its way more interesting that doing sit stays through a gate.
Everyone has different priorities when it comes to owning a dog, what they would like that dog to behave like, cues the dog can perform, and sometimes preparing that dog for sports, activities, or tasks, but one thing i have learnt over the last few years is sometimes we spend way too much time drilling behaviours or getting stressed about behaviours that just aren't that important. This leads me on to talk about rescue dogs as suggested by Cheryl who is one of my lovely long standing trick class attendees. I have had a few rescue dogs over the last few years, from different backgrounds, different personalities etc etc. I think the main thing to think about when rehoming a dog is to expect the worst. Plan for that dog to be reactive, have separation distress, be aggressive and all the other things that would be a nightmare for you, that way when you get the dog and (hopefully) they don't have all these behaviour issues, it will be a nice surprise!
Its a bit like making a big life decision, i always think to myself, "Whats the worst that can happen" and if i'm happy with that possibility, il go ahead and make the decision.
Once i have got to know the dog over a few weeks (and i use the term "got to know" lightly - i don't think you fully know a dog until 18 months on plus) Il start to make a mental list on where i am going to start training wise. There may be things come up like a slight tendency to resource guard, recall issues, problems with kids or anything else along those lines, what i then do is have a think about what is most important to me in my house. What issues can i prevent using control and management so that i can crack on with other issues, what things needs to be sorted asap, and what i would like long term. Something that never comes into that decision making process is what other people might think. Once i have made that mental list, i then put a training protocol together for those things that start straight away, and control & management protocols in place for the things that can wait. We don't really have discussions about these, i am lucky enough to have an incredibly supportive fiancee that trusts my decisions and follows those plans well, and of course i would positively reinforce him for doing that! I hear a lot from clients saying that the rest of the family are not following training plans, or are not on board with the protocols in place, and until this is sorted you might as well not bother training. I don't do family counselling, the only two bits of advice i can give you is reinforce good behaviour, and talk about stuff! You must all be on the same wave length for the sake of the dogs learning, and if that isn't possible, use control and management to make sure the dog isn't set up to fail.
It is really important that you start tackling the things that mean the dogs is getting all his primary needs met, things like resource guarding will put some dogs in a constant state of stress so make sure that dog doesn't have access to things they may guard, or that underlying stress might start to affect other things too. If you don't care how your dog walks on the lead, don't spend any time on that - don't listen when other people say "you really should sort out your loose lead walking" just put on a harness and stick to the things that are most important to you and your dog. In some of our classes we teach a "Stay" (i must add, not much anymore as it makes my eyes bleed a little) and the one single reason i would teach that stay is because to that particular owner, being able to say "Stay" and his/her dog stay in the position he/she left him in is important to them, therefore we teach them that cue because thats what they want. For other owners however i will start to explain about what stay actually means, or what it doesn't mean, and how teaching a sit with duration is just as/even more effective than using "stay"....the dog doesn't need the "stay" cue , the owner does. It gives them some sort of security to walk away from the dog with the palm of their hand facing the dog repeating "stayyyyy stayyyyy stayyyy"
In a nutshell, that behaviour is important to that owner, because that behaviour makes them feel satisfied that their dog is understanding and performing the behaviours they have been taught. Some things are totally essential, like using a long line to recall train your puppy/dog so that it doesn't accidentally run up to an on lead dog etc etc but some behaviours just aren't important, or maybe not important at that particular time in the dogs/owners life.
Spend time making sure you have the behaviours in place for you and your dog to be happy and successful, don't stress over stuff that isn't important **cough stay cough**
Until next time...
Bryony is a qualified dog trainer from North Somerset.