Act, or be Acted Upon – The Importance of Dog Training

Importance of Dog Training

Training is not just for bad dogs, or something that only becomes part of your life once your dog begins acting out. The importance of dog training comes well before problem behaviors, and is actually designed to prevent or circumnavigate issues in the future. Training creates not only lasting bonds, but also builds confidence, which can’t be replaced with other methods, especially not DIY training

Your Dog, The Opportunist

Every dog’s thoughts can be watered down to exactly two questions at any given time. These two questions can be used as well to predict with great accuracy what a dog will do in the future, as well as dissect past behavior. They are not complex creatures. Keeping these questions in mind will also help you empathize with a dog in situations that tend to unbalance you emotionally or otherwise make you frustrated or upset.

Am I safe?

Safety first! A dog who is feeling uncomfortable will behave quite differently than one who feels relaxed and safe. A dog who is feeling unsafe is going to try to change the situation to feel safe. They may try to run or hide, they may freeze and do nothing, they may try to convince the threat that they themselves are harmless, they might try to bluff, or they might try to fight. 

What your dog chooses depends on their history and experience. It varies between situations and dogs, and may not always be the same. Some dogs start off trying certain tactics, but then learn that others are more effective. At the end of the day they’re still after the same thing; to increase their feelings of safety. 

It is normal for most dogs to try to change situations that make them uncomfortable. We do this too! We avoid things, give off signals that we’re not interested, and plenty of other things to maintain our feeling of safety or increase it to a comfortable level. It is natural and normal. Sometimes though, things get out of balance. Sensitivities can develop, preferences can change. Our dogs are not static beings.

How can I benefit from this situation?

This is a misunderstanding and misconception that I see SOOOOOO much. Dogs are forever trying to find benefit for themselves and this drives pretty much all of their behavior. This makes them very opportunistic (counter surfing anyone?) and can be at odds with the desires of their human companions. 

Your dog isn’t acting out of spite, they aren’t ignoring you because they’re a brat, they didn’t act the way they did to ruin your day or make you feel bad or get back at you as some form of revenge. Dogs live in the now, and are looking for opportunities to take advantage of. This could look like a variety of things. Not coming when called, pulling on leash, jumping onto things, stealing food/toys/etc, eating the “wrong” things. You name it, your dog did it simply because that was their chance to act on something they wanted. 

Dogs simply don’t do things they don’t want to do. It’s a brilliant system, and really isn’t different from what humans do either. We are motivated to do things that benefit us all the time. From our food choices, our priorities at work, what we do with free time, it’s dictated by what we feel like would serve us best, or benefit us the most. 

The good news is that it’s this very characteristic that makes dogs trainable and biddable to do the things we’d like. We can game the system and take advantage of this to everyone’s benefit!

Unruly, Uncivilized, and Out of Control

Dogs do not know how to live in polite society and they don’t come preprogramed with knowing how to act as our companions. They have zero concept of these things unless we teach them; remember dogs are just made up of two questions!

It’s up to us to educate our dogs if we expect them to act nicely, and this is where the importance of dog training really begins to shine. Without training dogs very predictably fall into habits that are not wanted. Excessive, chasing, barking, territorial behavior, inability to listen, no recall, digging issues, destructive behavior, you name it.

Essentially they’re just acting like a feral animal would, and we can’t really fault them. They’re an uneducated opportunist taking advantage of whatever they can. These kinds of things can land a dog in a shelter or rescue very fast, and I firmly believe that lack of training is the main factor contributing to young dogs being unwanted. It’s really not pleasant living with a dog who acts like a maniac and that doesn’t have any sort of real meaningful connection with his people. That’s not a companion, that’s a bit of a nightmare.

The importance of dog training can be broken down into 3 different yet equal parts. The first is teaching the dog how to act, adapt, and behave in our society. No dog can learn this properly and fully without guidance. The second is building confidence. This is a skill that is chronically overlooked and forgotten by modern day dog owners. Neglecting this will bite you in the ass (sometimes literally). The third is deepening and broadening the bond and relationship that a dog has with their owner and family. A couch companion, car buddy, and sometimes hiking companion is just scratching the surface of what having a dog can be, and what every dog can be. Training is the only way to get to that, and it’s so worth it. 

Every Journey Begins with a Single Step

Be Brave. Embark on the next stage of your life.

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