I'll Figure it Out - DIY Dog Training
A lot of owners nowadays fall prey to the DIY Dog Training Misconception. The one that assumes that it’s a matter of playing it by ear, addressing each issue as it comes along, and hoping for the best when you’re raising your dog. This is a widely believed notion, and one that is more damaging than many realize.
Those problem behaviors that you’re having to address now? A lot of them are totally preventable, and it’s always easier to prevent than to repair or rehabilitate a dog. Socialization is one such facet of training and is so important that AVSAB (American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior) has a position statement on the matter regarding young pups.
The “I’ll figure it out as we go” style of DIY dog training just doesn’t work well if you’re trying to have a dog who is both well behaved and has a stable and steady disposition.
DIY Dog Training Misconceptions
The most common pattern that I see with people that want to “figure things out on their own” is a lack of understanding of the full scope of what training is. There is a very strong focus on sit, down, heel, and pretty much anything else that is obedience related, but this completely disregards the behavior side of the dog. Obedience training doesn’t help with behavior training, and no amount of obedience will ever teach a dog not to be aggressive, or cure his fears.
Another major point is that obedience can be taught at any stage of a dog’s life, and it’s all pretty straightforward. Behavior training is not the same, and if critical periods are missed with young puppies, that often can affect them for the entirety of their life and even with training they will NEVER reach the same potential they could have before.
Making sure a dog has steady behavior, can be calm, isn’t suffering from fear, nervousness, anxiety or other behavior problems is what should be at the forefront of every DIY dog trainer’s thoughts. DIY dog training is much more than just sit, shake, down, stay, etc, but this doesn’t seem at all to be widely known or realized.
Behavioral problems in dogs seem to be growing more and more common these days, and frankly I think misconceptions about DIY dog training are to blame. The focus needs to shift to raising and creating dogs who are sound and stable mentally, rather than trick training or teaching pups to sit.
This isn’t to say that there can’t be a focus on behavior and obedience simultaneously, that can absolutely be accomplished, however in my experience there’s a fundamental lack of knowledge on how to do this as well as a general lack of awareness that it’s even important. That is of course until a problem behavior has manifested into a little bit of a monster and developed into something worrying for the owner.
These problems are PREVENTABLE. Yet DIY dog training misconceptions strike and another dog owner gets onto the wrong path, practicing the wrong skills for their dog. All the while not addressing budding behavior problems, not creating resilience against problem behaviors, and potentially not even recognizing the little “quirks” that are red flags for big issues in the future.
Common obedience that make dogs easier to live with.
- Sit stay or down stay
- Walking nicely on leash
- Fast and reliable recall
- Staying still for grooming and nail care
- Potty on cue and in the right area
- Not bolting out of doors
Common behavior that is overlooked and extremely valuable to dogs who live as pets.
- Ability to relax fully
- Confidence and curiosity in new situations
- Quick recovery from fear or stress
- Gives ample warning signals
- Chooses de-escalation in times of stress
- Positive outlook and attitude to novel things
- Positive attitude towards interaction with humans
- Positive attitude towards training and interaction with handlers
- Ability to tolerate being alone or away from handler
What's the Best Way to Support Your Dog?
Do you know how to calm your dog the best when they are stressed? Do you know the signs of stress in your dog? Do you know how to prevent your dog from developing bad associations with things in the world? Or what about how to recover from the stress of a dog fight or other traumatic incident? What about just preventing overreactions to every day things they experience on walks or outside your home?
The vast majority of owners don’t know the answers here, or don’t have well developed relationships with their dogs to help them in these situations. And it’s not their fault, the information hasn’t been taught to them nor is it widespread or common knowledge. This is at the expense of both dog and owner; the biggest reason for dogs to be rehomed is lack of training and behavior issues, which if you haven’t realized yet, go hand in hand. At the time of this writing, this is literally what is happening to pandemic puppies. DIY dog training is part of the problem here; many people thought they were well equipped to get a new dog or pup, and now realize that things didn’t quite go according to plan.
I want to stress that it’s ok to not know these things and ok to not have the answers. There is no shame in wanting to do DIY dog training, or if you’ve started training your dog with DIY methods that you’ve found on the internet. Anyone can teach a sit, down, stay, to their dog and there are hundreds if not thousands of free resources online on how to learn to do so. The larger picture is missed though. The most perfect sit will not calm your dog down or make him ok with strangers in the home. It will not be helpful with fear or nervousness. It will not solve problems between dogs in the same household. It’s simply a sit.
You don’t have to figure things out on alone, and there’s no magical brownie points you unlock after you’ve been struggling with your dog for months. Behavior issues in dogs can be very serious and a drawn out struggle with no real end if you don’t know what you’re doing. Help is here, all you’ve got to do is ask.