If your dog is untrained, unruly, out of control, or downright rude, it’s not too late to help your dog (and yourself)! Rather than blame, shame, or incessantly complain, do something about it. It’s our responsibility to teach dogs how to peacefully coexist with humans, who have contrasting needs, values, and priorities.
All dogs can learn new tricks and better ways of behaving, regardless of their age, breed, size, sex, or previous training history (or lack thereof). This includes even the crazed canine who rarely settles down for more than five seconds at a time and leaves you wondering if he has more than three brain cells inside of his furry little head (one tied to tennis balls, the second to food, and the third to any type of squirrel activity).
Yes, even that dog—we all know them--is capable of learning a better way. The best part, and often most surprising to all of those who live with the out-of-control, hyped-up hound, is that many times the most ill-behaved dogs are the quickest learners; they’ve just unintentionally been taught the wrong thing.
Getting the Message Across
Training at its core is about communication. Training teaches our dogs how to do this life beside us in a way that works well for both human and dog. Dogs are lifetime learners. And it doesn’t take your dog going through formal training with a professional or passing an obedience class to be a student.
Dogs are constantly learning through everyday occurrences and interactions that influence the way they perceive and respond to the world. Learning, and by extension “training,” through ongoing life events is an adaptive and necessary part of canine life that helps dogs stay safe, healthy, happy, and secure. Training is simply harnessing the animal’s innate ability to connect positive and negative associations between events and adapting their behavior more effectively in ways that influence their emotional state and behavior.
But when learning is left to chance and dogs lack training and ongoing positive guidance, they are left ill-equipped and undereducated, unfairly blamed when they inevitably fail to measure up to what can be heavy expectations for how they’re “supposed to behave.”
The responsibility placed on dogs to “get it right” in a human world that doesn’t always make inherent sense to them is unfair and unrealistic. No puppy pops out of the womb knowing how to behave in the human-governed world they live in. That type of expectation is similar to asking a person to integrate completely into a new land and culture without knowing the language, customs, or laws, lacking even basic resources such as a guidebook or translation app. It would be unfair, unjust, and downright cruel to expect the person to make such a transition without leaving ample room for failure, because countless inevitable mistakes are bound to be made along the way as part of the learning process.
In a similar way, dogs are oftentimes overwhelmed by the enormity of the difference between their natural behaviors and how they’re expected to behave in the human-centered world. Dogs who lack training and ongoing positive guidance are doomed to failure when they can’t meet what to the dog is likely to be unclear and, frankly, unfair expectations.
The person your dog needs most in order to get on track and learn better ways of behaving is YOU. Your role is to serve as your dog’s interpreter and guide, equipping and preparing him to navigate life with you and other humans. Reward-based training has the greatest impact when it comes to educating a dog in understanding the basics of human language and customs.
You don’t have to be a professional dog trainer to teach your dog a better way! You’re already training your dog during daily interactions (whether you’ve realized it or not), so why not do yourself and your dog a favor and consider ways you can more effectively guide your dog. Reward-based training is not only a powerful way to teach our dogs how to do life beside us, it’s a kindness that all dogs deserve.
You can start with free resources that will help you to better understand your dog, the relationship you share with your dog and that provides easy ways to improve your dog’s manners and to enrich their life. At Fear Free Happy Homes, you can find courses and articles that will help you with training, behavior, and socialization support.