Updated: Oct 27, 2021
In our line of work, especially when it comes to behavioural modification training, we more often than not meet dogs because they are (and have been!) showing unwanted behaviours for quite a while. Things like reactivity, pulling on the lead, barking, destroying things and not coming when called are some of the most common behavioural problems that we see on a regular basis. More often than not, owners have had their dogs for a long time and generally not even thought about training them until there is something unwanted they want to get rid of.
It is a common misconception among dog owners that dog's only need training if they are naughty and what is considered 'good' and 'bad' behaviours also widely changes between different people. I'm not going to get into what we consider to be 'good' or 'bad' behaviours today but instead talk about why we strongly believe that EVERY dog should have training from the first day that you get them.
Sadly, dog's don't come programmed to understand English or understand the human world they live in. Getting down to basics, dogs are predators who rely on their own instincts to get by unless they are told otherwise. A lot of the unwanted behaviours we see that owners want to stop all stem from a dog acting on instinct simply because they have not been trained to do otherwise. It's not that your dog has all of a sudden decided to show an unwanted behaviour, it's that you haven't taught your dog that it needs to rely on your direction and not it's own instincts.
Here's an example:
We often see people who have dogs that won't settle in the house, bark a lot and destroy things in the house if left alone. Now the first thing we look at is whether or not the dog is being walked enough, or overwalked (yes that's a thing!) and if the physical and mental needs of the dog are being met through walks and structured play/training time then it's clear what the issue is. The dog simply hasn't ever been taught to just chill out and relax in the house! Unlike humans, most dogs don't just know how to settle and relax unless we teach them to do so. Most dogs are busy animals who, especially when they are young, like to be busy and having fun! One of the most basic things that we o forget to teach our dogs is simply how to be, but not do.
Most people by now know that their puppies need training and most people who get a rescue know they'll more likely than not need training then too but there are still a lot of people who only see the value of training if theirs or someone else's dog is 'naughty'.
Here's the truth - all dog's need some sort of training!
When we grow up as children, we all go to school to learn and carry on that learning way into adulthood. We value within our world that all children, to have the best chance of becoming good citizens and being successful in life, must go to school. Within the horse world this is also a widely accepted first step. Young horses once they are ready to do so, generally go to an experienced trainer to learn to be ridden and understand the human world to give them the best chance of a successful and less stressful life as an adult. The same should be for our dogs. How can we as humans expect dogs to live in our world if we never teach them how to do so?
Basic things that ALL dogs need to learn but a lot of owners don't actually teach their dogs like walking nicely on the lead, coming when called and being respectful of other people and animals are actually simple and easy and would greatly benefit not just us and our dogs lives, but the lives of so many other people and animals that we come across. It is our responsibility as people who choose to bring these complex animals into our worlds, to teach them what our world is all about and how to live in it safely and comfortably for the duration of their lives.
Not every dog will need complex training, like humans all dogs learn at different paces and some will need some basic training and that is all whereas some with more complex issues will need more complex training. However, all dogs need some sort of training so that they can live in our world without the stresses of not understanding it fully.
There are ton's of great trainers who do lots of different training methods to be able to help a wide range of different dogs so they can find the best method to help you and your dog learn effectively and go into the world confidently and under control as you explore and adventure together.
Speak to a few different people, read through recommendations and don't be afraid to try different methods and different trainers. Teachers in schools have different teaching styles and methods because they know every child learns differently and the same is for our dogs!
Training should be fun, engaging but also productive - not every school day is watching films but every day is a chance to learn something new and improve on the skills you already have. Dog training should be the same, not every session will look pretty or be fun, but every session should help you and your dog to learn new things and improve on the skills you have so you aren't simply spending months on something basic like loose lead walking and getting no further.
If we all took the responsibility of training our dogs from the start, we'd all be able to benefit from the advantages!