What does a trained dog look like?
Do visions of Lassie and Benji prance through your head? Does your dog embarrass you, or make you proud? Is she ‘not perfect’ but you’re happy with how she behaves? Is your dog a vision of trained perfection? What do you think is ‘good’ dog behavior? What is ‘bad’ or unacceptable? We all have an idea of what a ‘trained’ dog should do, but are we all in agreement about what that looks like?
I had to give up teaching dog training.
Not really, I still do teach, but I did give it up for a while. I got tired of taking people’s money and having them be pissed off because their dog wasn’t perfect all on her own, a syndrome I like to call ‘the Lassie complex’. Training your dog really does take daily effort, daily training sessions, something the bulk of my early clients were unwilling to do. I trained a porcupine to wear a harness and walk on a leash, and a hawk to drop out of the sky, trust me; a dog can be trained to do almost anything if you’re willing to invest the time. What my clients had trouble with was that they have to do the work; there is no instant solution in dog training. The good news is, unless you want Lassie behaviors, your training sessions can easily be worked into your daily routine.
Is your dog ‘sort of’ trained? This is OK!
A pet peeve (sorry, I love puns!): I hate it when my dogs jump up on me. My dogs would never dream of leaping up and laying paws on you. Conversely, I have good friends with a pair of smaller dogs who leave bruises every time I go to visit because they prance on their hind legs, dig at my knees and caroom wildly around the room in the ecstatic dance of ‘Welcoming a Stranger into the Home.’ The owners apologize and make futile hand gestures, which have zero effect in controlling the dogs’ frenetic gyrations. I just smile, and give a firm ‘NO’ and a shove if they bounce against me too crazily and wait it out. But, they’ve never asked for training help, so I don’t offer any hints, or tips, and I don’t try to stop the whirling dervishes. Why? Because they’re not my dogs, and owners get to decide what they want their dog’s behavior to look like. My friends really are content with how their little furry demolition derby cars act. They have trained their dogs to the level they are comfortable with.
My exception to this is: your dog had better be safe. You do not get to think that an aggressive, biting dog is okay, from Chihuahuas to Great Danes. Those are very serious behaviors that put people’s lives at risk. If you have these issues, find a very good, local dog trainer to help you. Fast.
Lassie? Or Marley? How about somewhere in between?
When I ask my clients what they think a trained dog acts like, the usual response is some variation of “I want my dog to listen to me.” News flash, your dog is not your therapist. Okay, it can seem like it; many are the times I’ve poured my troubles into my Belgian’s perky black ears. But that’s not the kind of listening we’re talking about.
So, what do you want? Do you want a dog that will just cuddle you all night, and play all day? Do you want a dog that follows the basic commands of sit, stay and come? Do you want him to do tricks? Do you want to compete in obedience trials? Do you care if she sleeps on the couch, or in your bed? It doesn’t matter what you pick, but you have to have a very definite picture of what you want your dog’s behavior to be. A sample list of behaviors that I consider important just for good canine behavior includes:
What you decide to add is limited only by your imagination.
What does your dog do that you would stop if you could? What is she perfect at? When is he just too adorable? What would you like to train your dog to do? Tell me about it!