Dog Training at Home
Traditional dog training methods are not always the best option for us when we are deciding on training classes for our dogs.
In fact, many dog training classes are driven by generic practices that work with most dogs, most of the time.
This can be difficult for us when we have a breed of dog that falls outside of the normal.
A lot of dog training classes were first developed from military or service training classes that dogs historically were trained from.
The standards were mostly set by instructors and although popular and well-received, they sometimes omitted certain kinds of dogs that just were not capable of following the rigid system.
A lot of the exercises and training regimes still exist today but are they really going to benefit your dog?
The point is if we keep our dogs in our homes as companions, friends if you will and we enjoy walking them and playing with them, do we really need to train our dog to the same level as a service dog or working dog?
It can sometimes be a negative experience for our hound if we “overtrain” them. It can have a negative effect on your bond, your special relationship with your dog, especially if the breed of dog you have is not easily trained.
Dogs are individuals, remember. It is too easy sometimes to forget they all have their own personalities.
In the last 20 years, I have rehomed 4 Greyhounds and I can tell you that the general public seems to think they are all docile couch potatoes that are never aggressive and love people.
Some of that is true. BUT, my 4 have all been hugely different in terms of training and personality.
We make a mistake by using a “one size fits all” approach.
Don’t get me wrong, nobody really wants a badly behaved dog, but we need to tailor the training we need to the kind of dog we want to have.
Certain Kinds of Training Have Their Place Depending on What the Scenario Is for You and Your Dog.
Not all kinds of command make sense in certain situations. For instance, I never make my dog sit when we are outdoors on a walk.
If we are at a road junction waiting to cross, it would make no sense to him to sit on the cold floor.
I don’t want him to do that, so he waits by my side until it is safe to cross.
A simple “wait” command works really well with him and along with my body language and tension in the lead, everything is fine.
Similarly, I try to avoid dogs off the lead running up to him. He is always under my control when we go for walks as we live in a rural area with sheep and other cattle so this is a responsible way to behave with my dog.
I vary my walk times to avoid other dogs as my dog doesn’t really enjoy other dogs off the lead running up to him.
Because of this approach, our walks are much more peaceful and enjoyable for both of us.
Individual Dog Conformation
Dogs are all kinds of unusual. Shape, size, breed, etc.
For example, dogs with long backs, breeds with genetic potential for dodgy hips or elbows, cruciate damage, straight hocks or indeed, in the case of Greyhounds or other working dogs, historic injuries can find sitting very uncomfortable or indeed extremely painful.
Older dogs or dogs that have any kind of arthritic condition should never be made to sit either because of the pain that can be caused, even if this was something they did when they were younger.
A Pregnant bitch would have a terrible time sitting too, yet many owners will not think of these kinds of scenarios and continue with bulk standard commands that are not only outdated but completely unneeded for many domestic pets.
Positive training is of course very important for us and our dogs but we need to ask whether we need to have our dogs doing certain things that are better for our dog’s welfare and comfort.
Another aspect of training that I have never really done is around the aspect of feeding.
I don’t leave food out all day as this is bad practice on many levels and it is actually not that good for the dog either.
I don’t think its good practice to allow your dog to go mad at food times and run the risk of knocking you out of the way in desperation to get to the food bowl and sending bowl and food flying through anxiety has to be avoided too.
Good practice is to prepare your dog’s food away from them and then call them when it’s done or if they turn up beforehand to eat, make sure there is a door between you and them.
This controls the environment and makes them less anxious. Making a dog forcibly wait for food borders on teasing and it should be avoided.
Some training around food insists on making them wait on command. I don’t do that as I don’t agree with it and you really want to build bonds with your dog, not borders.
The command “Down” is a useful one to use with dogs that are already in a static or passive state, but it can be a difficult command to use when a dog is barking or agitated.
Trying to get a deep-chested breed to adopt a sphinx-like posture is also very difficult for them.
For dogs that are carrying injuries like damaged hips, hocks or elbows, again it is a demanding instruction.
It’s important to know your own dog and only use commands that they can do comfortably.
Waking Your Dog On And Off Lead Commands
Gundogs and obedience competition dogs are usually glued to the heel command as part of their normal daily routine and this is perfectly fine as it part of the work they do.
For normal dogs that don’t need to be so intense in terms of attention, it is ok to walk with slack leads and you simply don’t need them to be so close to you (touching your leg) as this can cause other problems like possible stumbling and or accidental injuries.
I have written before that it is important for a dog to be a dog and if that means it is safe for your dog to be off lead and sniffing around, then that is behavior that should be encouraged.
“Heel” is a useful command to use with your dog but again, it doesn’t need to be overused. Dogs are really smart and can learn other words and Heel as effective as it is, is yet again, born from service and military training regimes that have little or no bearing on your relationship with your dog.
“Come Boy or Come Girl” is much better and softer and your dog will understand that command just as well as the austere term Heel.
Personally, I have never used the term “Heel” and don’t think I ever will. It has its place in training, but not in the way I train my dogs.
The main thing here is that you have overall control of your dog and as long as that is working for you both, then stick with it.
This is another command that most dogs learn but there is a difference between saying “Stay” as in, “remain there while I do this” and a stay command that may result in your dog not knowing when you are coming back.
This can cause your dog to become anxious and suffer the aspects of separation anxiety.
Some professional dog trainers use stay as a firm command to instruct their dogs as part of sometimes a bigger training regime and again, this is fine in context.
In the real world where we are all living however, it is important to make sure our dogs are not left unattended or away from us. It’s ok in the home if there is a doorbell going or a visitor, saying stay and getting your dog to comply is fine, but we don’t want to be using the command outside, especially as it can leave our dog alone and feeling vulnerable.
An unattended dog is unfortunately very vulnerable these days from being stolen or being attacked by another dog or indeed, getting unwanted attention from passers-by.
This can especially be the case when you see dogs tethered up outside shops.
It’s not a practice that should be encouraged. I have lost count on the numbers of seriously worried or anxious dogs I have seen like this and owners need to know just how vulnerable a tied-up dog is.
Dogs are brilliant at working out the true value of an exercise. If you want your dog to always respond to you rather than thinking for themselves, it can be an uphill task and very frustrating.
I have said before that it is always important for you to let your dog be a dog. You don’t want them to be like a human, you want them to behave like a dog within reason, of course.
Good quality and relevant training are important and you will find your way and also a way that suits your dog.
Dogs are brilliant at working out task v reward or cost-benefit analysis.
Sometimes a dog will just need to chase that squirrel more than coming back to you, even if you do scream “Come Here Boy”!
If you ever think that your dog may react in a situation like this in the open, then there is nothing wrong with pre-emptive measures like making sure your dog is always on a lead.
I always do have my dog on a lead unless he is in a controlled environment like a secure exercise paddock or run, but I appreciate that may not be the case for your dog.
Again, all situations are different and you have to find your way.
This isn’t a reflexion on you or your training either, it’s just a dog being a dog and as long as it is relatively safe for them to be so, then it must be encouraged.
It really does not mean that you are a poor trainer either, it’s just that you have to find the right kind of training for your situation, your dog, their needs and their breed.
Dogs are like people and always benefit from good reward-based training so that has to be the core of what you want to achieve when training your dog.
Decide Early on What You Really Want from Them and Then Backward Engineer That Through Positive Reinforcement.
Dog management is what it should be called in all honesty.
You are the manager of you and your dog’s relationship and ultimately you are making all the (hopefully) right and positive decisions.
Your dog should be your companion and you should be seen by your dog as their best friend and this is nearly always achieved by positive management and good quality and relevant training.
Regular training classes are good for socializing your dog, but if you are simply not happy with the general austere environment then try another, friendlier training method or class.
They all vary so shop around.