September 3, 2015

Why obedience training?

Though now a happy cat owner, dogs have been a part of most of my life. And despite my rediscovered love of cats, I will always have a soft spot for dogs. After all, they are loyal, unconditionally affectionate, playfully exuberant and have a zest for life. We have to remember though, that dogs and we primates are very different animals. Though lovable, dogs have some tendencies —like jumping up to greet you, barking, and digging—that can make it difficult to live with them. To grow your your relationship with your dog, it is very important to teach her some important skills that will help her live harmoniously in a human household.
It is easy to get all kinds of advice about training your dog. Some people will tell you that the key is to use a “firm hand” to make sure your dog doesn’t think she can get away with naughty behavior. The OHS and most experts argue that you should only use rewards in dog training and not punish your dog in any way. You should reward behaviour you like and makes sure you are not rewarding the behaviours you don’t like.
The “how” advice is everywhere. What about the why? 
The American Dog Trainers Network (ADTN)  remind us that obedience training is one of the most important aspects of raising a dog. Their website sums it up beautifully: 
A well trained dog is by far a happier dog! Why? Because a trained dog requires fewer restrictions. The more reliable the dog, the more freedom he is given. For example, many stores and businesses that normally won’t allow dogs on their premises will make an exception for a puppy or a dog that will heel nicely by his owner’s side, or will do a sit-stay or down-stay without hesitation.

And when company arrives in your home, there’s no need to banish a well-behaved dog to another room for fear that he will be a royal nuisance. Moreover, because a well-mannered, obedience-trained dog is both appreciated and welcome, he receives more attention and interaction from family members, visitors, and passers-by, than does the ill-mannered dog.

Training serves to strengthen the bond between a dog and his owner. It builds communication, understanding, and mutual respect.

The ADTN reminds us that training may save your dog’s life:

Obedience training also gives the dog owner the voice control necessary to prevent numerous potential tragedies. For instance, should a dog slip out of his collar in the middle of a congested traffic intersection, he can be safely heeled across the street, then given a sit command to facilitate putting his collar back on. Or should someone accidentally leave the front door open, and you spot your dog leaving, he can be safely called back to you using the recall command.

Not only will obedience training help your dog to become more responsive, but because it enables you to have immediate control over your dog’s behavior, in an emergency situation obedience training may save your dog’s life. In fact, it can ultimately save the lives of many dogs, because far fewer dogs would end up in animal shelters if their owners would simply take the time to train them.

The consequences of misbehavior are many:

Without proper training, many dogs are likely to misbehave. And when owners allow their dogs to misbehave, everyone suffers: The owner, because he or she lives with a dog, the dog, because everyone’s down on him for misbehaving; the dog’s owner’s neighbors, because living next to a difficult dog is no one’s idea of fun; and ultimately every dog owner, because each incidence where a dog creates a nuisance increases anti-dog sentiment, and contributes to the likelihood that tough legal restrictions will be placed on all dogs.

A well-behaved, obedience trained dog is a pleasure to own because he can go virtually anywhere without being a risk or nuisance to others. And don’t we all want a dog who exhibits appropriate behavior in a crowd, good manners when we have guests in our home, is reliable around children, and who doesn’t threaten other dogs or passers-by?

The bottom line is that dog obedience training truly benefits everyone.

Bruce Roney
Executive Director

With thanks to the American Dog Trainers Network