When most people think of dog training, they picture dogs doing long stays, walking right beside their owner looking up at them and coming when called. It is this serious area where we view the dogs as little trick producing animals that stay out of trouble. Traditionally, the focus has always been on the technical skill. Although, this is still important, our relationship with dogs has changed. They have become a loved family member that share our houses and takes part in most of our activities. We have built off-leash parks and have strict leash laws. We hear more about dog bites and talk about being their leaders.
We need to teach obedience skills, but we must apply them to real world settings and teach our dogs what is expected of them. We must take the time to socialize them and introduce them to our busy human environment. This cannot just be done in the classroom over 6-8 weeks and it cannot start in the outside world with large groups of dogs.
Obedience skills are a necessary part of training, but there is so much more that we need to be teaching our dogs. This is what we do best at dogma and what we want to see happen everywhere for our companion dogs. In this post, I am going to share how to go far beyond obedience training to develop an ideal urbanK9; a confident and well-mannered dog that excels in our urban world and human families.
Beyond Obedience Skills
Yes, your dog needs to learn how to walk nicely on leash, to come when called and have good attention. We do recommend having at least one position cue and teaching them potential life-saving skills such as leave it. At dogma, we do not teach obedience skills to just order our dogs around. We teach them the skills so we can show them what to do instead of any behaviours we want to discourage. For example, for jumping we focus on teaching the dog to sit nicely to earn attention. Our training goes so much further and is reliable because we focus on teaching the dog what to do and show them how to gain rewards for it.
Obedience training is the foundation of manners training and helping your dog with impulse control. This means that we teach them what skill to do in a situation where they are excitable. This in turn teaches manners and helps them manage their self-control. By putting obedience skills to use in real world settings, you create more reliable and long-lasting behaviour. But our number one reason is safety. Having a good recall could prevent your dog from getting lost or being hit by a car. Having a solid sit stay may prevent your dog from running out a door. Or, your dog understanding leave it could prevent them from ingesting something fatal. Focus on what the skills teach the dog, not just about teaching the skill itself.
That’s right, socialization goes well beyond puppyhood. Why do we stop getting our dogs out and focusing on introducing them to the overload of new sounds, sights, objects, surroundings and activities in our busy human world? Training should always focus on getting dogs out into our urban environments throughout their lives. We get into the habit of walking them at the same places and taking them out to the same areas. This can create over-excitement when you take them to new places as everything is so new and interesting and they are not used to new situations. By ensuring you get them out and continue socializing them, you help build their confidence, lower their arousal levels and prevent over-exuberance concerns.
Socialization is also where we can start truly applying the obedience skills that we have taught them and enhancing their self-control and manners. It should also involve teaching them how to properly interact with other dogs and how to appropriately greet them. But, don’t stop there! Introduce them to other animals, a wide variety of people and children, moving objects, things that make noise and new surroundings and activities. The best part about urban training is that you get out with your dog! While you can focus on exposing them to their surroundings, you are exploring new places together and bonding.
This is the largest focus of our training program. It’s about providing you the confidence in handling your dog and building mutual trust. That’s the best part with reward-based training; it’s about having fun and enjoying the training. It’s about learning together and minimizing stress. We are focusing on what to teach the dog and how to be successful in our human world. It is not about punishing the dog for making mistakes. It is not about misinterpreting behaviour concerns with ideas that our dogs are being dominant or stubborn. It’s about working together in a productive and life-long relationship. It’s about understanding that they are part of our human world and families, but are not humans. Most of their natural behaviour is what we deem as problem behaviour. Many of our urban settings are full of potentially scary or new items for them. So, let’s go beyond obedience training and create training relationships with the goal to truly help our canine companions. Whether you have a new puppy, an excitable adolescent dog or a reactive/fearful dog, the training needs to focus on real world settings and getting them comfortable in our human world. Training and socialization should always be happening, but it should be fun for you both.
Is there anything else you think we should focus on with dog training? Is there an obedience skill that you taught your dog that came in handy in a real-world setting? Do you have any challenges that you need addressed? Comment below!