|Discipline is the trick to good dog training
I recently heard the comment that most people would rather go to the dentist than go to a dog training class. Really? What a sad statement. Then I started thinking back to all the training classes I have been to and really…if I’m honest…although I liked them, they weren’t really all that fun.
We would put a choke chain (you can see how far back I’m going) on our dogs and march around in a circle and make the dogs sit and then march the other way and make the dogs lay down. We would do this for a half hour with a few recalls at the end, and then we would go home. Our assignment was to practice that for a half hour each day. No wonder both the people and the dogs were bored. Worse part of it was that it had no bearing on the other 23.5 hours of the day.
Try that with children. Be a severe disciplinarian and demand total obedience for a half hour a day, but then leave the kids on their own the rest of the day. No one requiring them to have any manners, follow any rules, or to behave in general. What messed up kids we would all have! You can’t do that with dogs either.
The secret to effective training is to not know when it is happening. It is not a thing you do once a day, it is your day. From the moment you get up until the moment you go to sleep, you are training your dog (and children). They have to have manners when they eat (ask for a sit first and wait until you say they can eat), they have to sit at the door before being allowed outside, they must walk calmly and without pulling while on their walks and so on throughout the day.
You slip in a command, demand their attention, refuse to give in to their nudging, give them treats (and take them away) on your terms – not because they were begging or being annoying. This is the NILIF (nothing in life is free) school of training and it discretely cements the fact that you are in charge – in your dog’s mind. A very important concept in the world of dogs. All without a single alpha roll (take that Cesar Millan).
That’s not to say that you don’t go to training classes, too. There definitely is a benefit to working with a trainer in a structured setting. This is your opportunity to “proof” your dog with lots of distractions around. We hear all the time in classes, “he does it perfectly at home.” Of course, there is nothing competing for his attention, and he knows it’s training time. Try it out in the real world though, and he’s a completely different animal. You want a dog that’s well-trained and a pleasure to take out in public? Then you have to train them in public places with real distractions.
Classes are becoming more fun with new ways of teaching the skills we all need, and once you have the basics down, there’s all kinds of exciting classes available. Try a new dog sport like fly ball for the tennis ball fanatic, or nose work for those with a good sniffer, or agility, or doggy dancing, or rally or any of the other classes available locally and see how excited your dog can get about going to school. It could do the two of you a world of good.
• Fix-it clinics: Free cat spays/neuters and low-cost dog surgeries for low-income residents of Rohnert Park and Cotati. Call 588-3531 for more information or an appointment.
• No More Lost Pets Campaign: Every lost pet should have a way to get back home. Free pet ID tag and a back-up microchip is available to all residents of Rohnert Park and Cotati. No appointment necessary, just come by the shelter during our regular open hours: Wednesday 1-6:30 p.m.; Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 1-5:30 p.m.; and Sun 1-4:30 p.m.
Mickey Zeldes is the supervisor at the Rohnert Park Animal Shelter. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I'm so happy to read your article stressing that "dog training" is not about Sit or Stay. It's about teaching your dog "how to be." Training is about a lifestyle of manners and polite rules, not ten artificial minutes of "performance" here or there.
Brava for stating what should be the obvious! And you're right -- classes with this emphasis are LOTS more fun.