By Sandy Modell
ALEXANDRIA,VA-For years, most people did not teach their dogs new skills or behaviors. Their dogs stayed in a home or backyard all day and were not challenged to think and learn. When owners did attempt to train them, they often assumed that the dog understood English, and they enforced obedience commands with punishment-based correction methods. Traditional thinking then was that the human had to show the dog who was the boss, the big Alpha.
But animal science has evolved, and with it the profession of dog training. Owners today more often hire trainers who use positive, state-of-the-art, science-based training.
Unfortunately, the training evolution has not been without controversy. Even though the dominance theory has been debunked by the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) and other reputable organizations, some (even very well-known) traditional trainers continue to promote outdated practices. Old beliefs die hard, but now an ever-growing army of enlightened positive trainers understands the benefits of training without pain, fear, or force.
Developing a healthy, trust-based relationship with your dog leads to a harmonious household. Investing the time, attention, and patience to teach your dog how to navigate our human-centric world will make your and your dog’s life easier, more enjoyable, and lots of fun. A dog that is a joy to live with in your home and neighborhood is the hallmark of responsible dog ownership.
Four Reasons to Train Your Dog:
1. Avoid Problem Behaviors
When dogs are not trained, they engage in whatever works for them: the chase-me game, incessant barking, chewing on your stuff, and other normal but inappropriate behaviors. Dogs absolutely need physical and mental stimulation to live happily with humans. An owner who fails to ensure that his dog is allowed to work his mind sets that dog up for boredom, which can lead to anxiety and destructive activities. Positive training promotes security and comfort for both dog and owner. Teaching your dog reliable behaviors and how to stay calm and focused on you is key to having a well-mannered, well-adjusted dog.
2. Build a Positive Relationship
Positive training fosters a relationship based on mutual trust and cooperation, not fear and intimidation. One excellent way to build a healthy relationship with your dog is to understand how he thinks and to make learning as rewarding and easy as possible.
Remember that an adversarial approach can be physically and psychologically damaging to your dog—and dangerous for you—but dogs trained through positive reinforcement adapt more easily and behave more predictably in new situations. They have better self-control.
3. Teach Life Skills
Every dog needs to learn how to live successfully in the human home. Teaching basic skills and providing enough mental enrichment and physical exercise sets a dog up for success. When we teach dogs good coping skills and how to modulate their arousal levels, they adapt better to new situations and environments.