Training Your Dog is a Lifelong Affair
Often people call me and tell me they need to "get their dog trained" and that they want him trained well. They sometimes elaborate on just how obedient they want their dog to be and how quickly they want to accomplish this goal. Their enthusiasm is high, they enroll in class and then I drop the bomb. The bad new is...there is no definite end to training.
Training is your relationship with your dog, your way of communicating with him,and developing a common language. Training ends when your dog dies.
After the look of horror passes, I explain that training won't always be so much work, but to say it ends isn't truthful. Dogs are thinking creatures (not computers we can program) and they learn throughout their lives everyday, just like you and I. Maybe you won't need your clicker and treats with you constantly or have formal practice sessions everyday, but training a dog and teaching him what you expect is what owning a dog is all about.
I get discouraged sometimes when people don't want to hear this because a dog who isn't trained throughout it's life still learns, just not anything you want him to know. He learns things like if he ignores you he doesn't have to come when you call him, if he slips out the door fast enough he'll get freedom in the neighborhood.
Dogs are too intellilgent to lay at your feet all day and worship you- they would rather have fun than please you unless you teach them that pleasing you is fun. Dogs will find things to keep them occupied if we don't provide a stimulating environment and continue our relationship through training.
My 8 yr old golden is still learning and we still train on a regular basis. She knows her basic good dog manners perfectly, but she's a dog and needs to test her limits on occasion. She also loves to communicate with me through training and knows over 50 words and phrases, she'd think I didn't love her anymore if I stopped teaching her new things. I still remind her what the rules are and she enjoys having a job to do. difficult concepts: tricks, retrieving, formal dog sports. If I stopped training her it would be like not talking to my best friend.
Training sessions for us are not as formal as they used to be, but we use her commands every day. She sits to have her leash put on or to get her dinner. She goes to her bed when I'm eating and is not allowed to beg. She goes to her bed when company is visiting and I don't want her underfoot. She must sit to be petted by strangers and if she barks at me for attention I leave the room. Sam and I have a great relationship, she still amazes me with how intelligent she has become. She may be 8 yrs old but we have a lot more training to do. There is so much more to teach her, I don't ever want to stop. She is at the point in her career where she as an enormous learning base and often figures things out for herself.
Six week obedience classes (at least at Canine University) are designed to start you out on this journey, this relationship with your dog. Our goal has always been to improve your relationship with your dog and give you the foundation skills necessary to build upon your dogs learning. We set goals for come, sit, down, stay and leash walking, but it's the process of teaching these things that is most important. Our goal as instructors is to strengthen your relationship with your dog and motivate you to want to teach him.
There will never be an end to human desire for a quick fix but if you embark on the journey of developing a relationship with your dog you will never want to stop training. You will come to see training your dog as a way of communicating with a different species with all of the magic and mystery it brings. Happy training... don't ever stop, your dog will thank you for it.
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