The number one reason that dogs are relinquished to shelters is behavioral, and unfortunately many behavioral issues are actually training issues. Therefore, I truly believe that basic dog training saves lives!
Sometimes when I’m talking to a client during a puppy visit, they look very confused when I mention training. When I say that all dogs deserve basic training, I’m talking about your relationship with your dog and the structure you have provided for your dog’s life. Knowing that there are rules and expectations of them often helps to manage a dog’s anxiety and improve their mental health. A trained dog is a happy dog.
It’s not so much about specifically which commands you teach your dog – your dog won’t necessarily have better mental health if they know “Sit” vs “Down.” Instead, it’s about the interaction between you and your dog. Your dog gets the comfort and stability of knowing what’s expected of them as well as the reward of praise/food/toys/play, depending on their preference. You get the reward of having a dog that fulfills the reason you got a dog in the first place. The Human Animal Bond strengthens between you and you both get releases of dopamine (the feel-good neurotransmitter).
Many clients believe that their dog “can’t” be trained – which is just not true. More likely, the amount of patience and repetition the dog needs is greater than the amount of patience and repetition you’ve invested in their training. My dog, Cora, knows lots of tricks – down, sit, dance, weave through my legs, jump through my arms – but she does not reliably know rollover. This doesn’t mean she can’t learn it, it just means that I haven’t worked with her diligently enough to train this behavior.
It’s also worth noting that, just like humans, dogs do have different aptitudes and inclinations toward particular types of training. Some dogs will never be good therapy dogs and some dogs will never be interested in agility. If your dog wasn’t exposed to a wide range of stimuli during their socialization period (3-12 weeks old), that lack of socialization can make training particular behaviors challenging for your dog. But the point is that all dogs CAN be trained, if you have enough patience and willingness to troubleshoot.
Two of my favorite online resources are Dunbar Academy and Fear Free Happy Homes. Dunbar Academy is a huge suite of online training courses. There are many really great ones available for free, and if you love his style, there are additional courses available for a subscription price. Additionally, his two ebooks (Before You Get Your Puppy and After You Get Your Puppy) are available for free, and these might be the best part of his entire portfolio!
In the interest of transparency, I will share that I am an affiliate for Dunbar Academy and if you do decide to subscribe, I’d love for you to use my affiliate link 🙂
Fear Free Happy Pets is the client-facing side of the Fear Free Certified Professional program. I love their fun, engaging videos and their easy-to-understand articles on a very wide range of topics from basic puppy training to managing fears and anxieties. This resource isn’t a step-by-step program like Dunbar Academy, but if you already have a general understanding of dog training and you need some help troubleshooting, this might be a good place to reference.
When you’re deciding the best plan for providing your pet with basic training, it’s also important to acknowledge your own limitations. If you don’t personally have a lot of experience with training animals, sign up for training classes with an experienced professional. It can make a world of difference. Look into the trainer’s background before making your decision – How long have they been training? What are their own dogs like? Have they completed any certification or credentialing processes such as with the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers or Karyn Pryor Academy? These pieces of information will help you decide on the right fit for you and your dog.
All dogs deserve basic training to support their optimum mental health and also to decrease their risk of relinquishment to shelters. Dog training is a win-win for everyone!