What Is Dog Training?

< A version of this article was published in the February 2017 issue of Down East Dog News>

< Updated 10FEB19 >

< A short link to this article – http://bit.ly/WhatIsDogTraining >

If you were to ask three people to define dog training, you would probably get as many different answers, even if those people were professional dog trainers. The fact is individuals have various views on what training a dog entails. Some believe training is only for competition or working dogs and is not necessary for a pet, or companion dog. Others see training as nothing more than teaching a dog to sit and walk nicely on a leash. In my mind, dog training entails everything we need to do to ensure that our dogs can be included in our lives as much as possible and that they can have a long, enjoyable life free of fear, force, and pain.

For years our definition of dog training at Green Acres has been “Dog training is a process where we motivate our dog to offer a specific behavior when given a specific cue while having fun.” As I look at that definition today, I recognize that while accurate, it is incomplete, only addressing a small part of what training entails.

In my estimation a complete description of dog training would be:

“Dog training is a process where we teach our dog not only to respond reliably to cues but to live free of fear in a human-centric world. Training also involves managing the dog and its environment to prevent behaviors we dislike. As we get to know our dog we need to learn to accept them for the unique individual that they are. To optimize our dog’s ability to learn, we create teaching scenarios where they are setup to succeed and are motivated to offer behaviors we like. We reward them for desirable behavior, eventually teaching them to perform a specific behavior when given a particular cue, all while having fun. All of this is accomplished without the use of pain, force, fear or intimidation.”

First and foremost is the importance of recognizing that training a dog is a process made up of many steps that all take time. The length of time will depend upon several factors, including the dog, the environment and the handler. Typically the trainer that is the most patient will be the most successful and will have the happiest dog.

Equally critical is the acceptance and appreciation of dogs as a unique species with very different needs and understandings about what constitutes normal and acceptable social interactions. When dogs enter into our families, we have a responsibility to help them learn to live in our homes as well as our hectic world, free of fear and anxiety. That starts with socialization and habituation with a young puppy and may involve months of gentle, tolerant rehabilitation with a rescue dog.

Managing a dog to prevent undesirable behavior is just as much a part of the training process as teaching a dog to perform the desired behaviors. From a behavioral perspective, the more a behavior is practiced and rewarded the stronger the behavior will become, whether we like it or not, prevention is critical.

The actual act of training a dog requires certain skills and knowledge. There are as many ways to train dogs as there are to teach children arithmetic. Taking the time to acquire this knowledge and these skills and then consistently implementing them can make the training process go much more smoothly and quickly. This allows for the effective and humane teaching of our dog’s certain behaviors they need to know to be successful in our human world. One of the best ways to acquire these skills and knowledge is to work with a certified, professional dog trainer. Read “How to choose a dog trainer.” for tips on what to look for in a professional dog trainer.

Last but certainly not least, make sure the training process is fun and enjoyable for all.  Isn’t companionship one of the major reasons humans choose to have dogs in their lives? Studies and common sense tell us that if we enjoy something, like training the dog, we are more likely to do it and more likely to be successful.

Recommended Resources

Articles on Don’s Blog
( http://www.words-woofs-meows.com )

How to Choose a Dog Trainerhttp://bit.ly/HowToChooseADogTrainer

What Is Clicker Training? – http://bit.ly/WhatIsClickerTraining

Reward Based Training versus Aversives –  http://bit.ly/RewardVSAversive

Things I Wish I Had Known Before I Started Training Dogs – Gus, the Dominance Myth, An Alpha Roll, and a Damaged Relationship – WWM-SEP2018 http://bit.ly/Things-Gus-Dominance

Things I Wish I Had Known Before I Selected My First Dog – Aversives are Unnecessary and Counter-Productive When Training A Dog – Part 1 – WWM-JAN2019 http://bit.ly/Things-Aversives-1

Things I Wish I Had Known Before I Selected My First Dog – Aversives are Unnecessary and Counter-Productive When Training A Dog – Part 2 – WWM-FEB2019 –  http://bit.ly/Things-Aversives-2

Green Acres Kennel Shop Position Statement on Pet-Friendly, Force-Free Pet Carehttp://bit.ly/GAKS_Pet-Friendly

Green Acres Kennel Shop Position on the Use of Dominance and Punishment for the Training and Behavior Modification of Dogshttp://bit.ly/GAKS-Pos-NoPain-NoForceNoFear

Podcasts from The Woof Meow Show
( http://www.woofmeowshow.com )

How to Choose A Dog Trainer (2017) http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2017/01/08/how-to-choose-a-dog-trainer/

The Benefits of Training Your Dog and 2019 Classes at Green Acreshttp://bit.ly/WfMw-Training2019

Don Hanson and Dr. Dave Cloutier on Puppy Socialization and Vaccinationhttp://traffic.libsyn.com/woofmeowshow/Pet_Tip_-Don_Hanson_and_Dr._Dave_Cloutier_on_Puppy_Socialization_and_Vaccinations.mp3

Pet Behavior, Vets & The AAHA Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines with Dr. Dave Cloutier from Veazie Veterinary Clinichttp://traffic.libsyn.com/woofmeowshow/WoofMeowShow2016-03-12-Pet_Behavior-Vets_AAHA_Bhx_GuidelinesDave_Cloutier.mp3

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