One of the few things that came to mind recently is the increase in the number of people seeking training for their dogs and the number of people prioritising training over everything else. This is a good sign for us and for the overall dog community. More dogs to train, more trained dogs, better dogs owners, lesser problems. However, we can’t help but feel that the main objective and most important purpose are often missed out and overlooked. The over focus on training only too much an overkill for us personally, even though we really like training dogs and really like dog training.
A quick scan through the mind, two of the most common questions we get from owners of the dogs we trained are, “So, after training, I can’t do A, B, C, D with my dog anymore? I have to do E, F, G, H?”, and “I can’t rough play with my dog anymore, can I?” No idea who came up with these rules or where these ideas came from. Initially, the questions took us by surprised because our answers were always, “WHY NOT?!”. Now, it’s becoming clear why these questions were asked and why would owners think this way. There is not an absolute what you can or cannot do with your dog before or after training. Dog training is not a course or a module where you attend and graduate, after graduation you can only follow certain rules or else your training and maybe money is going down the drain. Of course there are certain things that your trainer will or would have probably advised you not to do, and certain procedures, rules or boundaries that you need to follow or keep track to maintain the training and overall mindset of your dog. Dog training is a process, it’s a progress and in simpler terms, it’s a way of communicating with your dog. That’s all. For us, we like flashy stuffs and we enjoy the precisions, that’s why we train our dogs a certain way, we teach them certain things, we use certain methods and we finish the trainings a certain way. But deep down, are these necessary? We wouldn’t hesitate a single second to tell you that it’s not necessary. It is fun, it is enjoyable but it is also very time and effort consuming. In fact, for many of the Board and Train dogs, it doesn’t matter where they sit, in front of me, behind me, beside me, diagonal from me, what quirky habits they have as long as the communication went through for desired results. What we are going for through training is not the ‘I have to do A to Z or there goes my training, money and I will be a bad owner’, but the ‘Now I can do A to Z with my dog and we are going to have so much fun together’. Of course if you are training for specific things such as obedience competition or you took a liking to a certain position then it matters, or if you are working on fixing an issue then specific methods and specific goals has to apply.
There are 3 things that are the most important to us, above all obedience, rules, boundaries and everything you have heard or learnt about training. The first, is recall. Without recall, your dog would not be able to enjoy freedom, without recall, you can not do anything with your dog, how can you if your dog wouldn’t come? The second, is confidence. A confident dog is a well-exposed dog that has self awareness, it is comfortable, stress-free and can take any situation of environment gracefully. The last, is willingness to engage. Willingness to engage will be covered in seminars so we will not elaborate on this. If you have these 3 properly instilled and taught to your dog, do you necessary need any specific trainings? Likely not, unless you are looking for certain precisions. With these 3, can you do more specific trainings with your dog? Definitely, it will be a breeze. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter where your dog walks, in front of you, behind you, beside you. It doesn’t matter where your dog sits. It matters that communication works both ways, it matters that you are having fun with your dog, your dog is having fun with you and both are enjoying life together.
Most people get a dog, whether they adopt it or bought it or found it, it doesn’t really matter, they want to enjoy being with the dog, enjoy with the dog, have fun with the dog, play with the dog. When you make everything related to dog purely training, rules, more rules and discipline, it is dull, over repetitive and not to mention, a lot of pressures and stress. We do 80% fun, 20% training. There are a few must-dos on our list, it is part of communicating with our dogs, there are some boundaries that we don’t let them cross but they are not what you think, we don’t have a strict ‘you can’t enter the room’ or ‘you can’t enter this area’ kind of boundary, there are some things we hold them accountable for. But do they get to come to the bed or sofa, sure, why not? Do they climb on the sofa without invitation? No, and we also didn’t teach or set these rules, they did. Does it matter when there are 10 toys on the floor for them to choose from? Maybe, if we are training specific things such as bite. Do they climb all over us for fun? Yes, they do. Does it matter that we fork out 30mins to train them every day? No, some days we sleep the whole afternoon away. It is not so much about what rules you have to follow, what trainings you have to do, what structure and discipline you must have, what you have to stop doing after your dog is trained, how you must speak to your dog. It’s not about how rough you can play with your dog, it’s how much control you have over your dog. And control, comes naturally when you have a confident dog with an unbreakable bond with you. This is something that you will not achieve by doing endless trainings with your dog.
Your dog’s life and time with you is not all about training, rules, boundaries, accountabilities. So, loosen up and have fun with your dog.