Obedience and behavior training for misbehaving dogs

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By Thomas A. Beitz

Recently I took a dog in for one of my boarding school programs. As is my policy, I asked the owner to put together a list of specific training goals she would like me to address. What I received was a laundry list of nearly 25 bad habits her dog engaged in on a daily basis. As I looked at this list I realized that most people that call me generally just want to correct bad habits while never considering the value of old fashioned obedience training.

Consider the following bad habits: jumping up on people, jumping up on cars pulling in the driveway, pulling on the leash, bolting out the door and jumping on the furniture. Although I have just listed five of this dogs bad habits, there is one obedience command that would solve them all. Sit and stay. I guess that is two commands but I think you understand.

Genuine obedience training means that your dog actually obeys your request. If your dog blows you off when you ask him or her to do something, then your dog is disobedient and does not know the command. It is really that simple. Controlled obedience training establishes an effective means of communicating with your dog. The reason obedience training is an effective means of communicating is that it requires consistent repetitious exercises. Dogs learn better with structure but people sometimes get bored with it and as a result fail to obtain lasting results.

Over the past 10 to 15 years many dog trainers have drifted away from obedience training into an entertainment training model where the goal of the program is centered on having fun while the acquisition of obedience knowledge is secondary. That is not to say that obedience training shouldnt be fun, but in my opinion, fun is a by-product of training not the prime product. Effective communication derived from obedience training avoids the often confusing signals inherent within the entertainment model of dog training which encourages dispensing treats for good and bad behaviors. 

In fact, because so many dogs have failed to master the fundamentals of obedience commands, it has led to an increase in the number dogs being surrendered to rescue groups. Better than 75 percent of the dogs being surrendered is the result of an unresolved obedience or behavior problem. Too many people live with unruly dogs and just cope with the damage control because they dont know there are more effectives ways to train than just using treats alone. With all the information available today on training, you would think that fewer dogs would end up being surrendered. The fact is, the number is increasing every year, but that is a subject for another time.

When considering dog training, always take into consideration a combination of obedience training and behavior training. Working them both will yield significantly better, long-lasting results. 

Thom Beitz is a canine behavior specialist and the owner of Smart Dog Solutions. He has been training dogs in Western New York since 1995 and can be reached at (716) 628-0651 or found on the web at www.SmartDogSolutions.com.