Dogs are natural pack animals, and their ancestors depended heavily of pack co-operation for successful hunting. For this, the dog has some extremely highly developed social instincts that allow it to interact with other pack members in a very structured and very effective way. But a pack is not effective with too many chiefs....
For this, most dogs are born followers. They are not good leaders - and they generally don't want to lead, unless nobody else can do a decent job as pack leader. Even those who do have leadership potential are generally very appreciative of any genuine demonstration they can experience...
So, serious applications for the leadership position are always accepted!
Why you should train your dog?
There are lots of very good answers. Here are just a few of them:
So, why isn't everybody out there, training their dogs?
Well, there are, unfortunately, some good reasons also:
The result is, unfortunately, a lot of cases of "problem behavior". However, 99.99% of all such behavior is man-made... In order to understand why this is so, please refer to this article. It explains how this is so. The short story is that you can dam a river - for some time. You cannot dam a river forever - it will eventually get out of its confinement. It is the same with dogs that have nothing meaningful to do.
We know from kids and young teenagers that "having nothing meaningful to do" is a sure recipe for trouble. Dogs are no different - and watching TV or playing video games does not provide any excitement for them. But people tend to forget that just incorporating them in a human family's routine is not necessarily very meaningful for the dog. Most dogs end up being incredibly bored! And, when that happens, "problem behaviors" are prone to appear, one way or the other... (More about this in this article.)
The biggest problem probably is that very few people understand how needs and behaviors are linked together. We all know the feeling of hunger. That feeling is expressing a need for food. This need will drive us to look for stimulation that will enable us to satisfy this need. That stimulation is food. And the way we satisfy the need is by eating the food. We know that the hunger will not go away if we don't eat.... if fact, it will only get worse!
But needs include more that hunger and thirst. For every single instinct and behavior, there is also a need. Just like there is a need for food and water. Humans are busy - but by being busy, we also satisfy a whole bunch of those fundamental needs we have. But what about the dog? (This article will give you some deeper insight in this.)
Now, when we consider the contents of standard obedience training, it is quite easy to see that most of it is a matter of restricting the dog's behavior. "Sit", Down", "Heel" are prime examples. They do not involve much action that fits with the dog's instincts... in contrast, they are most often used to deprive the dog from using its instincts! (This article will explain more about this.)
Think of it this way: as a 6-year old, you get adopted into a family that does not speak you language. You do not understand what they say. But they give you food and water, and a bed to sleep in. You do get some hugs and kisses, but you don't understand much of what is going on around you.
Your family tries to teach you "manners". Those manners basically include:
Can you imagine what kind of kid you would develop into if this were to go on for just a year or two?
Nevertheless, it is quite representative of the conditions most people give their dogs to live under.... Most people simply do not know any better. All they know is what they got from the media, and that is certainly not very qualified information, in general!
Some additional problems with traditional dog training...
The fastest way of facilitating learning, in any animal, is through fear reactions.... Fear reactions are learned faster than anything else. Many times, just a single episode will suffice for ingraining fear in certain situations so strongly that they will last a life time.
Aside from the ethical aspects of the terror regime that follows from using fear for training, the results are extremely mediocre, at best. On top of that, they are most often completely unreliable, as it is very difficult to predict what specific direction the dog's fear might take - so you run a serious risk of teaching the dog a lot of very unwanted behaviors that are very difficult to erase again!
Sure, there are people who are very skilled at using the fear stimuli with such delicate accuracy in the dosing that they can achieve some incredible results with a dog that has the nerve to tolerate the terror long enough to make some achievements. Electrical training collars provide some examples - but also a huge number of examples of miserable dogs and miserable owners... "Prong collars", the same thing - and often worse, as the dog here will know where the pain comes from, and one day just might attack the one that controls the pain...
Humans are, indeed, incredibly creative when it comes to exerting pain and suffering to others, including animals...
But couldn't you train without all this pain and tyranny? The answers is "yes", yet most people who do this quickly end up losing control over the dogs. How many people can call their dog back when it is rocketing after a Frisbee? How many agility trainers can get their dogs to stop on top on an obstacle and run the other way? How many hunters can stop their dogs in the middle of a chase if they get too close to a deer? Yes, there are certainly some - but they are very far from being as many as they could be - if more "ordinary" dog owners would just take the time and use the effort to understand what dog training is all about.
What good dog training is about
The dog has two main sets of instincts and instinct behaviors that matter when we discuss training:
For effective training results, you need to conduct your training in such a way that you tap into both groups of behaviors. If you provide good hunting, but no social leadership, you lose control. If you provide serious leadership, but no hunting pleasure, you bore the dog...
If you try to train without serious leadership and with no connection to hunting, then you will just waste your time - because you will not get any valuable results.
Finally, there is no way of accomplishing anything unless you can communicate with your dog... No matter what many people want to believe, dog do not have the capability of understanding spoken language where the meaning is composed by combining words. They can learn to take action (very specific action) on some recognizable words or simple expressions, provided they are significantly different from all the "noise" they dog is exposed to all the time from our conversations with other people and with ourselves, and maybe the dog.
So, there is no way around learning some Dog Language.
The good news is that Dog Language is not that difficult. Once you get the meaning of the fundamental basics, you can easily interpret most behaviors from the dog's side, and quite accurately!
The really good news is that you do not need any live prey animals in order to provide a good satisfaction of the dog's hunting instincts, and the dog has a genetic capability of seeing humans as pack members - which enables you to be a serious candidate for the pack leadership.
Another aspect of dog training that is often overlooked or ignored is this: dogs will naturally work for food. They might also work for other rewards, such as play, praise, cuddling etc. But the common denominator for all these rewards is this: they only work if the dog has a current need for the specific reward you offer... If the dog isn't hungry, food will have no value for it. If the dog is tired after running after balls all afternoon, play time will not have much value for it. And the worst: if the dog does not see you as its pack leader, you can praise it from now on and the next five years, and it will have no effect on its performance!!!
You might have heard of some training methods that are highly praised, like "clicker training". Well, the essense of this training is that you condition the dog to hear your clicker as a reward. That's a noble principle that can be very useful. But the bad news is that if you do nothing to maintain the value of that reward, the dog will soon find out that you are cheating - and the performance will stop... And maintaining the value means that you reinforce the clicker with a "real" reward. So the advantage you get from the clicker is of very temporary nature.
A similar thing holds true for using treats for reward. First of all, you should not feed you dog crappy cookies or highly preserved commercial treats. Anything baked is very unhealthy for the dog's teeth. And anything like "jerky" that does not perish in a few days is so filled with poisonous chemicals that you absolutely should not feed it. You should make your own, natural treats. They are also much more effective! (If you are looking for a good and easy recipe for making your own treats, this article is what you need...). However, no matter how good your treats are, if you use them wrong (as most people do), the training results you get will not work without your first showing the dog that there is indeed a treat available.... If this is the kind of result you get, you have used your treats wrong. Treats are very effective training tools when used as reward - but if you use them as a bribe also, you get an unreliable result that sure deserves being frowned upon by many professional trainers.
And, as already pointed out, praise alone is simply completely valueless for most novice trainers - and most definitely for anyone who has some serious behavior issues with their dog...
Some people, at this stage, feel the temptation to just work without rewards... Well, if you seriously believe that you will continue showing up for your work even when you find out that you no longer get paid for it, then you can be forgiven. But it will still not give any training results with your dog....
As you can understand, it takes some knowledge to tap into this and provide some effective and useful training for your dog... There are three main areas you need to know the basics of:
Although each of those areas are simple enough for any person to learn, they are also quite comprehensive. There is no way of learning it all by looking for information on-line, in newsgroups, on web pages, or bulletin boards. Sure, you can find a lot of good value and great tips in all those places - but you cannot find the frame for evaluating what is good and what is not - and you will be left with no clue of whether or not you "covered all important ground".
But here are some powerful resources that will cover what you need:
Anders Hallgren:(150 pages - 100 illustrations - softcover book)
Mogens Eliasen:(3 hour video - on DVD, with all support materials on a CD-ROM)
Mogens Eliasen:(E-book - download, CD, or print):
Mogens Eliasen:(E-book - download, CD, or print):
These four publications (the book, the video and the two e-books) give you all the details you need to know to start some meaningful training with your dog - and develop an fantastic relationship with it!
This is all you need to get the confidence to get started right! They supplement each other in many ways, and together, they give you a solid basis for becoming a great packleader. You will be amazed how much more fun you will have with your dog - and you will be even more amazed to realize how much your dog will appreciate you and pay attention to you! Talk about obedience! You will get that as a free bonus because the dog will want to please you - so you just need to express your wishes...
And here is a deal for you: If you want them all three, you will get a 15% discount! On top of that, you pay only once for shipping....