You have a dog
You want the best for it, you want to understand your dog, make friends with it and have a friend in it, whom you can trust and who trusts you. You talk to it, it bends its head to the side intelligently and you know that it understands. Your best friend! Your life is in perfect harmony with your new dog. Oh, and the pup grows teeth, its gums itch, then it bites things to ease the itching. But every time it sees you after a few hours of absence it starts cavorting with joy and jumping on your clean trousers, but it’s sweet that you’re welcomed so enthusiastically. If you do not count the muddy spots on the seat when he tries to climb onto the couch and cuddle up next to you when you watch TV; if you do not count the small growls when you want to get a toy that squeaks in his mouth and drives you crazy; if you do not count the fact that whenever you sit down at the computer, he immediately has to play with you, munches on your ankle or catches a sleeve – your life together is like a fairytale. Although there are some faults, like your dog not coming to you when you call him in the park, your dog knows that you respect it and therefore it respects you back.
After half a year of living in such harmony you decide to give it to a friend with a home in the countryside, because you do not have the strength to take care of this energetic animal. This is for the best. If you do not have friends from outside the city, the dog ends up in a shelter, and you’re telling everyone how terribly aggressive / hyperactive / dull / stupid the dog you got was…
Although you know that this is not true.
It may be that you have an understanding with your dog and you will be able to control it. This is what we all want. But if you do not, you can go to school. Dog schools do not teach dogs, they teach humans how to understand their dogs. They teach us not to treat our dogs like human beings. Because “dogs are not people dressed up in furs” – as Jean Donaldson says. They learn how to live with us, they learn partnership. For a dog this training school is joyful, spontaneous, fun and a great way to strengthen the bond with the owner. And the dog learns to obey the rules or to accompany its master in a variety of situations. The more you do, the better for both you and your dog.
Instead of attending a school you can also read the following chapters which shall cover dog training (link will be provided shortly).
When choosing between going to school or reading an article, remember that both are good and teach the same things. There are different schools for teaching dogs and their owners. Dogs love their owners. Even if we hurt a dog, it will forgive us and love us back. A dog is the only animal that does this. If you whack a dolphin with a stick when it comes to you after you call it with a whistle, you will only be able to do this once as the dolphin will not give you the chance to do this again. A dog? The dog is of such a nature that even after maltreating, when you call the dog it will eventually come to you, maybe slowly and with a curled up tail but it will come, and it may yet again be maltreated because it did not come back fast enough. This is one way that dogs are taught – but is this really teaching the dog or just simply abusing it?
Do not hurt your dog
After all, you love it. Teach it with positive methods. Positive methods do not mean giving the dog whatever it wants. Positive is, with love. Positive is, without penalty, but the rewarding of appropriate behaviour. When you teach your dog using positive reinforcement, which is when something that the dog is very eager to receive (e.g. food, petting, play or praise) is given to it in exchange for making the desired action for you, know that the chances of the dog repeating that particular reinforced (rewarded) activity increases. If you call your dog and it comes and you pet it and/or give it a treat, it will come more often as it will realise that your desired actions are beneficial for it: it receives something it enjoys – fun, petting, a piece of black pudding… and all this effective, simple and quick training without any violence. Dogs trained using positive methods choose the desired behaviour and willingly behave well. Not because they love us and want us to have fun – because their actions are profitable to them – they think!
If you work with a dog using positive reinforcement, you’ll have a dog, a friend, a partner, a thinking being with whom you can communicate and which signals to you when it needs or wants something.
Remember that dogs are different from humans. But that’s what people have to understand: learn from your dog’s actions and take responsibility for both your own and its behaviour. Training is not about the animal learning how to execute commands. The training is learning to build a bond between man and dog, learning to build relationships; gain trust in an animal because obedience is based on trust.