Do you own a dog? Yes? Then welcome to the world of being a dog trainer. I know, I know. You didn’t sign up to join our ranks. You just wanted a nice pet – which is what most dog trainers want too!
So why am I telling you that, knowingly or not, you ARE a dog trainer? Because, in the same way that parents are also teachers (whether they like it or not), the ‘Being’ in your care is learning things by living with you. Scary thought? Yep, your behaviour directly influences your dog’s behaviour. Dogs are learning from the experiences they have and the environment around them every waking moment. You’re a HUGE part of that!
Why does it matter?
So why are dogs who live with dog trainers (who call themselves dog trainers) often (but not always!) better behaved than dogs who don’t? Apart from the skills that dog trainers have – observation skills, good timing, tidy mechanical skills etc. – the biggest difference is in mindset.
The way you THINK can make all the difference to how your dog behaves. Anyone can learn the basic skills of observation and timing etc. but if your mindset means you only use them part of the time, i.e. in the training class or at dog club, then your dog will still behave as if he’s had zero training anywhere else.
Sports training vs pet training
The ‘only happens where you train it’ effect, holds true no matter what type of trainer (or not) you think you are. I’ve seen plenty of top sports dogs behave appallingly outside of the ring situation. I’ve seen plenty of beautifully behaved ‘pet’ dogs too.
Those handlers with dogs that perform at high levels in the ring, but not outside of it, have the skills that are required to teach dogs well – otherwise they wouldn’t have walls covered in ribbons! They have just chosen not to apply them to how their dog behaves outside the ring.
Those people with well behaved ‘pet dogs’ maybe don’t have all the observation, timing and mechanical skills the sports trainers do, but they have the right mind set of providing consistent, constant feedback and consistent, predictable expectations. And that is the crux of training your dog.
Personally, I’d say the latter group are better ‘dog trainers’ than the ribbon winning, delinquent dog owning, sports handlers! (I’ll probably get shot for that comment…). However, the fact doesn’t change: if you want a well-behaved dog, you need to ‘think like a dog trainer’ every moment your young dog is awake – and sometimes your older dog too! My husky x reminds me of this fact frequently and he’s almost 11 now.
You can read more about the secrets of successful training in this blog post. The mantra to remember is: if you like it, acknowledge and praise/pay your dog for doing it. If you don’t like it, prevent it and teach what you do like instead.
– Sarah and the Gang
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