We have all heard this saying, however do we apply it to dog training? I talk to lots of lovely people that have been struggling with a behaviour their dog is doing that is unwanted. Anything from barking, aggression, guarding, pulling on lead, running away etc. The conversation usually progresses with me asking how long this has been going on for, and the answer is usually many months or even years. Now please understand this isn’t coming from a place of judgement – I am here and ready to help anyone when they are ready for help, however there are many problems that if some training had been done in the early days, then these problems would either not have happened, or certainly wouldn’t have escalated so far.
Last night at puppy classes, we talked about food guarding. Now none of the puppies had shown this behaviour, so we spent time explaining some simple training games to use to make sure it never happens; prevention rather than waiting for it to happen and then dealing with it. Putting in the training before the problem arises. We know lots of behaviours that our dogs are likely to do (chasing, scavenging, jumping up etc) so it’s our responsibility to set them up for success.
It doesn’t matter how many dogs you’ve had; each one is unique and each one will have different challenges to your previous dog. Also, trust me, ‘rose tinted glasses’ kick in here too as people always say “the last puppy wasn’t anything like this one.” I always agree with this, because as I said, each dog is different, however please understand your situation is likely to also be different. You are not in the same life stage as you were before. Maybe you are older, you now have children or maybe they have now left home (or just aren’t interested in helping anymore), maybe your working pattern is different, or it’s a different breed. There are so many reasons why I recommend that you spend time training your dog, so that they can understand what manners and behaviours you want from them. Training is a lifetime job that means you will continually need to update your skills and knowledge. Dog training is constantly changing, as science keeps showing us different, more effective ways to train. So I encourage you to keep up to date and not just rely on what you have previously done before.
Finally, please note that not all trainers and classes are the same. Please know that punishment is NOT OK and NOT required to train any dog. It doesn’t matter what breed you have or what problem you are trying to solve. Research your trainer and make sure they use kind and science-based training skills so you and your furry friend will be in the best of hands.
Ian Dunbar (Veterinarian, Behaviourist and Trainer) asked other trainers and behaviourists, what was the most common mistake people made when getting a puppy. The results probably aren’t that surprising, but I think worth talking about.
Firstly – unrealistic expectations. People getting a puppy really had no idea how much time, energy and money would be needed. Puppies require a huge lifestyle change to most and this is not something people really understand or expect.
Another finding was that a puppy may have been the wrong choice for some people/families and that an older rescue dog would have fitted them so much better.
Thirdly – people were choosing the wrong breed or type of dog usually because people choose for looks rather than understanding what different breeds need or what they were bred for. On a similar theme, it was reported that getting a pup from a ‘bad’ breeder that didn’t raise the puppy well, really did set the new owner up for failure. So again, lack of research before getting the puppy.
And finally, that most people didn’t take time to do appropriate training and socialisation to raise a well-adjusted dog. This will take the first year being very proactive, and actually training is a constant, continuing requirement throughout the dog’s life.
So what do you think? Do you agree with these findings?
In my experience of working with dogs for over 20 years, I think the issues still remain the same, which actually makes me very sad. It’s so important to spend time researching before you get your pup. Find some people with the breed you are interested in and ask questions, talk to several breeders, ask yourself if you really have the time, energy and money to give to this pup. Is a puppy actually the right choice? If you consider a rescue dog from a good reputable charity, they will tell you all about the dog, what it’s behaviour and temperament is, and they will be able to find you a dog to match your requirements.
Please understand I am writing this post without judgement, but to spread knowledge and asking people to really take time and careful consideration as to whether adding a dog to your family really is the right thing for you and the dog.