They are so easy to love. With their wildly out of control tails and their slobbery kisses and that endearing way they are so excited when we walk in the door, it is just too easy to love a dog. Of course, because we love them so much, we like to think that they love us back, and they probably do, in whatever way it is that animals feel love. We love them so much we are likely to overlook a few incendiary habits that make them slightly less loveable, if even only for the briefest of moments. One of the most loving things we can do for our four legged companions is enrolling them in dog obedience training classes.
Why is this a loving action? Because dogs need certain things from their humans, and when we agree to take them into our homes and make them part of our families, we agree to give them what they need. Our acquiescence to their lives with us means that we pledge them food, shelter, medical care, companionship, and a place in the pack. If we want to give them a place in the pack, then we have to choose what place that will be. If we don’t they will take it upon themselves to choose their own place in the pack, and of course they are going to head straight for the top. Offering them a place in the pack gives them security. Choosing their place for them gives us not only peace of mind, but the reliable, well behaved dog we know they can be.
A good dog is priceless. When your dog can be counted on to be around someone’s child, your own child, or walk down the street without terrorizing the neighborhood, you’re definitely going to like him more; enjoy him more. When your dog needs to be constantly crated when there is company or needs to be walked after midnight just so he won’t threaten anyone on the way, you still love him, but you’re slowly becoming less than his biggest fan. The really hard part about this realization is that it’s not his fault.
Dogs respond to what the humans give them to respond to. Dogs have a very small “thinking brain” but a very large “reaction brain.” When you tell your dog to sit, he responds, he doesn’t think. When you tell him to sit and he refuses, he is still responding, he’s responding to his long term knowledge base that he doesn’t have to listen to what you say because there is no reason for him to. This is frustrating to say the least. So when your dog has decided to take himself for a walk around the neighborhood, he isn’t expecting any consequences to his actions, and God knows what they might be. He feels he is the leader, because you have not given him leadership.
As humans, we are quick to blame the dog. We assume that because we did everything the book said to do and he is responding accordingly, there must be something wrong with the dog, or the book. We hardly ever look at ourselves. Enrolling in dog obedience training forces us to look at ourselves when our dog is not responding properly. We have to evaluate ourselves as leaders.
Not all dog training classes are going to work for every dog. In fact, there are some dogs who are naturally pliable, and will respond positively with very little effort. Other dogs are more stubborn by nature, and they may require a different approach. Just as all humans learn differently, not all dogs are going to learn at the same rate with the same type of training. I don’t know that there’s anything more frustrating than sitting in a class with ten other dogs, watching their perfect behavior while your beast is tangling himself up at the end of the leash rolling on his back and playing his own game when he’s supposed to be in the sit position. They have a way of making us humans feel downright incompetent.
Your main goal with training classes is to learn to communicate effectively with your dog. This means that if one class isn’t doing much more than frustrating you and making you feel incompetent, perhaps then you really need to reconsider the style of the instructor. Most large chain companies will allow you to either choose a refund or choose a new set of classes with a different instructor. Which way you proceed is completely up to you.
Don’t forget to evaluate yourself. If things aren’t going well in class, ask the instructor to watch you interact with your pup. Give him several commands. Really, these classrooms should install mirrors so that participants can see themselves. You might feel like you’re standing up straight and tall while giving an order, but without the ability to watch yourself, it can be very difficult to discern what your body is actually doing. Having someone who is willing to correct you can help you correct your dog much more than you may realize.
Dog obedience training is another one of those unspoken promises we lend to our friends when we adopt them into our homes and our hearts. It is part of the responsibility of owning one of these very precious animals. Because it is so commonplace to own a dog, many humans forget the sheer unique grace and intelligence not to mention the majestic beauty that these gentle and sweet creatures bring to our over complicated world. Our promises to them are sacred.