Dog Training: Is it Only a Luxury?
I’ve been thinking a lot recently about what to write for this week’s blog, and this topic is always on my mind. Dog training has typically been thought of as a luxury service or item, a nice optional extra to do with your dog if you have the time or money. To be honest, we really haven’t had pet dog training for very long (formal dog training came about in the 1940’s/50’s with heavy handed military style training, and the positive reinforcement training many of us practice today didn’t really come around until the 90’s/early 2000’s!) and dogs todays are a MUCH bigger part of our lives than they were even 30 years ago, so it makes sense that dog training is still sometimes looked at as "extra", no matter how much I disagree.
I, of course, think that dog training is absolutely essential, but I’m admittedly a tad bit biased. And you may wonder, why would someone consider something as frivolous as training a necessity? Isn’t dog training just tricks and “making” your dog obey? In my professional and personal opinion, dog training (positive reinforcement dog training specifically!) is absolutely essential for our dog’s welfare and our relationships. It's a critical component of living with a dog and taking care of their mental and emotional well being.
Dog training is no longer just about forcing our dogs to do things that we as humans think are important (“you must always walk at my left” “you must never sniff” “you must sit every time we stop walking” blah blah blah) and making sure the dog isn’t about to usurp you and claim themselves as the alpha (I PROMISE your dog does not care about taking over) . Dog training is about so much more now. It’s about enrichment, it’s about experiencing new things as a team, and more than anything it’s about creating a shared language between two different species that will allow for more peaceful, happier days together. You can’t expect your dog to know what “sit”, “stay”, and “come” mean without teaching them first, and teaching your dog this shared language is absolutely critical to their welfare. A well run puppy class will help your puppy become the confident, stable adult dog that you are hoping for. A basic manners class will teach your punk teenager dog the necessary life skills to fit in a little better with the human world and bring calm to your household. Private behavior consulting might mean that you get to keep your dog instead of rehoming them.
I just can’t and won't buy into the idea that dog training is less necessary than vet care, or grooming. All three are equally essential for the physical and mental well being of our dogs; if we care about physical health than we must also care about emotional and mental health. Dog training should be an assumed necessity for ALL dogs. So while some people may continue to think of training as a luxury, I urge you to consider everything that training can do for your life with your dog, and invest in your relationship!