Is your dog an obedience class failure? It may not be his fault. Many pet parents view obedience classes as a quick, fix-all for months, or even years, of behavioral tolerance. Obedience classes bring relief for many frazzled pet owners. Unfortunately, there are others left feeling lost and helpless after unsuccessful dog training experiences. Is it possible to recover a peaceful home with an obedience class flunky? Every dog, every owner and every training instructor bring different variables to the situation. Do not give up dreams of a harmonious relationship with the dog. Instead, consider these tips to help pass obedience classes and create a positive relationship with the dog for life.
Choose the right obedience training instructor. Not all obedience training experts perform equally–nor receive equivalent education and licensure. While most dog training schools offer certified instructors–that certification process varies widely. Get recommendations from trusted pet owning friends or a veterinarian or groomer-but, also ask a lot of questions regarding the teacher’s educational and licensing background. Learn about the training methods used by an instructor. Consider requesting a class observation before exposing the dog pupil to concerning or unfamiliar teaching methods.
Choose the right obedience training class format. Most pet owners think of obedience class as a series of group training sessions with several other dogs and pet people at a local pet friendly location. There are many other training class formats available. Often animal behaviorists set up one on one obedience classes with families in the home. Some instructors take “field trips” to individual problem spots, such as the dog park or the vet’s office, to assess and address real-world behavioral concerns. Discuss the dog’s individual needs and concerns before choosing the best obedience class format for the situation.
Remember the goals of dog obedience courses. One of the first things that many dog owners learn is that dogs are pack animals and packs have leaders. Even as part of a human family “pack”, a dog seeks out an approving leader. He will take over the pack if no leader steps forward. Sometimes his leadership agenda is suitable to the environment–but, sometimes it is not. Dog obedience classes help the dog and the dog’s human family set up a beneficial, enjoyable “pack” environment for everyone. Long term success requires an understanding of the need filled by an obedience training class.
Commit to the training process as a family-for life. Obedience training involves conditioning not only a dog to life in a human “pack”, but also conditioning the humans to pack-living. Everyone interacting regularly in the household with the animal should be not only involved in, but committed to, this training. Dog training goes far beyond the initial classes–it is an on-going lifestyle commitment for the entire family. Conditioning does not happen over night. Conditioning is a learned process. Without family commitment, the dog does not have opportunities to practice his newly learned skills and turns instead to the behaviors already in place.
Encourage old dogs and stubborn owners to learn new tricks. Dogs should be trained early in life to set the expectations and establish the appropriate relationships between the dog and his family members. As with any habit, it is easier to develop new patterns than replace existing ones. However, it is not impossible to correct the behavior of an older dog. It just takes more time, energy and family commitment to convince an older dog to step down from his pack leader role and settle into place.