Dogs are beautifully honest. They don’t hide their opinions, intentions, fears or joy. They simply wish to communicate, to be heard and to listen, to love and be loved, and to enjoy life with good company. When given the tools to trust and succeed, they live wholeheartedly, and invite us to join them. There are no bad dogs, only untapped potential. Dog training is the key to that untapped potential.
Training is us accepting their invitation, choosing to engage in the conversation, listening, shaping their experiences, giving them tools, teaching them how to succeed, preparing them for challenges and enjoying life with them daily. Dog training, when done well, is our attempt to help them live wholeheartedly. It isn’t about limitations or punishment, but about joy and freedom. Free your dog to have more fun experiences by preparing them to face challenges so they can enjoy those experiences. Great training requires we be open to learning from our dogs, provide them with the tools for success with clarity and love, and patiently teach them how to use these tools so we can enjoy life together.
Training isn’t just for obedience, working dogs or competitions. It’s for a healthy, harmonious relationship with your dog. It helps your dog develop life skills and integrate into your household properly. Dog training is very broad, encompassing anything from teaching a puppy to potty outside, to complex search and rescue skills. Training at the appropriate level for your dog’s needs isn’t a luxury, it is a necessity for all dogs. Walking calmly on leash, happily allowing grooming, not darting out doorways, and leaving dropped food are all part of daily life with a dog. All dogs need training to help them live happily and appropriately alongside humans. Training is being responsible concerning your dog’s health, safety, and quality of life. Teaching new skills and refining familiar ones is enriching mental stimulation. This not only engages their mind but reinforces their relationship with you while developing essential skills to help them live wholly.
Seniors, amputees, and blind and deaf pups can all benefit from dog training. Dogs don’t have to be ruled by anxiety, overexcitement, fear or stress. They will form their own positive or negative associations if we don’t guide them. For instance, the vacuum can be a scary monster or no big deal. You can teach your dog that focusing on you around a distraction can be fun, that checkups or shots are nothing to stress over, or that greeting humans and dogs properly is more enjoyable than tackling them. We have the opportunity to teach our dogs that visitors don’t have to be stressful, or that baths and nail grinding can be fun and rewarding. It is our responsibility to shape their experiences in a way that provides quality of life and helps them live alongside us harmoniously.
Teach and guide your dog in a way that does not diminish their joy. Force and fear are unnecessary to change behavior or help your dog understand what you’d like them to do. If you consider your dog’s behavior from their perspective, you’ll see an animal too frustrated, afraid, confused, stressed or bored to make the choices you’d like, not a willfully obstinate dog. All dogs are trainable if you are willing to listen and guide them. No dog is inherently bad, they just need help making different choices when faced with challenges.
Set your dog up for success by providing incremental, appropriate challenges, and preparing them with the skills needed to do well. Keep in mind factors that may be exciting, scary or stressful for your dog in each situation. Assess whether it is a helpful challenge, or your dog isn’t ready yet. Be patient, enjoy each stage of the journey and help them learn to succeed at their pace.
Dogs are capable of incredible things. Dog training gives them tools to enjoy life in a safe, stress-free way. True training strengthens your relationship and communication with your dog, helping you live wholeheartedly together!
Sarah Singler is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer with a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Baylor University. She owns Wholehearted Canine, a dog training company based in McKinney, TX. Sarah has a rescued American Pit Bull Terrier and Belgian Malinois mix named Bristol. She has a passion for helping dogs and humans enjoy fuller lives together.