Training is the key to enjoying your dog fully

Hello to everyone who loves dogs!

I wanted to touch one of the most important aspects during your mutual life with your dog.

What does this word “training” mean to you?  Let’s think… Maybe, if you’re asked to define training, you’d say “A process of making a dog to respond to certain commands”.  Or maybe “Teaching dog obedience”.  Or probably the most closest would be “Producing a well-behaved life companion”.

Well, all these fit into the description.  There is the most important definition of training, though.  It might surprise you.  Training is the way of bonding with your dog, making his life a part of yours and your life a part of his.  Training is the way of building the incredible bridge of unity, something that will be shared by your best companion and you. You know this feeling when you look at your dog and he looks at you, and you understand each other without words?  Hey, words aren’t even necessary in your language.  Dogs make sounds that we call “barking”, but those sounds take only a small part of communication.

Just like raising a child, raising a well-mannered dog takes a lot of effort.  The difference, though, is time – you have about 10 times less time than you have to raise children. Therefore, the best thing to do is to know how to raise your dog, at least at a glance, before you get one.

After all, you can decide when your new friend will enter your house, right?  It isn’t like child – oops, the test is positive, let’s get ready for new baby then.  No, first get ready, then make the test positive, in a sense.

Easy to say, of course – I myself got my dog before I knew how to train him.  Alright, I have veterinary college behind, I did study dogs’ anatomy as well as physiology, back in ’80-s, but there was nothing, I mean nothing, about dogs’ psychology.

Knowing the way your dog feels and thinks has instincts (but wait, maybe… feels and thinks?) is the most important part of your bonding.  How else do you expect to communicate if you don’t speak and understand Doggish?  This is great and complicated language that consists about 20-25% of sounds and about 75-80% of body posture, facial expressions, ears position, eyes direction, and much more.

OK, I’m deviating…Stop.

This is my Jake when he was just 3 months old…
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And here, we’re enjoying sunny day together, he’s almost a year old.

Jake

As he grew, my love for him grew as well.  As my love for him grew, his love and respect for me had increased tremendously.

Training is everything.  You need it in order to make your dog obedient, you need it to respond to your commands, you need it so that your dog is well-behaved, and you need it in order to bond with your dog – I mean, to mix and intertwine your souls!

PLEASE NOTE: All information shared below is intended for conversational use only.  I am not insisting on one specific method of training  or another; rather, I’m happy to share my own experience and invite you to share yours.  Each dog needs specific approach; therefore, this page can not be considered as advisory or educational.

As my research about dog’s mentality is continuously running into new things, here is what I understand about dog’s mentality.

Dogs are pack animals.  Since birth, each puppy is establishing his own place in life within his pack.  There is quite similarity between all carnivorous mammals in the way their young behave and mothers react.  I remember from my childhood how people, when deciding to get rid of their new born kittens but still wanting to keep one, were doing this tricky selection.  Of course, you want to keep the kitten who will be the most fit, so that it has less chances to get sick and more chances for survival.  In other words, the most fit for life is the most dominant one.  So, how can you tell?  It was simple – they had to take litter far away from home, at least 2 km, and then let the mother out to search for them.  When mother would find her kittens, she started carrying them back, one-by-one in her mouth.  The very first one that she brings – keep that one, it’s the most fit for life!  Why?  Because the most dominant kitten will crawl out of the crowd and be on top of others, thus drawing his mother’s attention on himself before others.

Why am I writing this?  Well, the point here is that if I want the most fit-for-life puppy, it has to be the most dominant.  There is slight difference, of course, as how to select a puppy.  You can’t ask people from whom you’re buying to do such experiment.  But you can at least watch the litter.  So I did.  First, my Jake had the biggest belly of all, which indicated he was never short of milk.  And true, when puppies went to feed, he was at his mother’s rear, getting tits with most milk.  Second, when puppies went to play, this one was always going his way to sniff flowers, explore bushes, etc.  Even though he did play with others, he had very curious mind.  And last – but actually, it happen first – when I arrived to this place and came out of the car, he was first one who noticed me and run toward me, and he was the only one who got stack underneath the gate, as he couldn’t fit through while other puppies passed.

Why sharing about this?  To make a point that my dog is dominant.  This meant for me that training him, especially obedience, will be tougher than others.

Now, I’m approaching the most important thought about training a dog and bonding with him.  The way dogs see things are not the same as we see the world.  Each dog has pack instincts, which play role in his decision on taking the action or leaving it in another dog’s responsibility.  For example, a loud vehicle passes you, your dog feels the danger.  In most cases, those dogs that are dominant and feel that they’re at the higher level of dominance level, will decide to so-call protect their pack (you and him and others within your “pack”) and may attack the object that makes them feel threatened.  However, if he feels that your level of dominance is higher, he’d rather give a bark and look at you for approval or a signal to stop.  Because dog would rather yield solution of the problem on you, if he “knows” that it is you who should handle the situation.

Now, we can consider  some important things before we begin training.

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Important things to realize before training

After you get your puppy, it is important to socialise him with other dogs and with people. There is plenty of info about socialising your puppy.  So I better leave this subject aside, as it is not directly related to training.

As previously mentioned, dogs are pack animals.  Right, modern dogs aren’t the same as wolves any more, but they are pack animals.  I am not going to debate about similarities and differences between dogs and wolves.  Dogs are pack animals and period.

Within a pack, dogs must establish themselves on their level.  By default, each dog will try his best in order to be the best.  In dog’s language, the best means the most dominant. Just do not take me wrong – if they aren’t the best, they don’t feel like “losers” and put themselves down.  Dogs don’t have these feelings.  As pack animals, rather, they strive to know what position in the pack they should occupy.  For example, if we compare dog pack to human body, finding their place is similar to this:  I’m trying to be the head, and I can’t (position is taken) – so, it’s ok, I’ll try to be an arm…I can’t?..OK, the position of being a leg is available?  I’ll take it!
This is a rough example of how things work within the pack.  Yes, we have quite similar hierarchy among people.  But do you know what is the major difference between a human who doesn’t get to the level he/she wants and a dog?  Dogs won’t hold grudge and won’t make evil plans.  They will simply roll back and hold their current position.  In fact, when your dog knows that there is a stronger leader, he/she feels more relaxed about the responsibilities of caring for the pack, such as providing food and protection (especially in the city).  Dogs who feel that safety is being handled by you – the leader – are less prone to bark, growl and bite.

If you show to your dog that the head of the pack is you, he will live with this and try to occupy position just next to yours.  Here is when you need enough wisdom to realise that you need to help other members of your family to not allow dog to be higher on hierarchy level.  I made such a mistake by not fully teaching my kids (in the beginning), and my dog used to treat them as equals, if not lower.  Today, of course, this situation has been addressed and repaired.

Suppose we make a scale of dominance from zero to ten. If your dog feels that out of 10, he’s at level 7, he should feel about you being at least at the level 8 or 9.  Then, his respect for you will grow.  Remember, do not mistake this hierarchical respect with a morbid fear. Dog should not be afraid of his master, or anybody else.  The dog who’s afraid – what does he do? He bites!  Most cases when dogs bite, especially people, are out of fear. And the worst case is when dog is afraid and feels more dominant than his opponent.

Raising the plank of respect on your side is important, at least for this reason:  the dogs are smart animals.  There is no dog that isn’t smart.  It’s easy to make a dog understand what do you want from him.  It is another thing that he respects what he understands.
For example, do you hear often how people repeat “Sit”, “Sit”, “Sit, I said!” – and the dog does not obey.  Or this: “Come here!”, “Come right here!”, “I said come to me!”… Well, first of all, a command needs to be as short and clear as possible, always the same wording so that our pets don’t get confused.  But we’ll touch this point later, the main subject now is respect.

The dog understands (assuming that previously it was trained) what do you want, but makes a choice to obey or not to obey.  All dogs are smart and respond to training very well.

Now, the question is – how do we establish our level of respect in “dog’s eyes”?

As soon as your puppy is born it begins learning.  It learns that familiar smell of mother, it learns smells of surroundings.  Then, as he opens his eyes he learns different shapes of objects.  Then, as he begins to move around, he learns that some objects are hard, some soft, and some can scratch (cats etc.).

He also needs to learn how to respect his mother.  Of course, he won’t learn unless what? Unless his mother would teach him.  So, this type of learning requires teaching.  Have you observed how the mother dog teaches her puppies respect and how to know their place? Another question – if you did observe a mother dog with litter of puppies, have you seen at least one puppy who disrespects and disobeys the mother?

Keeping these two things in mind, let’s summarise.  Mother dog bites the neck of her pup from the top and pins him down.  This tells the little guy to slow down and be obedient. There are several different ways even as to how mother dog does it, each depends on the situation.  There is a lot of psychology that stands behind this.  Puppies, as we know, are born with natural instincts.  And responding to mother’s bite is one of those.  There is so much that we, humans, know about animal behaviour, but there is a lot more to know.  We often need to humble ourselves and learn from animals, especially if we are to teach other fellow animals.

It’s now time, therefore, to discuss how to gain your dog’s respect.  By action and patience.  Let’s go