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You’re Going to Buy a Dog: Part 4. Obedience and Training

Updated on December 15, 2011

When I was a young, I didn’t give much thought to obedience and training of my dogs. That was the single biggest mistake as a dog owner I ever made. Giving your new dog, whether it’s a puppy or an adult, obedience training is a must. Let’s take a look at why.

Confident human pack leader
Confident human pack leader
Wolf pack in the wild
Wolf pack in the wild

The Nature of Dogs

All domestic dogs share one common ancestor: the wolf. No matter what breed your dog is it still embodies the basic social needs of its ancestor. Dogs, like the wolf, are social animals. They understand pack mentality. When you bring a dog into your home, you’ve just become its pack. Whether it’s just you, or a large family, it doesn’t matter to the dog. Pack dynamics have now come into play. A lot of people don’t realize this. They don’t really give a lot of thought or understanding to the dog’s point of view. We tend to think the dog is viewing us and its life just as humans do. Nothing could be more incorrect. A dog is not a human being in any way. It’s a dog.

Your new dog is now analyzing the hierarchy of its new pack. Every pack has an Alpha or leader. This is the member who establishes the law and order and is ultimately dominant. Dogs determine and display their position within the pack through dominance and submission. Knowing this one thing is the key to having a good relationship with your dog and avoiding behavioral problems. You must establish yourself as the Alpha. You must be clear and consistent with your rules and do so in a calm but confident manner.

Don’t worry that you’re being too repressive or mean. Dogs need rules. They also need clear roles. If you don’t want your dog on the furniture, then make it clear it’s not allowed and be consistent. Don’t let it on the sofa one day and not the next and expect the dog to respect your dominance or the rule. Inconsistency can be taken as your submission.

What happens if you don’t clearly or confidently establish yourself as pack leader? You end up with a dog who may challenge you for the position. In the most extreme circumstances this can be dangerous, although it’s not always the case. It’s more likely you’ll end up with a dog that does as it pleases against your wishes, or a dog that is so confused it develops behavioral issues to try to cope. This is how good dogs end up in animal shelters. Your dog requires fair and confident leadership to be healthy and happy and the responsibility is yours.

Obedience Training

I am a strong advocate of taking your new dog through obedience training. If you have a new puppy or adult dog, this is the first thing you should consider. It will help establish that pack relationship right away. Affordable obedience classes are offered through community centers, local pet centers like PetSmart and Feeders Supply, and local obedience clubs. If you are unsure where to locate one, check the internet or contact your local veterinarian.

This training allows you to bond with your dog on a deeper level by opening a line of clear communication. Professionals can guide you on proper training techniques which will give you the confidence your dog is looking to you for. It will also stimulate your dog and is a fun way to burn off some excess energy and cure its boredom. If you decide you like it, there is also a world of more advanced training as well as competitions. Obedience as well as agility training is also an excellent way to give your dog confidence in himself.

Another advantage, and it’s a big one, is safety. Imagine if your dog suddenly sees a squirrel and decides to bolt across a busy road. Having good control over him will allow you to stop and call him back without things ending in tragedy. Another scenario, especially with bigger dogs, is straining or lunging on the leash. This can cause injury not only to the dog, but to you. Jumping is another problem that can be resolved. A dog jumping up on a child or elderly person can cause injury. Having confident control over your dog allows both of you to relax and enjoy a walk, a trip to the park, or to visit friends happily and safely.

Obedience training may not solve all behavior problems but it’s a great way to establish a firm foundation for your new dog and eliminate most problems before they even start.

The Pledge To Your New Dog

You, the human, need to pledge responsibility to your new dog. When you bring it home it’s clay in your hands. It is up to you to lead it, teach it and help it with confidence and compassion to be healthy and happy. Vow to understand it’s a dog and not a furry human. Respect its needs and trust in its loyal and rewarding companionship. And most of all, have fun!

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