How Trained Does My Dog Have To Be?

One of the most common insecurities dog owners feel is about how trained, or untrained, their dog happens to be when around others.  It’s natural to want your dog to behave so well you get compliments from others.  “Wow, your dog is trained so well,” or “I wish my dog behaved that well,” so when Fido gets excited and won’t stop barking when you have a conversation with someone, our natural reaction is embarrassment. 

Over time, these insecurities and incidents build up and we as dog owners start to micromanage every behavior our dog offers.  If he/she doesn’t sit the moment we tell them to, we need to train them better, or if your dog pulls on leash because he’s trying to get to his friend, that means he’s not trained, and in many cases, this can be true, but the purpose of today’s blog is to have you step back and determine how trained your dog really needs to be. 

I recently had a person make a great comment on one of my social platforms in response to a video about whether or not you should allow your dog on the furniture.  This follower said, “the trainer doesn’t live with me, my dog does,” and this statement is so applicable in many areas of dog training.  In this particular case, how trained your dog needs to be is entirely up to you, but it’s a decision you should think about, and it’s something you should re-visit several times a year as you encounter various scenarios. 

I’ve worked with owners who want their dogs very strictly trained.  They are supposed to do everything they say, the minute they say it.  I’ve also worked with clients who are okay with their dogs being more laid back and having more freedom to choose.  Neither is wrong and it ultimately comes down to a combo of context and owner preference.  Dogs who are in search and rescue, compete in rally, or compete in other sports will need a stricter training regimen.  Pet dogs don’t necessarily need to be that strictly trained (but they can be if the owner wants it). 

The Challenge

I encourage you to sit down and make a list of problem behaviors you are having with your dog and then look at each behavior and analyze the need for training.  Is it something that is dangerous to humans or other animals?  Is it something that could escalate?  Maybe, it’s something that is a bit of an annoyance and a tad embarrassing, but you could live with? Or, maybe it’s something that is annoying to us as humans, but is a normal, everyday behavior for a dog (think digging).  Take each of these and look at them from a critical, yet understanding, point of view.  Try to think like a dog and remember their worlds are vastly different from ours and many behaviors that are annoying to us are just a dog being a dog. 

Quite possibly what you will find is that you don’t need as much training as you thought.  (Or you may find you need much more!).  Managing a behavior is just as valid as training in many cases. 

And as far as the embarrassment you feel when your dog misbehaves, understand that it is completely normal.  It doesn’t mean your dog is bad in most cases.  We all feel that way, so don’t let it bother you to the point where you think badly of your pup.  The vast majority of people understand dogs don’t always behave 100% of the time and are quite understanding.  If there is danger of any kind involved, you certainly want to address it, but just as we are all human, dogs are all dogs, and behave the way they know how.  We shouldn’t judge them and their world by our standards because they won’t understand in many cases.

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