Back to school

How obedient is your dog? Is your dog one when, if you command “Go fetch the paper, boy!!”, it does just that – it fetches the paperboy? If so, then your dog needs help. Well, now that the kids are back to school, why not consider sending your dog to school as well? Obedience training is how it’s done and, without exception, it’s important for all dogs.


The Value of Training

Obedience training provides leadership. Dogs are social or pack animals and are little more than domesticated wolves. They need to experience a strong pack structure to be content. A well balanced, modern-day pack, has mum or dad as the leader of the pack on the top rung of the hierarchal ladder and the homely hound several rungs below. Preferably, the kids are a few rungs above the dog as well. Obedience training provides gentle leadership to create that structure. Indeed, the amazing ability of dogs to recognise humans as replacement leader-dogs is why they have been so successfully domesticated and are the commonest pets owned.

Obedience training also socialises dogs with the two environments into which they need to blend harmoniously. The first environment is the world of humans and the second is that of other dogs.

Strangers, both two and four-legged, are encountered in obedience training and, under the expert eye of your trainer, you will be shown how to guide your dog to peacefully accept these other humans and other dogs

Of course, training makes your dog more responsive to commands and makes your hound much easier to control in the home scene. Mind you, your trainer won’t train your dog. His or her job is to train you and one of the most important jobs for your trainer is to teach you to ‘talk dog’.

What Age Should Training Be Started?

Training can be started at any age. Contrary to common opinion, you can teach an old dog new tricks but certainly, the training is easier and quicker if it is started at a young age. Just like kids, the ideal first step is a preschool.

Puppy classes are usually conducted when pups are about between eight to sixteen weeks of age but it’s much better to start as early as possible. Leaving your puppy’s training until 16 weeks of age can make achievements more difficult.

From there you can spring into more formal obedience training as the pup matures. Pups are very amenable to training but it must be done gently and with minimal, or no, punishment.

You can progress your dog through several levels of training and even compete against other dogs and owners with similar interests.

In Queensland, your dog, whether it be a purebred or crossbred, can graduate as a Community Companion Dog (CCD) as its first level of official recognition and onwards through many other levels reaching the lofty heights of a Utility Dog Excellent (UDX).

Obedience training is conducted in all areas. There are many obedience training clubs in the suburbs operating under the sanction of the Canine Control Council who also have an Associate Dog Register to facilitate the registration of crossbreds dogs to allow them to enter competitions.

Canine Control Council clubs utilise the services of experienced obedience trainers who tirelessly volunteer their time to help others enjoy the sport. This is the most economical way of learning about obedience training.

Also, there are many professional training companies that train dogs as a business, and they do it well. These companies offer a full range of services including group training, private lessons, home-based training, and behaviour correction, right through to attack training for those few who genuinely need this type of service.

You can branch off from normal obedience training to challenging but absorbing sports such as agility training, jumper classes, fly ball events and even lure coursing. These sports are the bee’s knees for active dogs in small back yards!!

Checking on collars and leads

All you need to start training is a sense of humour, lots of patience and a lead and collar. The right type of lead and collar is essential and you should seek the advice of your trainer. Here we have a dash of controversy. Many trainers are heading away from the check chains in favour of flat leather or fabric collars and to head collars such as Halti’s, Gentle Leaders and similar devices. Head collars fit around a dog’s nose and neck in much the same way that a halter is fitted to a horse. The logic is that where the head goes, the dog must follow and that trying to bend a dog in the middle of its neck with a normal collar is more work than it needs to be.

The move away from check chains in favour of the use of the head collars (such as the Gentle Leader) is a very good move. However a head collar must be fitted properly for it to be effective and safe and needs to be used gently and correctly to ensure you are not hurting the dog’s neck through its use.

If you are using a harness – be sure to choose the correct style. Some harnesses promote the ability of a dog to pull while others reduce that problem. More details here.

While obedience training is important for all dogs, there are some which don’t do well in a group lesson scenario where they are constantly confronted by unfamiliar dogs and people.

Dogs which are constantly fearful or constantly aggressive in a group lesson are learning the very behaviours obedience training is supposed to stop. If your dog fits this category, remove if from a group situation and seek individual therapy from someone who knows what they are doing.

By the way – did you hear about the plumber who called his dog “Pipe” – it was very good at the ‘down’ command!