“My dog knows stay and come when called, do I really need to take a class?”
Does your dog stay every time you ask, no matter when or where you ask? Does he come away from every situation, including play with other dogs or stalking a squirrel in the backyard? If your dog does these things, the answer is still yes, you should take a class with your dog if you haven’t ever done so. It’s a chance to work around the ultimate distraction of new dogs and people in a classroom the dog has not seen before.
Training is the ultimate bonding experience between dog and owner. Not only do you get the benefit of a well-behaved animal living in your house, but your dog also learns to look to you for guidance and learns to really trust you. Training should be both fun and practical! If you’ve already mastered the basics, you could try a more advanced class or just polish old tricks and show off your dog’s abilities in another round of Manners 1. Many dogs just enjoy the socialization aspect of being in a new environment with other dogs. You can look at it as a time to work on your skills and meet other dog owners.
“Our dog listens to my wife but not to me! Why doesn’t he like me?”
We take our dogs’ actions so personally because we love them and want them to love us. Often it’s easy to forget these are descendants of wolves and wild dogs (even the little ones!) that we have invited to live in our homes. Animal behavior is a fascinating and sometimes complex science, but luckily training really boils down to two things: patience and consistency.
I am willing to bet that the person the dog listens to is very clear about what she wants. She uses the same verbal cues and hand signals each time to get the dog to come, sit, get off the furniture, and walk nicely on the leash. She doesn’t repeat herself over and over and then give up—she gets that sit and when she does, she rewards it. If the dog is jumping all over her when she comes in the door, she turns and walks back out. She won’t reward the dog with her attention until he has all four paws on the ground.
The dog learns very quickly that this is a human he understands and one that gives him things he likes for fairly easy tricks, such as lying down and staying on his bed while she folds prepares his dinner. He comes to her when she calls him because that gets him a nice chew toy, not a shake by the collar because he took too long. Dogs are wonderful at figuring out what is best for them, and they are going to gravitate to the people who provide these comforts.