It is fair to say that not all dog owners are interested in training their dogs or in some cases they perhaps are interested but simply struggle to find the time. However you might be surprised to learn that teaching your dog a simple task, for a short period each day, can be hugely rewarding for both you and your dog. The task need not be complex it is the fact that you engage and interact with your dog that is the important factor. Taking time to train your dog has numerous benefits that can be incredibly stimulating and enjoyable for all involved.
What is the purpose of training a dog?
There are many purposes of course; however The Way of the Dog Ltd considers that the primary purpose is to maintain the health and safety of the dog whilst protecting the health and safety of others. This is something that all dog owners should carefully consider given the recent amendments to the Dangerous Dogs Act here in the UK. Training your dog is the responsible thing to do and can lead to the development of secure and confident foundations in your dog.
When it comes to choosing what to train your dog there is no definitive list, it really comes down to imagination, interest, personal choice, and access. There are so many interesting activities and events that you can involve your dog in these days that dog training has become accessible to all.
Training a dog even the simplest of tasks can have a variety of benefits, these include;
- Improving psychological and physiological wellbeing, contributing towards a healthy mind and body (both dog and owner).
- Optimising brain function.
- Increasing the strength of the bond and understanding between dog and owner.
- Establishing clear and positive communication.
- Raising self-esteem and confidence in the dog.
- Reducing stress and anxiety.
- Relieving boredom.
- Teaching new skills and improving the proficiency of existing skills.
- Giving a dog a role to perform providing an outlet for stored energy.
Your dog does not have to perform to any specific stereotype or even to a particular standard, all that matters is that the dog has the physical ability to perform the task and is willing to try. There is no sense in trying to teach a Chihuahua to scale a 6ft fence any more than attempting to run a marathon with a Dogue De Bordeaux. If you have any doubts, consult your vet. Always consider the functionality of your dog ensuring that it is physically capable of achieving the objective or task without coming to harm. History demonstrates that dogs were selectively bred to perform certain functions and that body conformation was modified accordingly.
A note of caution, careless designer breeding can affect a dog’s inherent ability to perform certain tasks. Notwithstanding, it is important that any training undertaken is fun and rewarding for the dog.
Owning an untrained and disobedient dog can be a very challenging ordeal and may lead to exclusion from every day activities often taken for granted such as walking a dog in a country park or having guests visit the family home. Owning a trained dog can be a thoroughly rewarding relationship and enriching experience that forges strong human dog bonds allowing dog owners to successfully engage in a range of activities. If you are interested in training your dog and would like to discuss options please contact The Way of the Dog Ltd.
Following on with the Enlisting a Trainer theme the million dollar question is the one that seeks to identify and define what a qualified dog trainer is? Unfortunately, in an industry that is currently unregulated there is no current industry leading definition that is nationally recognised or accepted as being the leading qualification for the dog training profession. Moves are currently being made by Lantra to raise skills and standards throughout the UK to provide National Occupational Standards for dog trainers. However, at this time it is possible to set up as a dog trainer without qualification, accreditation, or portfolio. It is important to point out that a dog trainer is not by default a dog behaviourist, at The Way of the Dog Ltd we consider that the two are entirely different areas of the industry requiring different knowledge and experience.
So where as responsible dog owners do we go for training? As a starting point The Way of the Dog Ltd recommends that you seek to work with individuals who are members of recognised associations such as;
These are just some of the associations and organisations in the UK, this list is not exhaustive and is placed in no particular order.
Whilst such associations or organisations recognise the abilities and skills of trainers they do not guarantee the capability, knowledge, and experience of an individual. Similarly, they do not necessarily recognise or promote individuals that may or may not be more qualified than others, nor do they guarantee results or ethical practice. They do however give you a point of contact if you find yourself dissatisfied with the service that you receive from your chosen trainer who fails to acknowledge your discontent. It is important to recognise that there are trainers who possess great skills and professional qualifications that chose not to be linked with any associations or organisations.
Professional and formal dog training qualifications generally comes from recognised professions such as Police Constabularies, Armed Forces, HM Customs & Excise. HM Prison Service, Search & Rescue, Guide Dogs, or the various service or medical detection dogs, to name but a few. Trainers who have gained formal qualification through such professional services should be reliable, but again there is no absolute guarantee. Some of the associations previously referred to such as the BIPDT offer practical training packages and examinations for potential instructors.
Further consideration should also be given to working with those that have gained formal teaching qualifications or possess recognised qualifications in instructional techniques. Neither guarantees that the dog trainer is a subject matter expert in his or her chosen field, yet dog owners can expect lessons and sessions that are structured and appropriately managed and delivered using good teaching practice. Those that do not possess such teaching qualifications should not be regarded as unprofessional or incapable of delivering excellent sessions there existence is merely an additional consideration when seeking best professional practice.
The recommendation of others perhaps still remains a strong endorsement of ones qualification, but be careful as we all have different expectations and standards. One person’s view of appropriate professional practice is another person’s dissatisfaction. In summary take your time when choosing a trainer ask questions about qualifications and background and if unsure conduct further research. A professional trainer will always be willing to offer up details of his or her background and experience and will be more than happy for you to conduct research. A traumatic experience at the hands of an incompetent trainer can lead to untold emotional damage for your dog and incalculable financial expense to rectify. Please contact The Way of the Dog Ltd should you have any questions about this article.
You will hear the word ‘socialisation’ often spoken by dog owners, enthusiasts, and professionals alike, but what does it really mean?
When raising a puppy you might hear the word repeated often without any true appreciation or understanding of its significance. For a long time now we have been told that we must socialise our puppies at the earliest opportunity and introduce them to all other dogs so that they might become tolerant of all dogs. This in part is true, but this approach does not explain socialisation in its truest sense or properly suggest how such socialisation should take place.
Mismanaged interactions may have negative consequences and lead to the development of behavioural problems later in life, whilst a lack of early socialisation can equally bring about similar complex problems.
How we define dog socialisation at TWOTD?
The Way of the Dog holds the view that socialisation is the purposeful act of familiarising puppies and dogs to the environment in which they live, occupy, or visit so that the animal acts in a way that is considered acceptable.
It is important that dogs become familiar with sensations, actions, objects, and living things within a variety of different environments or circumstances. Failure to introduce the dog to such things may lead to the dog demonstrating a reluctance to approach or accept unfamiliar situations and develop ways to avoid or escape them; this might include strategies that involve aggression.
The primary socialisation period for a young dog is considered to be from 3 – 12 weeks old, and is the most important period of social development. This is why it is absolutely essential to choose very carefully where you obtain your puppy. A reputable and ethical breeder will likely commence socialisation as soon as the 3 week point is reached.
Puppy socialisation by TWOTD
If a puppy is not correctly socialised during the early sensitive periods there is a possibility that a dog will never adjust to or accept novel events later in life. It is therefore essential that time and effort is taken to appropriately socialise a puppy to as many events as possible. The Way of the Dog takes this role very seriously and delivers bespoke puppy development courses that focus on properly managed socialisation whilst developing confidence and shaping character.
- Socialisation should always be carefully managed and not delivered randomly or without any consideration to how a particular dog may react.
- Dogs can be bold or cautious, weak or strong; they may dive in to a situation without hesitation or demonstrate much reluctance, they are all very different even at such an early stage.
- Puppies should always be carefully introduced to other puppies and caution should always be exercised when introducing them to adult dogs.
- Enrolling a puppy in a group puppy class is not always the best approach to socialisation as a mismanaged class can be responsible for the development of fearful or aggressive temperaments if the puppy is subjected to negative experiences.
Commit to thorough socialisation of your dog
Social maturity and development continues through to the 18 – 24 month point depending upon the individual dog. It is possible that a dog can become unusually sensitive to any event or circumstance during this period. Puppies considered to be socialised during their early months may suddenly develop what seem like irrational fears towards events that at one time caused them no concern. Therefore, socialisation should always be carefully managed and maintained during the first year of a dog’s life and owners should consider sustaining such approaches beyond until a dog is considered to be a well-adjusted adult.
If you’d like to enrol your new dog on one of our bespoke Puppy Development Courses, please Contact Shaun today.
In this blog we will focus on one-to-one training versus group training. Both possess strengths and weaknesses; however at The Way of the Dog we feel that they are both very different approaches to training. Many new dog owners enrol in group training from the outset because they are led to believe that this is the best and only way to socialise their dog, this is not the case and we will discuss socialisation in a separate blog.
We hold the view that one-to-one training supports a new dog owner to learn in private and at their own pace allowing them to become accustomed to unfamiliar training methods before moving into a group dynamic at the appropriate stage of training. It supports uninterrupted training free from distraction and the desire to interact with other dogs, therefore enhancing the possibility of progression for both dog and handler.
Whilst group training can be very beneficial in teaching your dog how to behave when in the presence of other dogs, at The Way of the Dog we do not consider that it is the best way to commence your training. Socialisation with other dogs is key to a dog’s successful development and whilst a group session can support this it is essential that this is managed carefully. Many dogs are distracted in the group environment which is obvious considering the fact that the owner is unlikely to have much control at this stage. When taking part in training of any kind for the first time many dog owners feel embarrassed, disorientated, hopeless, and uncoordinated. When in a group environment these feelings are often intensified and may lead to group training becoming non-productive and in some cases damaging.
If you want to get the best from a group class we recommend that you take part in a class that has a ratio of 6 dogs, 6 handlers, and a fully qualified dog training instructor. This approach supports a healthy and manageable student to instructor relationship and will allow you to get the very best from the session. You should expect during a 60 minute lesson; a proportion of individual attention, enough space to work in, and the ability to speak to and hear comments from the instructor. It should be a stress free environment where dogs are carefully managed and prevented from being confrontational with other dogs. In certain situations confrontation may be difficult to avoid, however it should be a rarity rather than the class norm. Anything other than that described above then you should really consider the value and the quality of the training that you are receiving.
So the choice is yours to make, should it be one-to-one training or should it be group training? What you should perhaps ask yourself before making a choice is; “What do I want to achieve from my training?” “Will my chosen route allow me to achieve this?”
What is Socialisation?