Monday, November 29, 2010
Dogs are not created equal when it comes to training. Some learn faster than others, and some just can't seem to get what you're trying to teach. All dogs can be taught basic commands as long as you're willing to invest the time and energy to stay committed. However, dogs are individuals and like kids, they learn at their own pace. Knowing your dog's personality can help you devise a training schedule that works best for them.
Dog training isn't high on some people's priority list. I know many dog owners who have never spent one minute training their dogs to sit, stay, walk on a leash or any other basic commands. They feel that as long as their dog will come to them most of the time when called, that's all the training they need. Animal shelters are full of untrained dogs who have been surrendered by their owners because the dog developed behavioral problems they had no idea how to correct. Lack of training to correct behavioral problems is one reason many people give up their dogs.
Another reason dogs end up in shelters is because their owner didn't really know or understand their pet. A dominant dog who borders on aggression can become aggressive if his owner doesn't take the time to discover his personality. I'm the proud owner of a 10 month old Border Collie who was given to us because she wasn't housebroken. She was 8 weeks old when we took her in. Within a couple of months, she was housebroken and she now lets us know when she needs to go outside. As she grew, she became more aggressive with the other pets, but her personality is really more dominant than aggressive and training with positive reinforcement has curbed her aggression. Working with her on basic commands has shown me that she is eager to please and excited to learn what I want to teach her.
A dog's personality is formed by their environment, what they learned from their mom, how well they were socialized, and how we treat them. A dog can be confident, aggressive, submissive, fearful, shy, outgoing, happy, independent or dominant.
An already submissive dog who is shy or insecure will need slow and steady training sessions. Loud or sudden noises could easily send him searching for a place to hide. The independent dog can be harder to train because he hasn't formed a bond with his owner, and a fearful dog can show aggression if he feels threatened. Keep things simple and quiet and give the dog lots of praise and opportunities to succeed to help boost his confidence and gain his trust. A happy, outgoing dog is usually eager to please his owner. He needs to learn how to sit, stay and stay down to keep from knocking people over when he greets them.
A dominant or confident dog can be harder to train, because he'll try to be the one in charge. He needs an owner with a firm hand that's fair and gentle when the dog needs correction and gives praise and rewards when he does what is asked. I don't believe a dominant or confident dog is hard to train – as long as you know your dog and don't try to force him to submit to you, because you risk creating an aggressive dog with behavior problems you didn't intend. Stay consistent, patient and calm, and never let frustration come between you and your dog. When working with this personality type, if you or the dog become frustrated you need to stop, take a breather and try again. Once your dog understand that you're in charge, you might be surprised how fast he learns.
Regardless of what your dog's personality is, treat them with respect and love to earn their trust and respect. There's nothing wrong with taking a dog back to step one to reinforce what you're trying to teach them, and there's no specific time line for them to learn.
Dogs who are treated with love and respect will learn anything we want to teach them as long as we take the time to understand who they are and how best to train them. Just like us, dogs want and need to feel secure in their surroundings. We can eliminate confusing signals we send to our dogs simply by knowing who they are. It is that important to know your dog's personality to understand how they will learn. A dog owner also needs to evaluate their own personality as well, to know which breed or dog they are best able to handle.
Read more articles by Linda Cole