Obedience… or not?
Obedience… or not?

Obedience… or not?

When you get a puppy, you want them to grow up to be the best dog you ever had, right?

So you take them to obedience class, because they need to know how to sit, and stay, and heel, right?

What if I told you no?

What if, instead I asked:

What Is Your Goal?

Maybe your goal is to teach them to to sit, stay and heel.

Maybe your goal is to be able to take them everywhere: to the park, to stores, to restaurants, the beach… you get it. Maybe you want a dog who can go wherever you go and be calm and chill.

Maybe your goal is to have a family pet, a dog that will play fetch and chase with your kids, or snuggle with them during movie night, or sit and listen to them practice their reading.

Whatever your goal is, it may or may not be strictly about obedience, but I promise you, it will be about your relationship with your dog.

If you focus your relationship with your dog on creating a bond, a connection, a relationship, you can achieve your goals as your dogs guardian, whatever those goals may be.

Really? The REALATIONSHIP with your dog?

You Must Be Joking!

Nope. Not even a little bit.

The short story is that dogs are always learning. They’re always responding to things (stimuli) and their behavior is shaped by what consistently happens around the same time.

So the question becomes, how do you want them to learn?

Do you want them to learn, happily, with positive associations to the behaviours you’d like to see?

Then stick with me!

If you have ever taken a psychology course, you’ve likely heard of Pavlov.

Ivan Petrovich Pavlov was a Russian and Soviet experimental neurologist and physiologist known for his discovery of classical conditioning through his study of dogs. He did many experiments with dogs, some of which weren’t what I would call ethical, but this one was: he paired a correlation between the dogs physiological response after hearing a bell before being fed… they’d start drooling.

… now this explanation can go be a long, long story, so I’ll just link some info here and here and here, in case you’d like to learn more on your own.

I even found a fast talking, but informative, video that explains it better than I can, so I’ve added that below (it’s about 12 minutes long).

Let’s learn together.

So, maybe instead of focusing on obedience, focusing on pairing good things with good things, and creating a bonded relationship works better.

If your dog only knows good things from you, then they will always want to give you reasons to give them good things.

So play with them, cuddle them, reward them with love…
And love, for a dog, comes in many forms

  • treats
  • toys
  • playtime
  • praise

Don’t be afraid to show your appreciation for the awesome things your dog does, every time they do something awesome. 

Any time they do something you like, make sure they know you like it!
It really is that simple.
Simple... but not Easy!
It still takes a lot of time, patience, effort, and consistency, consistency, consistency.

Some of the most respected educators in the dog training world are even starting to denounce the idea of strict obedience training. On Michael Shikashio‘s podcast, The Bitey End Of The Dog, he asked Kim Brophey about a quote she made referring to dog training as an outdated concept:

We, as professionals, feel like it’s our job to train the dog to make it obedient to the person’s command, reliably.

So then we have this whole culture of people who come to us with these expectations, like a dog is basically supposed to be a minion or a compliant robot, and dog training, as even a phrase or a concept, and all the words that we have surrounding it… they set people up for really unrealistic expectations that instead of creating mutual responsibility between two species trying to have a relationship, which is the heart of applied ethology, it’s set up as like a power dynamic where you have, you know, kind of the puppeteer model, and our job is to manipulate the behaviour of this other organism.

Nevermind their instincts, nevermind their biology or their natural habitat, or their welfare needs. Not to say anyone is
intentionally neglecting them, but the central goal of “train the dog, make it do what the person wants it to do”, and most of our discussions are around how to train… not taking a couple of steps back and asking

Should you train the dog to do that?
Is it fair?
Is it a reasonable expectation in the first place?
Are you putting a square peg in a round hole?”

* You can listen to the whole June 27th, 2020 episode here. *

If strict obedience is your goal, Your Happy Dog Coach may not be the best fit for you.
But if you’re interested in creating a bond with your dog, and having a connected, reciprocal relationship with them, contact me for a Complimentary Pre-Registration Consultation and we will discuss your goals.