The question that is most difficult to explain to dog owners is the following:
Do we need to use tools like shock collars, clickers or even treats, force or domination to train dogs?
The simple answer is NO. Dogs are intelligent animals and it is not necessary to use tools to train them or to modify their behaviours. The only things required to properly train a dog are TIME & KNOWLEDGE.
Most dogs can learn basic dog training lessons quickly without using any tools. Dogs gravitate to basics obedience commands very easily if done correctly. There is no need to involve tools, and that includes treats. If you are interested, I have written extensively in this article about why I don’t suggest using tools or treats to train dogs.
The first ingredient for successful dog training is time.
Dogs are living beings, they feel, they relate, they connect. They deserve to be respected in ways that make them feel secure and taught in ways which they naturally gravitate towards. One of the most important things to do is to spend focused quality time with your dog, to build a healthy relationship and to set the premise for modifying your dog’s behaviour. Tools and gadgets are quick fixes for people who don’t have the proper knowledge about the natural behaviours and needs of dogs, and who want things to be done yesterday. But I am here to say that they don’t produce solid results nor do they foster a meaningful relationship.
To own and live with a dog requires a lifetime commitment to the dog. It means you are committed to investing in quality-focused time with your dog, to develop a loving and caring relationship. Once you have built a healthy relationship and taken the right steps in training the basics, I guarantee you that you won’t need anything but yourself to change or modify your dog’s behaviour, and enable your dog to get trained even further.
Taking the time to build a healthier relationship with a dog will solve most of the bad behaviours. Like humans, dogs too have very individual personalities. So it could be that the time required could be six weeks, or six months, or even a year. And the reality may be that it could take even longer. But every quality moment spent with your dog is a step forward.
Time will heal all problems! Tools, gadgets, force and even treats will only cause confusion, lack of trust and stress. And it will damage the relationship that you have been working on so hard to build and nurture a trusting environment. Don’t rush. Take one step at a time. One day at a time.
What is quality time?
Quality time is not simply a dog living with a human being, although it does help, that’s not all. For the time to be considered as quality time, dogs need to be healthy and in a positive, happy mindset. For the dog to be healthy and happy, you need to fulfil your dog’s needs. If that has not been provided, the dog will feel stressed and unhappy.
Having your dog on your lap at all times does not mean quality time. All it means is more time spent on the power of affection and not the power of knowledge. What you need to focus on is satisfying your dog’s needs.
Why do you need to satisfy the dog’s needs?
Dogs have species based needs and because they have been domesticated and have been living with humans for thousands of years, they are no longer capable of satisfying their own needs that they desperately need. We have made the choice of selecting and bringing dogs into our homes. And from that day on, the dog’s freedoms of choice has ended and they heavily depend on what we are choosing for the dog. However, we have the responsibility to ensure that their natural needs are being provided throughout their lifetime.
I call them the “five essential daily needs”. These essential daily needs have to be provided in the following order; exercise, training, socialization, care and affection.
Care and affection are the parts that most dog owners focus on and provide naturally. However, for a balanced and happy dog, it is so important that the other three essentials are being provided as well.
The second ingredient for success in dog training is knowledge.
Let me reiterate, for your dog to behave properly and for you to avoid using or depending on tools, you must provide your dog with his five essential needs.
That means that you must educate yourself about your dog. You need to learn what to do, why you are doing things a certain way, and you need to be committed to becoming an educated dog lover.
While essential, training is not the only answer to address your dog’s bad behaviour. In many cases not providing the daily five essential needs for your dog may contribute to the development of bad behaviour. You need to provide a proper amount of exercise, socialization, care and know-how and when to use affection. You need to learn how to communicate with your dog and address its unwanted behaviours.
Taking a six-week dog training course is a great start, but it is not the endpoint. A well balanced and happy dog requires your commitment. Throughout my long career as a dog trainer and many years of extensively working with dog owners, I have seen it again and again how people have failed at dealing with their dog’s behavioural issues. If you follow my technique, your dog will be balanced, well behaved and happy for many years!
To learn more details about what those five essential needs are and how to provide them properly, please watch the following videos.