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Companion Dog Training Should Be Different

This is an excerpt from a booklet (What Are The Different (and best) Puppy and Dog Training Methods) I put together for people wishing to research beforehand the best approach to training their companion dogs so that they can find the right trainer to help them with their dog’s future. The purpose of the chapter was to demonstrate that when looking for the right type of dog training and dog trainer it’s important to understand that companion dog training is or should be approached differently than obedience competition training or trick training or police dog training etc. There are similarities but the differences can really get in the way of accomplishing goals if you’re a companion dog owner.

How Dog Training Varies

companion dog training due south
Television Series Due South

When I was training dogs for the television series Due South I was doing the trick and stunt training along with obedience training. I have some good friends that specialize in training for dog sports like French Ring or Schutzhund. Others – scent detection. I have other trainer friends that specialize in military, police, and personal protection dog training. Some others still specialize in training various hunting dogs. More friends still that specialize in trick training, dock diving, agility, etc. Some specialize in training for kennel club obedience competitions.

companion dog training vs hunting
Fred Staub (breeder and trainer) with one of the most accomplished female Weimaraners in North America.

What I have found is that when people have an extensive and successful history training in one of the above disciplines, it often untowardly influences how they approach companion dog training.

Trainers with police or bite-oriented sports background and similarly in the hunting dog community often approach companion dog training in variations on the ‘Might Is Right’ style. This approach has more to do with tradition than science, but either way, dogs successfully trained in these activities typically have genetics that equips them with stress thresholds far higher than the average companion dog. They quickly bounce back from the harshness of the approach which unfortunately acts as a confirmation in the trainer that the strategy is sound enough to be considered a method.

Ring Sport Dog Training

Much more common are dog trainers enamored with Pavlov and B.F. Skinner’s work with conditioned and operant conditioned responses in applications related to teaching closed settings activities like tricks, agility, etc.

Agility Training
Agility Training

The problem for companion dog owners regarding both of these approaches is that it’s rare that a companion dog owner’s day revolves around their dog in the manner that the dog trainer’s days typically revolve around their dogs.

Also, very few companion dog owners are willing to be as harsh towards their dog as the ‘Might Is Right’ approach seemingly endorses. Nor, at the opposite end of the spectrum can they afford the timelines associated with the ‘All Positive/Purely Positive/Force-Free’ movement.

Companion Dog Training

When it comes right down to it, most companion dog owners just want a dog that will Come/Stay/Heel – No Matter What. A dog that doesn’t beg at the table, stays on a mat when food is being prepared for the family and when a guest arrives and departs.

companion dog training
Caught – “Oh, you meant our furniture.”

Stays off the furniture entirely or waits until invited. Waits at the top and bottom of stairs for an invitation. Just necessary household context skills.

They want their dog to do these things without the burden of treats, in fact, they want to be able to multi-task and know that their dog will perform even if they’re not staring at them as intently as if they were trying to bend a spoon with the power of their minds. Diapers still need to be changed, doors answered, dinners made. Outside of the home, they want to be able to come home with both of their arms still the same length.

companion dog training
Companion Dog Training For Real Life

Ironically as you’ve found if you’ve begun your search or will shortly discover, these skills and a companion dog and dog owner-friendly approach to acquiring these practical life skills are rarely offered in spite of there being vastly more companion dog owners and dogs than hunters, agility fans, obedience competition enthusiasts. Such trainers do exist. You may just have to do a little digging to find someone that specializes in companion dog training. The guide can help in tracking down the right training fit for you and your dog.

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