So, you have just brought a puppy into your home or you just adopted an older dog. Or you have a dog at home now who only answers to you when it feels like it. It does not matter if it is a puppy, older dog or rescue, they all can learn the behavior that you seek if taught and that is what obedience is all about. I know, we all have those dogs that are perfectly cute but don’t listen to us (crazy), right? You don’t think much about it except for the cuteness they represent to you until you get upset at something they have done that really gets you mad or worse, you wind up losing your pet because they have decided to run off or have gotten hurt because they do not listen. I want to tell you a story about why I started training my dogs with obedience first before I can help you to understand the importance behind obedience training. Never mind the amazing bonding that occurs when you and your dog are learning together and surprisingly, the way that your dog would look forward to those special times. You would not think that any dog would enjoy being trained but they actually do and yearn for that togetherness that training represents and the whole family can get involved with it as long as you all use the same commands so your dog does not get confused with what you want. The rewards that you feel for teaching your dog something translates to teaching it something else and after they learn that, something else. A simple ‘sit’ is an obedience command. The world opens up for you and going out with your dog when they can do as you say and listen. Not to mention how other people will constantly say they wish their dog could do that or be that well behaved- it is a feel good scenario to smile about!
In 1989 we bought our first pet as a family. I grew up with dogs and in a show home but after my dog that I brought into our marriage passed, we went without for a few years. It was not until my children started asking for a dog that we decided to get another one. The dog we bought was a Bichon Frise that we named Snowball. For the purpose of this article though, it does not matter what type of dog, because rather, any dog can be put in this scenario. And any dog can be trained, no matter what age, breed or type, they all can be trained.
Snowball was the typical funny, cute puppy that chewed its way through the house, grabbed at our feet, stole anything that fell on the floor, grabbed socks, begged its way into getting table scraps and caused as much trouble as it could and we were letting him get away with this. How could you yell at such a cute fuzzy face? As soon as he would cuddle in your lap all was forgotten! But he was getting older and still being a crazy pup that now would almost trip you as he attacked your feet when he wanted to play. Still, no change from us on correcting him. He was almost 7 months now when he got out our front door. I ran out immediately after him yelling for him to come to me but he kept running. When he did stop, he would turn towards me and wait for me to almost catch him and then he would turn and run again, away from me. He thought it was a game but he was heading straight for a very busy road. I was screaming for him to come to me and he thought it was a game. When he was almost to the main road, I turned away from him and started to run home crying. I didn’t want to witness him being hit by a car and God, how was I going to tell my kids? How do I explain it to my husband? Crying, I reached my door and he miraculously, was behind me. My turning away from him ruined his game so he followed me home. I was forever grateful for that but immediately pulled out the phonebook and looked up obedience schools.
I had to leave early to find the school because it would be dark when my class time started and I wanted to make sure that I found the place okay. Once inside I registered and sat down to watch the class that was going on at the moment. It was a much more advanced class as they were jumping and doing scent work, retrieving and all sorts of stuff without a leash on them that I had never seen a dog do before. I was amazed at how well trained they all were. It was mostly large breeds there of Goldens and German Shepherds, a collie and poodles, some mixed breeds and a small Pug was in the group that was just as smart as the big dogs! It was a large group of dogs all off leash doing different things and they were completely in control by their owners, none of the dogs even bothered with the other dogs. I was shocked at how good they were and thought to myself how I would love to have a dog that could do that totally amazed by all of it. Then the final exercise they had to do was sit and down stays. The dogs were all lined up together, the handlers gave them the command and then they left them, twice! Once for the sit and stay and then again for the down and stay. Wow! I couldn’t believe what I was seeing! The dogs were perfect and stayed by themselves and did not move until the owners came back and released them. I wanted this for my dog! Somehow, I was determined that my dog would do that, could he? How hard would it be for me and him to learn it? Could this cute baby of mine do any of that? I did not think it was possible to get that kind of accuracy but I certainly wanted to try and this first night of class was going to be the start of something very exciting I thought. And it was.
To say it is simple and easy would be a lie. It takes dedication to teaching it and using the same language over and over again and practicing it so that your dog learns the exercise you are looking for. Just like our children, they need to be taught it and reminded over time just how to. The funny thing was that my dog would get so excited about going to class and decided that every time that I was planning on going out he thought it was to go to school and wanted to come. He loved school and training together. One of the rules was we needed to practice, even for 10 minutes each day so that what we were taught in class was completely understood by the time the next week fell so that we could move on to another exercise. After class the dog was always rewarded and Snowball looked forward to those rewards. I found each week would get easier and easier with my dog understanding what he was learning and his eagerness to do more was apparent too. Each week Snowball made me proud. He was a fast learner and I was definitely enjoying the change from naughty dog to good dog to great dog! I was so happy with his training. My teacher was showing us how to do so much to make him a good dog and then all the sudden, I was doing those stays that I saw in that first night. First it was all on leash but gradually we went off leash. Shock and overwhelmed with excitement that my dog was doing this! I love obedience! My dog loved obedience! He was as hungry to learn it as I was enjoying all the benefits of what the school was teaching me to do with him. I had a well behaved dog for real now. We could go anywhere together and I knew he would be listening to me. The more classes we attended the better we got and the more we got excited to do more. It was like we had bonded over this and we were the best pals, he knew what I was thinking and about to ask of him before I even said it to him. It was like we were a team. That is how obedience can grip you with the right help. Needless to say, after a while I discovered obedience in the dog show world. If you chose that after training with your dog, you would find that it opens up your life to a whole new world for you and your dog with lots of fun and enjoyment.
WHY WOULD YOU WANT TO PUT ALL THAT EFFORT INTO TRAINING A DOG?
People make goals for themselves all the time. One goal that many start from a very young age is what they want to do when they are an adult. Most dream of having a family of their own, lots of money and to live a life full of dreams. If you came from a home that was showing dogs you were already introduced to obedience and may never have known it. Maybe they just did conformation. I said to someone once that had her dogs standing just perfectly on their grooming table that she has trained her dog. She denied it as if that was something bad but LOL, she had to do some obedience work with her dog to get it to stand and stay like that, ‘bravo’ I said! Many of you might be just getting your first dog though or you are someone that has always had dogs but never thought about doing obedience, maybe not until now’or maybe you just want the good dog at home and no competition, that is okay too but everyone needs to train their dog.
Obedience is a mastery to be proud of. When you train your dog, whether it is for just being a good dog in your home and around people or if it was for obedience competition, the goals always are for the same result- a good dog that you can be proud of. Everyone wants their dog to listen to them. In today’s world, there are so many different venues of obedience training that you can reach for goals that are just for a Canine Good Citizen or Obedience that includes simple tasks to be learned right on through to the very highest of levels that I saw when I first got involved with Obedience. Many people have adjusted their training skills to work on Rally which is another form of obedience that allows for you as a team with your dog to do specific obedience exercises to signs that are on a course. You can talk up a storm encouraging your dog through all of the signs and have a great time. And there are so many different levels to work toward finishing! All your dog understands is that they are doing a fun thing with the person they love and believe me, they respond well to all the attention this training thing creates. They have no idea that this is obedience so do not be afraid to teach it to them. You will be happy that you have such a dog and the dog, well, they have a chance to form a relationship with you that will last a lifetime. Training is fun and creates an achievement that many who do not do that with their own dog, will envy you for doing it.
Obedience training can also take you to Trick Dog Training and goals. Yes, you would not believe all the things there is to do with your dog and it all involves training a dog through Obedience. It is amazing how fast they learn but even more amazing is that it does not take much to have the competitor in you to want to show off your dogs training- that you have toned and skilled, to others in a setting where you can actually call it a competition.
Have you ever heard of Therapy dogs? That too is through Obedience Training. It is not just about your dog being good with people, training is needed if you want that for your dog. Have you seen Agility on TV? A first part to any dog being off lead for Agility is that they have to have some Obedience in them to be able to navigate the course and to listen to you. Training. It is not a bad word. It should be a good word to think about often in your life. A common set of words used in my life is ‘I learned something new today’ I am always learning, and that my friends is because someone ‘trained’ me with something new. Do I need to dare you to train your dog?
By Linda Ferrullo (BFCA Obedience Chair, AKC Obedience and Rally Judge- because I love Obedience)