A Lifetime of Learning – The Importance of Dog Training Longevity and Maintenance
By: Brittney Frazier, Found Chicago Boarding and Training Center
Have you ever heard of a person refer to their dog as “trained” or that their dog needs to be “trained?” The notion that dog training is an event which happens only once during the course of a dog’s life leads people to believe that dogs are such simple creatures; only needing a few commands performed mediocrely in order to turn into the exemplary citizens we desire them to be. Or maybe we believe our dogs to be so intelligent that we expect them to learn each life lesson only once and our expectations of them should stay at the same high standard.
This way of thinking often sets our dogs up for failure when we do not take into account that a dog’s intelligence level is that of a two-year-old child. While dogs are extremely intuitive creatures which can learn our habits and ways of thinking better than some of the humans whom are closest to us, they can also be somewhat mischievous, playful, or stubborn and lack the impulse control needed to “behave” in our human world without consistent practice of important skills.
I like to think about dog training as being similar to playing a sport. When played on a regular basis, your mind and body stay in tune with the flow of the game. You start to predict when and where the game will go and you can begin to strategize around it to receive the reward, i.e. winning the game. You can easily communicate with teammates and you readily trust in your coach’s suggestions because you have observed the strategies to be mutually rewarding for both you and the team and you feel at ease. The more years of experience you receive as an athlete, the more skills and techniques you practice as your coach and team challenge you to be better.
Dogs are no different than an athlete when it comes to skills and strategy around reaching a goal. While the dog may not understand what goal they are shooting for, when coached in the right direction by a leader, a dog can come to understand that it pays off to behave in the way they are being asked due to the timing and amount of reward they receive. A dog’s skills will improve over time, and an intelligent working dog will benefit greatly from being challenged at more advanced skills. And if you consider your family your dog’s “team,” consistency in the home will pay off big time when it comes to having a pet which communicates well with every person in the house.
You may teach your dog the basic “sit,” “down,” “stay” and teach them to walk on a leash and want to call it a wrap on what you should expect your dog to perform on a case by case basis. But chances are that when push comes to shove and your friend from out of town arrives to stay in your home for a week, it will be very difficult to overcome your dog’s excitement level with commands your dog only practiced a couple times over the course of the first few months after your brought the dog home.
And I think you can imagine what a bored and unchallenged dog will become. Boredom often turns into behaviors caused by a dog’s frustration and misunderstanding expectations from their leader. Like an athlete who never discovered their true passion and talent, an unexercised dog can channel their “talents” into other areas, even after the most intense periods of “training” if the techniques are not upheld.
For families who are busy and only obtained a dog as a cute pet to have around the house, know that it is not extremely time-consuming or difficult to keep your dog’s training on point with regular maintenance. Below are some suggestions of exercises to do with your dog to upkeep a baseline of good manners and impulse control.
- Practice a “sit” or “down” and “stay” before releasing to every meal, increasing the amount of time once a week.
- Teach your dog a positive high energy outlet, such as “fetch” or running, and incorporate your obedience skills into it.
- Have specific boundaries/thresholds of your house that your dog is expected to stay behind for periods of time that increase as your dog succeeds. For example: “down” and “stay” behind the threshold of the kitchen while you cook.
- Teach a new trick every few weeks to increase the training bond between you and your dog.
- Meet a new dog friend to have play dates with every few months and practice your basic obedience in their presence.
- Create a very specific routine every time people enter the home (family and guests alike) which earns your dog a treat.
With some time and minimal planning in your everyday life, dog training maintenance can be short, sweet, and rewarding for the whole family if practiced on a regular basis. Find a trainer today and start the road to a lifetime of learning with your dog!