Best Friends Forever — Where Providence Meets Dog Training

Posted on August 19th, 2020 by FetchMasters in Uncategorized

I love photographing dogs — especially the old ones. When someone has an old dog, one that has been with them for many years, there almost always is a story behind the bond that makes the relationship seem an awful lot like providence or destiny. But after about a dozen years of dog training in the Denver area, I can tell you that it is pretty rare for a person to have a harmonious bond with a dog unless some sort of dog training has taken place.

Left to its own devices, a dog will figure out a way to navigate its world and acquire what it wants, needs or likes. And without the dog receiving some sort of guidance and direction, owners often do not like the algorithms a dog may create to obtain those things. Dog training is largely about communication. If a dog does not know what we want and the behavioral expectations we have for the dog in various environments, how can we expect the dog to navigate those environments in a way that is acceptable to us.

The Cleverness of Dogs

I’m often amazed at how clever my dog is. Almost by osmosis, she developed an understanding of dozens (maybe hundreds, I don’t know) of words, and she can pick them out of an English sentence. I’ve seen her use the process of deduction to figure out who I’m talking about when I say “Go give (fill in the blank) a kiss.” Somehow she learned to pick up her water bowl and bring it to me when she’s thirsty; I didn’t teach her that particular behavior, but she certainly figured out that it worked.

And so one might ask: What is the point of training my dog?

Well, first, all dogs don’t seem to be so clever and may never reach a point where they easily adapt to us and our world. And, second, when we only depend on a dog’s osmotic learning, we may get frustrated when that learning doesn’t happen at the pace we think it should.

Formal dog training provides a pathway for the dog to quickly grasp our verbal communication; suddenly the words coming from our mouths mean something concrete. Once that happens, the dog can readily repeat requested behaviors on cue. Formal training, then, teaches behaviors, boundaries and expectations in a way that a dog can quickly comprehend.

The Un-Cleverness of Humans

I’d say that, left to their own devices, dogs will figure out how to get us to do their bidding pretty quickly. We may not like the methods they devise, but devise it they will. Humans, on the other hand, tend to struggle to understand dogs.

There is something about dog-nature that looks at us — a completely different species — and figures us out through observation. However, the human-nature tends to look at a dog and treat it as if it were a human with a codified verbal language system; we treat the dog like another human and get frustrated when the dog doesn’t respond the way a human would.

Any good dog training approach needs to account for both of these truths. We need to learn to understand dogs on their terms, and they need a way of understanding what we want, our boundaries and our expectations of the relationship.

Let osmotic learning take place over the long term, but to get off on the right paw, you need to formally train your dog. As understanding grows in that providential relationship, the bond will become one you will treasure the rest of your life.

As always, if you ever need help with your dog, reach out to us.