I was reflecting on the year (2018) and the many dog owners I have met and worked with this year and it came to me that most dog owners at some point will say “he is a good dog” or “she is a good dog”.
Fair enough but what l does that actually mean? I don’t think it means as it sounds.
A good dog in a family home would not be the same as a good dog in a police K-9 unit. So the term “good dog” is basically the way people express their positive feelings for their dog at a certain time, I have found.
Very often the dog they are describing as a “good dog” is far from that.
He or she may be lunging at me, pushing the owner around to get attention, will not settle and many other behaviours that do not typically mean he or she is a good dog.
But that doesn’t mean he or she is a bad dog either…
Good or bad is an inaccurate description of most dogs I meet, a better descriptor may be “educated or uneducated or learning” perhaps.
In fact years ago dogs were described as “trained” or untrained. This was later dissected and people were told that training is never done, it’s ongoing etc etc so the term trained has fallen by the way side.
So how do you end up with a good dog?
Well this is actually made tricky by the fact that all dogs are individuals and education is, or should be defined by a few elements.
The dogs temperament
The breeds history
The owners goals
The environment/s the dog will be in
The current level of education the dog is at
The dogs age
And what ever behaviour problems are existing…
And as these are off the top of my head, expect there may be a few more.
If all the above have not been considered and a training program has not been designed to achieve your goals, the chances of ending up with a good dog, lets further call the dog – problem free, obedient, responsive, respectful, happy and meeting the owners needs are very slim.
Don’t believe me? Well given that my training centre is booked out every moment of every day of every year and our rehab kennels are booked out also, and the dogs we work are most often here for behaviour problems, I think evidence is on my side.
But aside from that, how often do you see:
Dogs that will recall in an open environment with distraction when the owner calls every time?
When you go to someone’s home and you knock on the door the dog goes ballistic and barks at the door, with the owner powerless to stop this behaviour in their own home?
Dogs walking at heel on leash vs how many are pulling, over excited and frustrated?
Dogs that are aggressive towards other dogs or other animals or even people?
Most people forget they are responsible for any harm their dog causes but are not in any way in control of their dogs behaviour!
That is a scary place to be if you ask me.
Are these dogs “good dogs”? Bad dogs?
I call them uneducated, untrained.
We seem to have fallen in love with the deeper relationships we have with our dogs, we have welcomed them as part of our family but many have not developed this as far as to take responsibility to effectively educate them to learn how to behave in ways that are socially acceptable.
Teaching them behaviours that will allow them to accompany us to more places and help them develop into well balanced confident dogs seems not that important to many.
If you don’t teach your dog how to be a good dog, how will they know what a good dog is?
I also feel this is not just the dog owners responsibility, it takes a village they say.
I take a lot of clients dogs into public places and am constantly amazed at the people who, probably unconsciously try and get the dog to misbehave.
I put a dog in a down stay and people wander by, smacking their lips, clicking their fingers and cooing at the dog who is being a good dog. Why?
Don’t distract the GOOD dog!
Commend the owner on their dogs work so far!
Then there are those who have the “he’s friendly” mating call which means they usually have no control of their dog and must indulge their dogs every desire.
Regardless of whether you or your dog want to be approached they don’t care.
I was on the beach with my kids and we were building sand castles etc. Rosie Cheeks (our Labrador) was with us being buried and loving it.
I saw a man walking up the beach with his dog, it was off leash and raced over to Rosie Cheeks and stood over her in a dominant or if you prefer, aggressive stance.
Rosie is a very confident but submissive girl who would never start a fight.
As her advocate I picked up the dog by the collar. The owner walked up and said “sorry!”
He took his dog and again said “sorry!”
He repeated it again.
I had not said a word.
He wanted me to say it was ok but it wasn’t. His dog was off leash, it had no recall. It approached my dog with aggressive body posture, we did not ask to be approached.
If a fight broke out it would have been in very close proximity to my young children who could have been hurt, we were well up the beach and not in anyone’s way.
It is this thinking that causes SO many issues.
There are also those that accredit their dogs with the ability to understand regret, remorse and mortality and leave their dogs unsupervised with children who often don’t respect dogs either and then the dog bites to remove the pressure of the child aggravating it.
The dog knows nothing about scars, trauma or anything like it but is now thought to be a bad dog and often killed for being put under pressure it has no ability to deal with.
There are those that video how good their dog is whilst their toddler persecutes the dog by riding it, pulling its ears, it’s tail, poking and prodding at it.
And the equally stupid people that comment “how cute”.
Let’s say the average dogs life is ten years, in my life I have been lucky to get a whole lot longer with my dogs than that, but surely if you are going to live with a dog for ten years plus, dedicating just one year to effective training is not a lot at all.
Our dogs that we love so much these days have no hope if we continue this path.
We are not treating our dogs as equals but superiors. Assuming they need little or no education to function in every situation.
I have owned hundreds of dogs in my life, many were gained to train for another person or dog work related venture but in all of them I never have known two be the exact same.
Sure some had similarities but they also had differences. My Malinois need very different training, management and understanding than say my Labrador’s.
Rosie Cheeks for example is a very motivated girl that has no interest in being in any leadership position. Unburdened with these issues she is happy to follow instruction she has been taught how to and the good choices reinforced.
This makes her an exceptional dog and no trouble at all.
Easy? Well… she had quite a lot of training in her first year, and by the time she was 15 months old she was very well balanced, effectively socialised, responsive, cooperative and motivated to earn reward and motivated to avoid losing it.
Each of these attributes have been developed on top of her excellent genetics and imprinting.
This package of many components is the “good dog”.
Rosie was added to our family for two reasons. This blog will help you understand why I wanted my daughter to have a Black Lab (http://blog.k9pro.com.au/the-family-dog/)
So many people ask me to find them a dog, I wanted to be able to breed dogs to exceed people’s needs and when it comes to working dogs I have that covered with the Malinois.
But when it comes to a pet dog, Rosie Cheeks is the foundation of that program, she will have puppies in 2019.
I invested 2 or so years looking at breeders and their pups before I temperament tested her litter.
She started in training the day she came home and we measured her progress and ability and taught her to be a good dog.
We respected her and ourselves enough to invest that time, and for us she is the perfect dog.
Selecting the right breed for you, selecting the right place to get it from, be it a puppy or a grown dog it matters.
Find a trainer that will help you develop your dog to the dog you need, by whatever means is needed.
Measure your dogs progress against your plan, which you should have.
Invest yourself is the best piece of advice I can give you.
If this seems like a lot of work, I can tell you that it is but only if you don’t want to train your dog.
But if you do want to, it is great fun and so rewarding it will repay you year after year.
Dogs are not without responsibility…
Good dogs are not born, they are made and here is the recipe
Work, consistent rules and boundaries until your dog knows them inside out.
Don’t train your dog until they get it right, train it until they can’t get it wrong.