One of the first questions I ask any of my friends when they announce they're getting a dog is, "Have you decided where to go for training?"
Being a dog trainer, it's probably pretty obvious that I'd be asking that right off the bat. But, I truly feel training with your dog or puppy is one of the most important aspects of dog guardianship - right up there with providing a home and food.
When I talk about dog training, though, I'm not just talking about teaching your dog the basic behaviors of dog manners. The definition of dog training is expanding to include so much more that you'd be pretty hard-pressed to find a dog training class for your SideKick that doesn't include some or all of the following as part of the dog training curriculum:
Learning some form of dog sports
Providing adequate socialization
Relationship-building exercises and activities
Encouraging and teaching fear-free veterinary visits
I could go into detail about how each of those items above have their own, individual benefits; but, when talking about dog training as a whole, why should we care about it?
What do our SideKicks get out of dog training?
1) Training teaches life skills:
Your dog isn't born knowing how to live in a human world; we need to teach our SideKicks how to cope with the unique pressures that come with living in a home. We can do this by teaching basic dog manners and by providing mental enrichment and physical exercise to prevent anxiety, stress, and the "problem" behaviors that go along with those.
2) Training prevents "problem" behaviors and other behavioral issues:
The more time you invest in teaching your dog how to successfully navigate the human world, the more likely it is you will be able to avoid problem behaviors that come from a lack of understanding. Some behaviors that may be totally normal to a dog just aren't suitable in our human world; understanding of that comes with time and training. Other behavior issues can be prevented or treated using the same training techniques.
3) It's a relationship-builder:
Increasingly, dog training is being used to promote a happy, healthy, and harmonious relationship between dogs and dog guardians. Learning more about how your dog learns and utilizing that knowledge makes training more fun and interesting for your dog. Positive reinforcement, specifically, which rewards and motivates, breeds* a relationship of mutual trust and respect.
4) Training inspires confidence:
Giving your dog the opportunity to overcome even small challenges on a regular basis exercises their problem-solving skills and, if successful, builds their confidence. A confident dog is more willing to take on unfamiliar situations and is less likely to see new places, sounds, people, and other dogs as scary.
5) You can do more with a trained dog:
A dog with manners and predictable responses to familiar or unfamiliar situations can join in on the fun when guests comes over, accompany the family to the kids’ sports games, visit friends and relatives, go for hikes, swims, and everything else the family does together. You're also able to participate with your dog in a wide variety of activities and dog sports with your dog!
So, the answer to the question in the title of this blog is fairly simple:
The benefits far outweigh the costs!
*No pun intended....Ok, yeah, actually - it was intended.