Question: Do you want a dog that you can trust in every situation? One that won’t pull you down the street, chase after cars, or attack other dogs?
Of course you do! And the “secret” is not in finding the right breed. It’s in achieving what we call “real world obedience.” Every dog can attain it, and your life with your pet will become infinitely more enjoyable when you get there.
What is it?
In order to own a dog you can take anywhere and trust at all times you need two things, which we will call (1) dog tricks, and (2) dog obedience.
Dog tricks, in this context, are the fun behaviors you ask of your dog that he wants to do. For example, when you tell your dog to give you a high-five, then give him a treat for the right response, that’s a trick. It’s like asking a child to make herself some ice cream before she’s allowed to play with her friends. There’s no resistance, and everyone is happy. These types of behaviors are taught almost exclusively through positive reinforcement. Not only do they teach your dog something, but he also learns to listen to you.
Dog tricks have their limit. The dog who only knows tricks develops selective hearing. He only listens when it’s convenient and lacks the obedience to always do as asked.
Dog obedience is not the opposite of dog tricks. In fact, it relies on the actions your dog has already learned. Obedience should be fun for your dog when introduced in the right way. However, obedience means following the owner’s command even when the dog doesn’t want to. It’s like if we take that same little girl who wants to play with her friends but tell her she has to do her chores (like washing the dishes, taking out the trash, etc.) before she’s allowed to leave. This introduces discipline and rules. She still gets to do what she wants, but the task to get there may not be as much fun as before.
Think about youth sports. When kids are younger, the games are not about winning. The children are encouraged to have fun and learn because, if it’s not fun, they won’t want to keep playing. However, as they get older, the differences in skill level become apparent. The games get competitive and, if they want to win, they have to work hard and push themselves, even when it’s not fun. A dog that possesses true real world obedience is like a professional athlete. A tremendous amount of work went into getting him there, but the results speak for themselves.
Why do we need it?
Most people agree that a dog needs to be trained. It’s one of the first things a parent will tell the child begging for a puppy. But why must a dog be trained? Is it for our own amusement? Is it so we can show off to our friends all the cool things he can do? No, it’s for much more practical reasons – to survive and thrive. And the most surefire way to accomplish this goal is through teaching real world obedience.
Training is like studying. It takes deliberate effort and a great deal of time in order to ace a test. Unless the test is exceedingly simple, you can’t expect to even pass without studying. Yet, we see people fail tests with their dogs all the time. They find themselves apologizing for their dog’s behavior when they haven’t even taught him the correct way to behave. A lot of people seem to think we have a contract with dogs: if we pet them, play with them, and feed them, they should automatically do what we want. But that’s not how our relationship with them works. It takes consistent leadership and lots of “studying” in order for your dog to pass the “tests” of everyday life.
The rambunctious dog that goes around stealing food from the counter, the one that runs away as soon as you open the door, the one that chews everything in sight, these are examples of dogs with permissive owners. They have been allowed to make their own choices with little or no input from the humans around them.
Sometimes, however, there are exceptions. Some dogs are naturally well behaved despite never receiving much guidance. They have very few problems, but this can actually be a negative. When you have such a dog, you’re more inclined to let him do his own thing. Which is fine until the dog makes a bad decision over which you have no influence. You have the illusion that the dog will listen to you under all circumstances, but you have never practiced for or tested your theory.
And think about it – what happens in the real world? Nothing ever goes exactly according to the plan. You need to be flexible and able to depend on others. If your dog is not reliable in everyday situations, he’s not able to share in a large chunk of your life. When you achieve real world obedience with your dog, not only does your relationship with him improve, but you also open him up to a much higher level of freedom.
How should you get started?
Attaining real world obedience with your dog starts now, and the first step is to increase your relevance in the relationship. So many issues are the byproducts of your dog’s mistrust in you or his lack of respect for you. By improving your position in his mind, you’ll start to see a lot of your dog’s other problems disappear naturally. If you read the blog linked above, you’ll see how we go about earning it.
We have free resources to help you along the journey on social media and our website. We make sure we teach our clients’ dogs everything they need to know to succeed in their daily lives, and you can see examples of these lessons on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Periscope under the company name.
Remember, dogs do not magically know the right way to behave. It’s up to you to help your dog become savvy in the ways of the world. And if you’re willing to put in the work to get there, you’ll discover that you’ve sculpted a Dream Come True K9.