Updated: Mar 22
First Published "Who's the Boss" 1996 and in this article 2010 CCC Magazine.
When people get a dog, there are often a few misconceptions around training importance. A few common thoughts that arise include:
- The dog is a dog. It doesn't need any training.
- I've had dogs before; I can handle it.
- I've got a big back yard. It'll be right.
- Why do I need to train it?
This short article outlines some key points around the benefits of training a dog at any age and will clarify points that may sometimes be blurred for new dog owners.
Benefits of Socialisation
Regardless of breed, size, or age, every dog benefits from controlled and safe exposure and socialisation with the outside world. Training your dog, privately or in group training sessions, gives you the ability to provide your dog with this much-needed experience. As your dog socialises and becomes both more intrinsically confident and externally confident, other aspects of your training and home life improve, giving you the ability to handle any situation that arises in the future. Young dogs need to experience different smells, noises, places, people, and the many shapes, sizes and smells of other dogs. The pup soaks up these new experiences like a sponge and then stores them away for future peace of mind.
What a puppy learns between the ages of 8 to 16 weeks forms the basis of its adult life. This is known as the puppy's "Imprint Period". Good and bad habits are formed during this time. The more training and effort you put into your dog at this age, the better your life with your dog will become.
Missing training at this age can cause a whole concoction of issues later. A simple example is not taking the time to socialise your puppy with a vacuum cleaner. This will lead to anxiety every time you decide to vacuum the floors. This anxiety then turns into biting and chewing, digging, nervous urination, etc.
Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks
Older dogs are never too old to be taught.
No matter how good they have been, they can quickly develop bad habits. We, as owners, often underestimate a dog's ability to learn. Just moving house or getting another puppy can upset the dog and mess with the stable lifestyle that they have come to enjoy. If you are not aware of what is going through the dog's mind, then, very soon, you may find your dog has developed a whole set of new habits. Some of which are very much unwanted.
A prevalent behaviour that arises as dogs get older is separation anxiety. If, for example, you have been working from home for years but change jobs and have to leave the house now to go to work, leaving the dog alone, your dog will now become nervous and never leave you alone when you are at home. They may also begin howling, barking, whining, chewing or digging when you leave the house.
This is why it is so important, even if your dog is already years old, to continue training them. Remember, training does not only refer to obedience training. It can include mental stimulation games, agility, tricks, tracking and much more!
Result = Peace
A well trained and understood dog is a joy to own. It becomes an important part of any family. You can take a well-trained dog anywhere you go. It doesn't chew up your plants, bite the children or annoy the neighbours by its barking. A strong bond needs to be formed between dog and owner.
If you continue training throughout the dog's life, then the joy and harmony you will have with your dog will never cease to amaze you and your friends. You, your dog, and your family will live a wonderful life together. Just be firm, consistent, constant, calm and confident. You don't have to yell, be aggressive, cruel, or overly dominant.
Val Bonney (Canine Behavioural Specialist / International Trainer)
Edited by Christian Bonney (Bonnies Trainer and Administrator)