How to train the ‘perfect’ dog

September 12, 2014 at 10:51 am

I have to level with you … I’m not entirely sure what the word ‘perfect’ even means!

Perfection is subjective and what it is to one person, it may be the opposite to another. Dog training is no different. To some trainers a perfect dog is compliant 24 hours a day, seven days a week. For others, a dog who looks beautiful and heels in a show ring is the epitome of a perfect dog. To me ‘perfection’ is a word that sets dogs and people up to fail; trying to attain something that ultimately is unreachable. Dogs who continuously fail, lose motivation, confidence and can become anxious and frustrated. So can people. Why bother doing the right thing, if you not only can’t achieve it, but you don’t even know what it is?

I would much prefer to see people partner with their dogs and build a relationship built on mutual trust and respect. Everyone has their quirks. Chester is not perfect, nor am I, but his little habits and occasional tests of my leadership are what makes a fulfilling and dynamic relationship possible.

Let’s throw out the concept of perfection and re-title this article: ‘How to train a healthy and fulfilled dog’. I did a phone interview this morning and talked about things like energy, assertiveness, leadership, trust and respect. These important aspects of our relationships make for a happy and fulfilled canine, but how do we make these concepts tangible so that people can apply them to their relationships? To make these more tangible, I have outlined some ideas on how to achieve mutual health and fulfillment.

Know what you want from your dog and as a family, decide consistently on these expectations. Don’t ever stray from these as you become inconsistent and confusing.

For example. Is your dog allowed to eat from the table? If not, be consistent about that.

Learn what your dog wants from you. Listen to them, watch their body language and show them they can trust and respect you.

For example, if your dog is choosing to sit and wait patiently at the back door, let them in! Prove you are respecting their good choice and are giving them what they want.

Provide ample mental and physical stimulation.

Use the food bowl a lot less and instead, use their daily intake as several treats for their hard work throughout the day/night. For example, on your walk, have some of their dinner in your pocket that is given to them when they walk calmly past that fence fighting dog on the corner.

Play! Engage in positive interaction often. Whether that is throwing the ball, a quick game of tug, a new trick or a cuddle. Dogs need to feel like an important part of your family. Without a bond, there is no reason to work for you, or follow your leadership.

Implementing these suggestions will help you and your dog live a healthy and fulfilled life together. It takes commitment, time and sacrifice, but it gives back a friendship unlike any other. If you are considering bringing a new dog into your family, I suggest you read my article ‘Is Rescue for you?’. If you are adopting a puppy from a breeder, remember this: training is an ongoing learning experience for you and your dog each and every day. It never stops, as every interaction you have with your dog is an opportunity for them to learn something new. What they learn from you will be a reflection your training and leadership.