Why You Should Not Train Your Dog

Why You Should Not Train Your Dog

Close up of a brindle and white cross breed dog holding a colourful ball in their mouth

There is often a massive amount of social pressure for you to get your dog to behave in a certain way.  They should greet strangers gently and calmly.  They should interact with other dogs respectfully and quietly.  They should not be fearful of noises and should feel comfortable and confident, regardless of their situation.  

But what if this is not how things are?

What if in reality, your dog barks at other dogs they meet in the street?  What if they are nervous around new people and snap if a stranger tries to stroke them? What if they prefer to sleep in their own bed and not join you on the sofa? Or even the opposite, perhaps you want them to sleep on their own and they would rather be by your side?

Golden Labrador dog asleep on their bed in front of an open fire

People often become almost obsessed with getting their dog to fit into these socially acceptable 'norms.'  But this raises the question, who are you doing this for?  Do you want your dog to fit into these parameters for yourself? For other people? Or for your dog themselves? 

I can say with some certainty that the latter option is unfortunately rarely considered.  If you truly considered your dog's needs in these scenarios, I doubt that you would want to try and train these things in or out of them at all.  You would instead become more accepting of their own personality traits and adjust to accommodate them more.

Training is by no means a bad thing - far from it.  In fact, a well trained dog often has a great deal more freedom than a dog with little to no training at all.  So before you throw training out of the window totally, this is not the overall aim of this blog.  Sharing a mutually trusting partnership with your dog, sets to benefit both of you greatly.  But you should never try and force your dog into a mould that is not made for them. 

Close up of a red merle Border Collie puppy giving a high five to a person who is out of shot

Sharing my life with a reactive dog highlights this even more so.  I know, understand and respect Delta's limits and triggers and therefore do my best to help her feel safe and secure by avoiding potentially stressful situations for her.  I am completely aware of how to socialise a puppy well and prepare them for things they may encounter in later life.  I have also successfully completed this process with numerous adult rescue dogs too, who have gone on to lead very happy, well-adjusted lives.  However, despite me possessing all the skills and knowledge required to help a dog in this way, Delta is still massively uncomfortable around other dogs, some strangers and surprising situations.  

Now, I could just keep trying to train my way out of this, by continually exposing Delta to the things she finds most difficult.  Or I could accept the fact that she finds these things traumatising and anxiety filled and instead attempt to avoid them in the future.  There comes a point when you have to accept that you cannot keep doing the same thing over and over again, and expect a different result.  

Tan coloured Boxer dog digging in a field with poppies in

We must also remember that our dogs are actually dogs, not mini humans, so they behave in different ways.  Behaviours which we as humans may deem as inappropriate, are actually completely natural and acceptable for our dogs.  By us continually trying to suppress these innate behaviours or trying to train our dogs to do things which are unnatural to them, this is likely to cause them stress in the long term.  If our dogs are simply not allowed to do 'dog things' such as dig, bark, run and chew it will increase their frustrations which can lead to other behavioural issues further down the line.  

In the same way we do not try and train anxiety out of humans, we instead give them the tools to manage their anxiety and feelings in a more successful way.  This should be the same for our dogs.  Our concentration should be focused more on how to accept our dogs for who they are, not trying to train them into something else to suit our own needs and social pressure. 

Close up of a white and tan crossbreed dog's face looking happy with their eyes closed, lay on their back on pink flowers and grass

By allowing our dogs to simply be their true selves, this is a recipe for a happier dog, which should surely be our ultimate aim for them? 

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