Grocery-Store List Syndrome

By Lynn –

I’m not at all opposed to specific lists. I find them helpful in some ways, such as what to buy at the store or what chores I have to do around the house, and then there’s some situations where they are simply not applicable. Take driving as one example.

My basic list of requirements for my car is that it do what I want when I ask and play music for me while doing so. My responsibilities toward achieving that end include supplying it with petrol, maintaining a clean exterior and interior, and keeping an ear out for any odd noises. I’m obviously not the most judicious car owner out there, but it works and when something obvious goes wrong, it’s enough to get it fixed and maybe get a tip on what else might be wrong. (Yes, I go to mechanics with whom I have a family history. I trust them completely and so far, they have not yet pulled the Ignorant Woman treatment on me, doG love ’em.)

However, someone else’s list of car requirements might be more similar to how my list of dog training exercises works out. They might expect that their car runs only this way, have this exact amount of fluid of any type, make this type of noise when this pedal/button is pressed, and check the engine religiously to make sure that anything potentially damaging is fixed before it starts. While my car runs just fine and does the job I need it to do, I’m sure their cars receive much better overall maintenance care than mine. I’d even venture to say that they run better!

In dog training, most owners have a specific list of things that they want their dog to do, mostly along the lines of this little gag gift (I recommend zooming in to see all the details!). A majority of people have only 4 basic requests: they don’t want to hear nuisance barking, the dog needs to not pull on the leash, stay in one place when told to, and it needs to come when called the first time.

Unfortunately, just like some people are better car owners than I, it’s extremely difficult to teach some commands while neglecting others.

The whole point of training is to build the foundation of respect and trust between an owner and a dog, and as mentioned in a previous blog, this two concepts are the very foundation of a working relationship. Of course, it’s easy to skip all the boring stuff like Sit and Down, but how else are you going to teach the dog to stay in one place? Of course “Heel,” to some people, can seem a bit stuffy and over-the-top, but how else are you going to teach a dog how to walk on a loose leash without first teaching it the basic concept of focus before freedom? So many people just want to jump to the recall, but how else are you going to convince your dog that your commands are to be respected without first instilling in him a sense of respect through the more “boring” commands?

One cannot just pick and choose which parts of an obedience regimene are to be fulfilled when training a dog. It’s either all or nothing. When finished with any training program, it should be expected that, within a reasonable amount of time and with some effort put towards polishing and proofing commands, that dog will successfully be able to perform a basic AKC Novice routine without any trouble. To get to this point, the dog has to show that it respects and trusts its handler to give fair direction, and the handler must respect and trust the dog to be obedient.

I’d be comfortable in saying that most average family pet owners are just fine with Novice-level training being the highest they go with their pet. It’s not a problem to make them aware of the multitudes of different dog activities out there that require some basic foundation obedience: competition obedience, Rally, and even agility or Flyball, but it’s safe to say that, unless they have some spare time on their hands to dedicate to further training, most will be perfectly satisfied, even tickled, with the newfound relationship they gained with their pet through basic obedience training. Letting them go further is most certainly an option so that the dog does not stagnate or become bored with just the same ol’ stuff, but it’s safe to say that dumbbell work or scent discrimination might be beyond the scope of what some people have the time or the dedications to teach their dogs.

Either way, it’s amazing how, once people understand all that goes into obedience training, they’re amazed at the opportunities that open up for them. After all, they only asked for (an average of) 4 things be taught to their dog. Now, their dog knows so much more, and the owner’s eyes are opened as to what exactly their pet is capable of.

Along with this admission comes the opportunity to take the dog more places, meet more people, and be a good ambassador for both responsible dog owners and whatever breed your dog represents.

That’s something worth working for, isn’t it?