Dog training can be defined in a very simple way. In a nutshell– it’s praising or rewarding your dog when he does something you like and correcting him when he does something you don’t like. I think of obedience training primarily as two things.
First, it is establishing and promoting a proper relationship between you and your dog. And second, a way of communicating so that your dog understands your commands and those same commands have meaning.
Many people think of obedience training as merely teaching your dog certain behaviors (i.e. sit, lay down). However, obedience training goes far beyond mere conditioned responses. Like the name implies, it is instructing your dog how to be obedient. Just like young children, dogs need to be taught how to live in our society and relate to others in an acceptable manner.
There are many who believe that training a dog will somehow break the dog’s “natural” spirit, and that if a dog isn’t allowed to act out every impulse then he is somehow being deprived. However, dog training (intelligent dog training that is), is exactly the opposite. By employing methods which work in harmony with your dog’s natural drives and instincts, you will be enhancing his personality and providing parameters and rules within which he can thrive and be happy.
Anytime you are with your dog, he should be obedient to you. There is no such thing as a dog which is trained, but won’t hold a down-stay/sit-stay/come-when-called in the presence of certain distractions. Such a dog is at best on his way to being trained. What this means is that you can expect your dog to respect you, respond to you and want to please you at all times, regardless of whether he is hungry, tired, or more interested in chasing the neighbors cat! Your standards should be very demanding, so demanding in fact that ultimately your dog should be no type of nuisance whatsoever.
When your dog ceases to be a pest, he begins to be a pet. And when he begins to be a pet, he begins to be a true friend. As with any healthy friendship, you must begin developing a proper relationship with your dog. But in order to do this, it is necessary to first understand what type of friend you’re dealing with, and how this friend relates to you. Just as in marriage, it’s not only what type of relationship you want to have, but also what type of relationship your significant other (be it wife or canine) is capable of having with you.