How Dog Training Works: 7 Popular Misconceptions

July 12, 2020
Mary Simon
How Dog Training Works: 7 Popular Misconceptions

1. The trainer will do all the work of dog training.

Ah, if only. For a board and train or day training situation, the trainer may indeed do most of the heavy lifting. However, once your pup is home, the training isn’t finished. You will need to continue training your dog if you want those behaviors to be maintained.

For private lessons or group classes, the trainer will largely be training you to train your dog. It will be your responsibility to do all the homework exercises with your dog.

2. Once the training is over, the dog stays trained.

Sorry, but this is unfortunately not the case. A person who learns a foreign language will get rusty over time if they don’t use that language. Likewise, dog training will degrade over time if it isn’t used.

Many people spend thousands of dollars on training only to discover later on that their dog has reverted to old behaviors. For training to really stick, a dog needs to regularly practice those learned behaviors.

3. Once problem behaviors have gone away, they won’t come back.

Problem behaviors may or may not resurface over time. However, it is important to recognize that these issues are often the product of a dog’s environment.

A dog may not exhibit certain behaviors while staying with a trainer because the dog’s needs are being met. A dog’s needs for companionship, physical exercise, instinctual fulfillment, and mental stimulation must also be met in the home.

A high degree of structure is good for canine mental health (and human mental health, for that matter). This is particularly true if a dog is anxious. When a dog returns to a chaotic home in which his or her basic needs aren’t being met, it is only natural that behavior issues might return.

4. Only dogs with severe behavior problems need dog training.

That’s similar to how I felt when I first took a dog to training. But how wrong I was! Think about it: you have invited an animal of a totally different species to live in your home with you.

You speak two completely different languages, and have vastly different needs and desires from one another. You want to be happy, but you also want this other creature to be happy. Sometimes, those two things seem to be mutually exclusive.

Do you really understand why your dog does what it does? How well are you able to read your dog’s nonverbal cues? A good dog trainer will help you understand how to live a better life with your dog.

When a dog is well-trained, it is easier for both of you to have your needs met. It is also more likely that neither one of you will drive the other crazy.

5. If my dog has behavior problems, I have failed my dog.

Actually, the saying “It’s all in how you raise them” simply isn’t true. Certainly, the way you raise a dog has a huge influence on how your dog turns out. But there are a lot of ways dogs can end up with issues.

For starters, one can’t ignore the influence of genetics. Just as a shy human parent can end up with a shy child, your dog’s behavior is influenced by the genes of his or her ancestors. In fact, genes often account for a surprising proportion of the behaviors your dog exhibits.

Have you ever noticed how police K9s tend to be a few breeds in particular? That’s genetics at work. Those dogs have been carefully bred over many years, and they have certain traits that make them ideal for their jobs.

Thus, although no one does everything right when raising a dog, certain problems are more heavily influenced by genetics than others.

6. I shouldn’t put my dog through that.

In days gone by, this sentiment would certainly have been understandable. Old school training was all about results for the human, with little attention paid to the internal state of the dog.

There are still plenty of trainers like that out there, who produce emotionally “flat,” calm-seeming dogs. These dogs will do whatever is asked of them in order to avoid being harshly punished.

However, there are also lots of good dog trainers these days- people who know that training should be as enjoyable and fair to a dog as possible. These trainers care about how a dog feels during and after training. They also understand that the most effective training methods are those that build up a dog’s confidence.

7. I should just train my own dog.

Yes, you could, but dog training is a lot more complicated than you might think, and there are many ways to do it wrong. There’s a whole science to it.

A good dog trainer understands operant and classical conditioning, dog motivation, dog body language and behavior, how dogs learn, and genetic contributions to behaviors within breeds.

How much time do you have to devote to learning a whole new subject? Many people bring their dogs to dog trainers only after a bit of outdated internet advice has left their poor pup even worse off than before. Don’t let that be you. Reach out to someone who has made dog training their life’s work.

A good dog trainer can help you transform your relationship with your dog, and will make your life with your pup so much richer than you could have imagined. So what are you waiting for? Begin the journey, and give us a call today!

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