In response to When Did Balance Become a Dirty Word?, I offer this. I don’t think positive-only training is the reason why dog training has suffered as of late. I don’t think it’s the reason we see so much canine misbehavior either. I think the problem isn’t the training methodologies employed but the mentality of the dog-owning public. Everyone wants it now and with as little effort as possible. Many are also unwilling to put forth any rules for their dogs and most people just can’t find the time to train them.
If you watch television often enough, you’re bound to see a commercial for a new diet pill. “Eat whatever you like, sit on your lazy butt all day and still lose weight!” Sure, you could eat right and exercise to lose the weight but why do that if you can get the same results without any effort at all? Our society has become fixated on quick results with minimal effort. It’s leaked into every aspect of our lives including dog training. I don’t care what method of training you employ: it takes work. There is no quick trip to the end result. You have to take the time to work with your dog daily to reinforce what it is you want from him. Don’t, and his behavior will suffer.
There are also people would either can’t or won’t put forth rules for their dogs. They don’t care if Fifi drags them down the block nor do they care when Butch puts his muddy paws up on Aunt Sophie when she comes over to visit. Some view their dogs as too fragile to have rules and they permit such abhorrent behavior as snarling and snapping at guests. Many people find this humorous especially with little dogs. You can’t help those who don’t want to admit their dog has a problem.
Time is another problem. There simply isn’t enough of it these days. I train fairly diligently with my dogs and even I find myself crunched for time. We’re all trying to balance 40+ hour workweeks, time with our families, down time to relax, sports and other activities. It’s hard to find time to train the dog especially if you can’t even find a moment to spend doing something for yourself!
Some of it is ignorance. People don’t realize that dogs are not trained after a 6 week course. You wouldn’t expect a child to be a concert pianist after several introductory lessons but we seem to just expect our dogs to know how to behave. It doesn’t work that way. Training is a life-long process and, if you expect any reliability, you have to train outside of the classroom as well.
We also have to remember that we live very different lives now than we did in the past. Dogs are not permitted to roam freely as it is unsafe for them to do so. They live less natural lives than they used to. Many dogs never see anything beyond their backyards and live socially isolated lives. Our lives are more hectic and we spend more time indoors with our computers and televisions rather than being outside with our dogs. There are more dogs than ever in smaller spaces than before. Life is just as increasingly stressful for them as it is for us!
These reasons are many of the same reasons there are so many dogs in shelters today. People get dogs and don’t realize how much time and effort is required to properly care for and train them. When they grow tired of the antics, the dog is sent away. They simply don’t have the time to work with the dog to train him properly to fit in to human society. People just seem to expect dogs to mesh with their lives instantly without any effort on their part. It doesn’t work that way.
No matter the methods used, if you won’t take the time to train your dog, he won’t be trained. His behaviors won’t be reliable. He’ll do what feels good and what works for him because that’s what dogs do. Don’t blame the method. Blame yourself for not putting forth the time and effort required to have a well-trained, well-behaved dog.