After our recent blog regarding pet manners, you may be under the impression that we here at FiXiT think that training our dogs is unnecessary. To be entirely truthful, we would love it if all dogs behaved at all times. If puppies came out of their mother properly socialized, potty trained, responsive to commands, and otherwise well mannered, we would be thrilled. Unfortunately, we have yet to see this actually take place and and we are willing to bet that you haven’t seen it either.
So if our dogs are not born trained, it thus stands to reason that we will need to train them ourselves. Of course, their mother and litter mates will help them learn the basics like how to eat, how to go to the bathroom, that they need to drink, and so on. They will not, however, teach them how to eat politely, where to go to the bathroom, what not to drink, and so forth. If you purchase a dog from a licensed breeder, they may already be relatively trained when you get them, but if you rescue an animal or adopt one from an accidental litter, the onus of training will definitely be on you.
Now, perhaps you have trained a dog successfully. Maybe you have trained several. Possibly if you are perplexed as to why other dog owners seem to struggle so much; you may even be in a position where you are struggling despite past success. You may be surprised at the myriad of reasons why some dogs aren’t as polite and the number of possibilities that may be able to help.
Consider potential reasons for a dog to be poorly trained:
The dog may be very young – young puppies often lack the physical and sometimes mental capacity to control themselves or learn complex patterns
The dog may be old – while older dogs can sometimes learn new tricks, a dog that is older than you expect may have trouble controlling their bathroom functions and may not be able to hear your commands
The dog may suffer from some disability – dogs with impaired vision, smell, hearing, or taste may be more challenging to train or may not recognize what you expect from them
The dog may be sick – a dog with an acute illness may lack self control or may not respond to commands; a dog with a chronic or progressive illness may lack control over their body as well
If your dog has been difficult to train and does not fit any of these categories, congratulations! Your dog is trainable. In point of fact, if your dog fits one of these categories, they may still be trainable, just in a different way or to a different extent. What is likely happening is that you are not properly educated on how to train a dog or how to train one with one of these challenges. Certain breeds are more challenging to train as well. It may be a lack of knowledge (which is perfectly understandable and fixable), a lack of consistency (which is extremely important), or some kind of an X-factor that is interfering with your training.
So what can you do?
Identify the problem. If you’re concerned that your dog may have a disability or illness, take them to the vet and get a professional opinion. Otherwise, try to identify what is happening in your life or in your dog’s experience to pinpoint the particular challenge you are having.
Seek advice. If your dog is sick, a vet will advise you. If your dog has a disability, your vet may be able to point you in the right direction to learn how to modify your training. Professional dog trainers or even your local pet store may be able to point you in the right direction whether that is towards self help items (such as books), classes, or one-on-one training.
Make training a priority. You may have a very busy schedule, have mobility or disability issues, have an inconsistent schedule, or other considerations. We understand. Identify your priorities for dog training (such as potty training or aggression issues) and work on those consistently. Once you have determined at what is most important, you can tackle other training issues later.
Lastly, love your dog. This isn’t really going to necessarily help you train your dog any better. But it will help you be patient, loving, and encouraging and your dog deserves that – after all, they are usually working just as hard as you are to become trained, even when it doesn’t feel like it.