But Can He Read War And Peace?
I am a dog trainer, so it is common for me to get calls from dog owners who are having problems with their dogs. These can range from simple issues like dogs who are overly enthusiastic greeters to more severe problems like leash aggression. I usually ask people if they have done any training with the dog and the answer is often, “Yes, we took him to puppy class. But now he is (insert bad behavior here).”
So, if so many dogs who went to puppy class still end up with problem behaviors, what is wrong with puppy classes? Nothing, puppy classes, or any 6 week training classes are a great start in training your dog. But, they are just that, a great ‘start’. Just like Kindergarten is a great start for your child.
We would never think of sending a child to Kindergarten for several weeks and then turning them loose, thinking that they are trained. We understand that human learning is a process that takes time and consistency. We understand that some concepts take more time to learn and that learning continues throughout our lives.
But, for some reason, many people think that after taking their dog to a 6 week class, and possibly not doing the homework themselves, that the dog should be trained and that they are done training. And, if after all that training the dog misbehaves, he is being stubborn, willful, or bad.
What’s the answer? I suggest that people think about training their dog like teaching a child to read. While very young children can learn the alphabet quickly, there are a lot of steps between recognizing letters and reading War And Peace. And there are a lot of steps between teaching a puppy to come on a six foot leash in a confined area (the alphabet), and having a dog who will come when called from 50 yards away in the presence of deer (War and Peace).
Think of training as an ongoing process for at least the first year of your dog’s life. I often suggest that people take a puppy class, then another class in a few months, then another a few months after that. This way, they can be training through several developmental phases and get help with any issues that these maturing phases can bring. They can hone their dog’s skills in the behaviors that are most important to them. If they really love to walk or hike with their dog, they can build leash walking skills. If they have a place where the dog can be off leash safely, they can build that recall. Not every dog needs to be trained to the War And Peace level. But if you expect it, then you need to realize that it will not happen in 6 weeks.