Obedient vs. well behaved
“Oh, yes! He can shake, sit up, roll over, hold a treat on his nose, bark on command, and catch a frisbee!”
We’ve all heard something like that, right? Dogs who have been trained to do cool tricks. And we’ve seen K-9 police dogs who are trained to sniff out drugs or explosives, apprehend fugitives, scale walls and many other useful tasks. Those are all examples of well-trained and obedient dogs, and whether you’re teaching your dog obedience, fun tricks or useful tracking & detection skills, training is great for both you and your dog. Training helps strengthen the bond of trust and respect between you and your dog, it reinforces the Leader-Follower relationship by you (the Leader) giving commands and your dog (the Follower) obeying those commands, and it’s an excellent mental and physical workout for your dog.
But is that same obedient and highly-trained dog also well-behaved? In other words, what does he do in between commands? When he’s free to do whatever he wants, is he chewing up a shoe or digging up the garden? Is he at the front window barking at the slightest movement outside? Is he counter-surfing for food that was left out? Or is he laying quietly on his bed? When walking past another dog, does he pull on the leash and lunge and bark? Or does he politely and quietly meet other dogs and people? That’s the difference between an obedient dog and a well-behaved dog: self control. Self control is the same for dogs and people: the ability to regulate one’s own behavior and impulses. For example, when your child is at a friend’s house, is she well-mannered? Does she say “Please” and “Thank you”? Does she pick up after herself? After a meal, does she offer to help with the dishes? We teach our children self control as a part of good behavior, and our dogs can learn it, too.
So for many dog owners, there’s still more work to be done: the task of teaching your dog self control. We call it Behavior Conditioning. It’s teaching him to make good choices when you allow him the freedom to choose. Some examples of a dog exercising self control are: refraining from nabbing a piece of food off the floor, staying within the confines of the front yard without any physical barrier, not bolting out an open door, not jumping up on people to greet them, avoiding counter-surfing, not chasing squirrels, meeting new dogs calmly and quietly, and bite inhibition. This ability to demonstate self control is one of the most important things you can teach your dog; it results in a well-mannered and predictable dog and that benefits us all.
And like any type of training, Behavior Conditioning doesn’t happen overnight. It involves your time and effort. It involves understanding how dogs communicate and ‘Knowing Your Dog’. It involves building a natural bond with your dog through Leadership and Exercise, Trust and Respect—all concepts which dogs instinctively know. This is the core of our philosophy at Good Dog Workshop and it creates the harmony that allows people to achieve the most enjoyable and beneficial relationship with their dogs.