One of the hardest parts about working with dogs and their people is breaking the news to an owner that their dog might not be capable of certain goals they desire. Learning to work with the dog that is in front of you is a huge part of having a successful training relationship with your dog.
Too often, I have owners come in with dogs expressing goals that do not match the dog that they have. Protection and sport work are a prime example of this. When someone comes in with a dog they want to do a specific activity with, and the dog does not have a natural affinity for the work or desire to learn it, it can be a painful reality check for an owner. Not every dog was bred for every activity, and while the activity might be able to be trained for that dog, it doesn’t mean they will like it, and it will take the joy out of something that really is meant to be fun. It is a harsh story, but I had a client who came in with a Belgian Malinois, convinced they wanted to do bite work with their dog.
When I expressed to them that their dog was probably not the right temperament for that, they stormed out on me. After a year, they came back to me, desperate, because they went to another trainer who said they could get the drive out of their dog. Instead of building the work, they heavily corrected the dog for not biting with a remote collar until the dog bit the bite sleeve. The result was a dog that was constantly in fear and feeling like he had to fight for his life in order to not experience the pain of the correction they felt during that time. My heart was broken.
This dog was amazing, just not a prospect for that specific task. After tons of work and rebuilding trust and confidence, we discovered the dog had a fantastic affinity for dock diving, and has since excelled in that work, and his owner is thrilled to have an activity they can enjoy together.
“…his owner is thrilled to have an activity they can enjoy together.”
Every dog has a different spirit and soul. Their unique personality is what we love about our dogs. If there is a specific activity you want to do with your dog, contacting a breeder who has successfully produced dogs that excel in that area can be crucial to success. Otherwise, be open to your dog’s individual potential. Explore with your dog – learn their likes, dislikes, strengths, and weaknesses. Contact a trainer and then learn how to capitalize on the things that make your dog who they are – it will make your relationship that much stronger and your training that much more fun!
If you enjoyed this post, you should read The Road To Quentin: A Personal Story here.
What training have you done for your dog that seems specific to their personality? Share below!
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