Training a dog.
There are all kinds of methods for training a dog, and finding one that fits you, your dog, and your lifestyle is a balancing act that can take some work to resolve.
Dogs fill all kinds of roles in our lives. From working dogs that herd, do search and rescue, or retrieve, to dogs that being a fashion accessory is the highlight of the day, they all need different levels of training. How much and what kind of training is a decision best made early, because while it is possible to teach an old dog new trick, its a lot easier to mold a young dog's behaviour before they get bad habits.
The vast majority of dogs are household pets, that furry family member that accompanies us on or encourages us to go for walks. Other than barking when the flyer delivery guy is on the porch, they don't have a lot of responsibility. Simple house training, basic leash training and keeping them from chewing stuff they aren't supposed to is about all they need to know. Most dogs can pick those basics up without any professional help.
Working dogs, on the other hand, can fill a pet role when off duty, but on duty training they require can consist of months of rigorous education at the hands of a professional trainer. Whether it is training to recognize seizures, or act as a seeing eye dog for a blind companion, or to find lost children, these noble animals can put in hundreds of hours of training. It doesn't make them less of a pet dog, and once the vest comes off, they can be just as goofy as any other dog. But it is important to give them respect while they are working, just as we would like when we are on the job.
Last week, Stitch, our adorable little goofball of a French Bulldog, went to her first handling class. She has a very solid pedigree, is CKC registered, and as such, could go into shows. We are deciding whether that is something that we want to do, as it can be a fun pastime. On the downside, there are a lot of strong personalities in the show circles that can be intimidating, and while some groups are great fun, others are not. So, on a personal level, we have some concern which way we want to go with this. Just in case, it doesn't hurt to start her training now. An added plus, it is the social time for her with other dogs in a controlled environment, which is never a bad thing.
Handling classes help train the dog to react to the handlers commands, focusing on the handler in spite of other stimuli. A dog show is full of distractions, and the unaltered nature of the animals (not spay/neutered) adds to that as well. A handler needs to have full control over the show dog at all times, to properly display the dog for judging. It can take a lot of work, but in the long run, it adds a level of training that can help in the dogs everyday life as well.
An investment in training, from something as simple as "puppy class" to something as elaborate as show handling can make your pet a better behaved animal. It is amazing how a handful of hours can translate into a lifetime of a better behaved companion.