Twenty years ago this was a simpler question to answer. People had different expectations of their dogs and were willing to invest the time and energy into ensuring their dogs were well-mannered, obedient and often useful.
With the passing of years, things have changed dramatically for dogs in our society and these changes have not always been in the best interests of our dogs.
Recent years have seen a proliferation of trainers who have never seen an off-leash reliable dog much less trained one. There is a growing dependency upon equipment to manage the dog’s behavior rather than a willingness to invest sweat equity in actually training the dog so equipment is unnecessary. The standard response of these trainers, when pressed why their dogs are not trained to off-leash reliability, is that since leash laws make it illegal to have your dog off-leash there is no point in such training. This attitude does a great disservice both to dogs as well as to owners who hire trainers for assistance in training their dogs. The simple fact is that relying upon equipment to manage a dog is potentially dangerous – for the dog, for the owner and for the public. Equipment fails – collars break, leashes are dropped – and owners who do not have control over their dog sans equipment are risking their dog’s safety and perhaps even life in those situations.
A previous article touched on goals in training. It is important that you have specific and concrete goals (expectations) for your dog’s behavior. When an owner sees dogs owned by trainers being managed with equipment it is difficult, if not impossible, for that owner to understand that it is a reasonable expectation for their dog to achieve off-leash reliability regardless of breed. Therefore, when selecting a trainer or obedience instructor, look first to their dog. Is their dog well-mannered and obedient? Is the dog one you would be happy living with? If the answers to those questions are “no” continue your quest for a trainer or instructor. Don’t allow someone else to sell you and your dog short by convincing you that it isn’t necessary to train to off-leash reliability. Your dog’s life may depend upon it.
For more information: The National Association of Dog Obedience Instructors; ABC Dog Training LLC