Why Obedience Training Doesn’t Work
Written by trainer Emily Pennington
Does your dog know all the obedience commands and yet still doesn't LISTEN to you?
They love to bark any time someone comes to the door.
They jump on you and your guests, they destroy anything left in reach.
They start to become aggressive or reactive to other people or dogs.
Although your dog knows all its commands, those pain points remain untouched.
Your goal is simple here:
You want a dog that can listen to you, in and around your home,
You want peace inside your house, coexistence without the inconvenience.
You’re not asking for too much, this is a totally reasonable request.
You can have your cake and eat it too!
What’s missing here
In the dog training world, there is a strong emphasis on what we call ‘obedience’.
By obedience training, I mean all the basic commands.
Sit, stay, come.
Most of our dogs learned this early on; it’s one of the first things we do whenever we bring a dog home.
We break out the treats and we teach them all the new things.
We consider our dogs ‘trained’ because they can shake, sit for a treat or even bark on command.
There are even obedience classes out there that can help you teach your dogs these basic commands.
The intention is to give you commands to teach your dog so you can rely on them when problems arise.
For example, you teach your dog to ‘leave it’ when they pass a squirrel. Or to sit whenever another dog walks by.
But, when these problems arise, those commands go in one ear and out the other.
Your dog may know all these commands, but STILL wreak havoc in and around your home.
You go for a walk, your dog sees the mailman and immediately starts barking, pulling on the leash.
To corral them, you begin repeating those commands as you’ve been taught:
Sit, sit, sit; leave it leave it leave it.
Your dog MIGHT acknowledge you for a second, but still is so invested in this stranger and not you.
This is insanely frustrating and often embarrassing at times.
Before I can help you see what’s missing here, let’s use our children as an analogy:
Before we send our kids to school, what are we teaching them?
Say please and thank you, Ask nicely for things,
Hitting mommy isn’t allowed,
Share with your friends.
We teach them MANNERS.
They learn to coexist with us.
This is the foundation of our relationship with our kids.
Before they’re old enough to go to kindergarten, they’ve had years of learning how to love and respect their friends and family.
Once they have this in place, THEN they learn things like letter and number recognition, simple math, sentence structure, all the intellectual things.
Let’s take this a step further
We have all met that person who has so much intelligence, but they have no idea how to be a decent human being.
Intellectual knowledge does not impact our behavior.
My kid may know their alphabet while still hitting their friend.
Maybe they are so sweet, they mind us, but they’re behind in school.
We need intellectual learning just as much as we need manners, but these two are completely unrelated.
How does this relate to our dog?
Before we teach our dog to coexist with us, we jump to teaching them obedience commands.
When problems arise, we look to obedience training to help us.
How many YouTube videos have you watched?
How many different programs have you considered?
Don’t even mention the unsolicited, unhelpful advice from your friends.
I can bet that most of the information out there relies on this same obedience training.
As you’ve seen, obedience training is helpful, but it doesn’t heal these pain points.
Our dogs need manners.
In this analogy, obedience training resembles the intellectual learning.
This isn’t to say obedience training is bad or unneeded, its actually very important BUT our dog’s ability to do commands is unrelated to their bad habits.
Instead of obedience training, we need to teach our dog these manners.
At Sam Ivy K9, we call these manners: Proper Pack Behavior
Proper Pack Behavior simply means this, my dog respects me and respects the boundaries that I set.
When my dog respects me, they trust me as the leader of our pack.
They trust I will meet their needs as well as protecting them from threats.
They can rest in the security our relationship provides.
When my dog respects my boundaries, they interact with me and my friends with respect.
My dog doesn’t jump on me or anyone else.
My dog doesn’t pull me on the leash.
My dog doesn’t demand things of me.
My dog doesn’t react aggressively towards any person or dog.
Proper Pack Behavior
How the heck do we get here though? The answer lies within the title.
The key word here is Pack.
Our dogs descended from wolves. Wolves are pack animals; our dogs are pack animals.
In this pack, there is one clear leader: Alpha!
Alpha directs the pack and makes decisions for everyone’s wellbeing.
Alpha also sets clear boundaries on what behavior isn’t acceptable.
Alpha guides the concept of Proper Pack Behavior.
It’s our job to fill this role.
We assume its common sense for our dogs to behave without us effectively communicating our boundaries.
When they don’t have a leader to guide them, they struggle to know what’s expected of them.
Rather than look to us for guidance, they do what they know best.
Let’s use ourselves as an example again.
Picture this, your partner continually shows disappointment and frustration with you but refuses to tell you their unspoken expectations.
They want you to read their mind, or they don’t even know what these expectations are.
They ASSUME you should know these things.
This makes us feel insecure and confused, don’t even mention the endless conflict.
It’s so frustrating to guess what’s expected of you, we’ve all been there.
We create a similar dynamic for our dogs when don’t give them clear guidelines or leadership.
The kicker is our dogs are hard wired to step up when they feel leadership is lacking.
Our dogs become the leader they need.
They create their own guidelines and expectations.
They have their own definition of Proper Pack Behavior; they are calling the shots.
The problem here is our dog’s idea of Proper Pack Behavior is probably very different than what we want.
In order to protect the pack, they herd you and your children around the house.
They respond defensively over their food, toys or even you.
They alert you of any person or thing they perceive as a threat.
Its important to note that in the K9 world, all these annoying behaviors are very normal. They all serve a purpose within the pack.
But there’s tension here because we don’t need this from our dogs. We are well equipped to determine these things for ourselves.
We need to let our dog off the hook and show them we can handle these things; they can look to us instead of themselves.
Your dog needs Proper Pack Behavior first, and then need obedience training.
Your dog longs to see they can trust you as the leader they need.
They want to know the boundaries and expectations.
They benefit from having manners just as much as we do.
With Proper Pack Behavior, our dog can rest in their role. There is peace within the pack and in your home.
Once this foundation is in place, then we can introduce obedience training.
Proper Pack behavior is our cake, Obedience training is the icing.
Obedience is fun and sweet just like icing, but it becomes astronomically better with Proper Pack Behavior.
When my dog truly respects and trust me, I can essentially teach them anything.
I am no longer competing for their attention.
Proper Pack Behavior makes way for limitless obedience training, sit stay come is elementary for our dogs.
Have you always dreamed of having an off leash trained dog? Or maybe a Service dog?
Let’s put these trainings in the order they belong and enjoy the benefits.
You can have your cake and eat it too!
Your ideal training solution
Can you resonate with any of these examples?
Do you feel that you are always at odds with your dog and all you really want is for them to listen to you?
I can imagine you’ve grown to accept some of your dogs annoying habits, or some are egregious enough to consider rehoming.
One of the greatest reasons dogs end up in shelters is due to behavioral issues.
Here at Sam Ivy, we are in the dog saving business. No pup is left behind.
We know your dog is precious to you and we want your dog to remain in your home with as much peace as possible.
Book your free consultation today and let us help your dog to become the loving companion of your dreams.
Book Your Free Consultation Today to Start Building a Happier & Healthier Relationship With Your Dog
I am so happy with Sam Ivy K9 Consultants and our trainer Maribel. I enrolled in the virtual proper pack course and I wished I would have done this so much sooner!
I loved the flexibility of the zoom classes. You have to be willing to put in the work, but my dog seems so much happier with structure in his life. Thank you Samy Ivy!