Lately, I’ve gotten a string of clients that express a concern about training their dog. They are worried that training is going to ruin their dog’s personality. They’ve hesitated to do lessons, for fear that their dog will become some sort of training robot and lose the qualities that they find endearing.
Second to clients complaining that their dog is too affectionate, I find this concern totally befuddling. I mean, we’re not talking about Clockwork Orange-style conditioning or a lobotomy, folks. It would be like worrying that if you go to school, you’ll become a Stepford wife.
There is no amount of training that will ruin your dog’s personality. I promise. He will continue to be silly or goofy or wild. He will still get the zoomies and howl at the moon.
What training will ruin is your frustration. When you have proactively worked on coming when called, for example, you won’t want to throttle your dog for running away [AGAIN].
It will ruin your embarrassment. When people come over, you will no longer be apologizing as your dog claws and mouths your guest in the process of saying hello. As your dog sits, wiggles and squints and waits to be pet, you will notice you have only pride where there once was shame.
Training will ruin those moments where you end up yelling at your dog for chewing your shoe [AGAIN]. When your dog comes over and drops a toy in your lap because he is asking for play with a preferred object, you will miss the moment of exasperation; sick of having to put everything away for fear your dog will destroy something (or everything).
Training will ruin some trips to the vet. Your dog won’t be hit by a car or picked up by the local animal control officer after running away. Your dog won’t need surgery for swallowing a sock that you were trying to get out of his mouth. He won’t need to have his stomach pumped after dive bombing and hoovering a bottle of medication you dropped on the floor.
And, when you do go to the vet for routine exams, training will ruin the need for three techs to muzzle and hold your dog down for an exam. When your dog stands in place and allows all the poking and prodding, you won’t worry that the vet will miss something because your dog is too nuts to be examined.
Training will ruin chaos. One Sunday morning as you sit with the paper and your coffee, you’ll realize that a month or a year has gone by and all you and your dog have done is enjoy one another. You’ve hiked and played and cuddled and gone on leash walks and it’s been really fun. No mayhem. No drama.
Training ruins regret. You won’t find yourself thinking, ugh, I’ll never get another dog. Or, I can’t believe he did that [AGAIN]!
So, give training a whirl. See what’s ruined and what’s created in the absence of unwanted behavior. I dare say you’ll enjoy all the things that training ruins.
I’ve written this blog in honor of Rowan, my border collie who turns 11 tomorrow. Training ruined many things for us, including incapacitating shadow chasing, dog-dog aggression, separation anxiety and thunderphobia. We now live a relatively anxiety-free life.