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When is Training Complete?

by Guy Kantak on April 11, 2012 at 09:31 hrs

It's common for owners to wonder how long training will take, how many visits, when will I know a dog is done. I generally explain that training should be a lifestyle, not a destination. With this in mind, there are some comments that may help clarify the notion of having a completely trained dog.

First, I always tell owners "when you're happy, I'm happy". Most owners want a dog that is well mannered and generally obeys commands when asked. Which commands, and around what level of distraction will suggest a certain amount of work. But not everyone needs their dog trained to the same level. I can always see things in any dog that "need work", but that same dog may make their owner(s) perfectly happy. There are only so many hours in a day, so work on things that are most important to you.

I also think it's very important for owners to understand their dog. All dogs are unique individuals, and as they learn, they will excel at some things and have problems with others. Knowing your dog's strengths and weaknesses can point to areas needing further work, or help you appreciate situations where extra supervision or control will be required. Not every dog is capable of being a work dog (handicap assistance, search and rescue, tracking, etc.), any more than every child will be able to learn calculus or operating a crane. Nature has its reasons for diversity.

I think the real test for an owner and their pet is whether their dog understands that the owners agenda takes priority at all times. In other words, does the dog understand they need to listen and obey even when they'd rather be doing something else? Again, some owners may grade on a curve here, and that's ok. But a good trainer will give you the tools to develop your dog to its best potential. And while they'll show you how to train in a way that moves things forward, this will take time, effort, practice, repetition, and patience. This work "with" your own dog is what builds healthy relationships.