Do you want a family dog or a highly trained dog?
Answering this question and having clarity on what you want can safe you a lot of time, headaches, money and what’s more important it can help you give the best life to your dog.
There is a big difference between Obedience Training and Behavior Training. These two concepts are usually misunderstood or completely unknown even among some professional dog trainers.
Family dogs usually need more Behavior Training (manners and self control), while highly train dogs need more Obedience Training ( Skills, performance and impulse control)
Your dog can know 100 “cues”, “commands” and “tricks” and yet still have a lot of behavioral issues. Does this phrase sounds familiar to you? :
”My dog is very smart and sweet, but ….”
This happens because your dog can be very good at obedience (Impulse control) but have no control of his emotional responses or state of mind (Self control). Obedience is about learning skills, behavior is a way of being. Obedience has to do with performance, behavior has to do with social skills and having self control of emotional responses.
What’s the difference between Obedience Training and Behavior Training?
Obedience is based on motivation, rewards and consequences. Wether the consequence is good (ex a treat) or bad (ex punishment) it’s still based on consequence. Behavior is based on your dog’s state of mind or emotional responses to environments or triggers.
In teaching obedience some trainers use positive reinforcement and some trainers use punishments. For me in Obedience Training, Positive Reinforcement is king. This method is great to teach your dog to DO things. Ex: sit, stay, go to your place, leave it, bring me the news paper, come when called etc.
This way of teaching new skills is very effective because dogs tend to do what’s reinforced with rewards. So if you want to teach your dog to Do something is a no-brainer to use rewards and motivation to do so.
They learn fast, they are happy and it’s fun. You can start with simple cues like “sit” or “stay” and move on to more complex skills like agility courses. In either case you want your dog to be motivated, excited and happy to learn.
There’s a catch though, this is not so effective when you want to teach your dog NOT to do things.
Most trainers put the dog on high arousal and high dopamine to tap into the dog’s “high drive”. Why? Because you will get faster obedienece. This can backfire when dealing with some unwanted behaviors.
So, How do you teach your dogs Not to do things?
The answer is with Behavioral Training. When you have a family dog, usually this “Not to do things” are unwanted behaviors like excessive barking, pulling on the leash, biting, aggression, jumping on people, resource guarding, destructive behaviors etc.
All these behaviors are not fixed by encouraging excitement, high arousal, high dopamine or high drive. Quite the opposite. These behaviors can only be modified with self control, calm energy, boundaries and a sound state of mind.
When dealing with these behaviors all of a sudden the excessive encouragement of excitement, high arousal, high drive and high dopamine used in Obedience Training are not going to help. Even worse, they can backfire if you’re not careful.
Behavior Training is based on emotional state of mind, self control and social skills. Training and Conditioning is about micromanaging and redirecting every move the dog does without really working on the state of mind of the dog.
What’s Behavior Training?
Behavior training has to do with helping your dog to be in a sound state of mind. The skills needed are self control, respect and boundaries. It is based on your body language skills, energy control and mastering techniques that changes the emotional response of your dog, not necessarily redirecting them all the time.
A different way of seeing this is thinking of Behavior as social skills (being in a controlled state of mind and emotionally sound) and thinking of Obedience Training as going to Harvard or Yale, where you can learn very specific skills.
The one that will put you in trouble is the lack of social and behavioral skills (Behavioral Training). In other words you are not going to go to jail because didn´t go to Yale, but you will go to jail if you destroy Yale.
In animal world this has nothing to do with being ¨good¨ or ¨bad¨, it has to do with being ¨in a controlled state of mind¨ (green zone) or in an out of controlled state of mind¨ (red zone). If your dog is in the wrong state of mind, no matter how much training and conditioning you´ve worked on, your dog wont´t listen. Any animal on fight/flight state of mind will not listen to anyone unless you force them. And forcing does not create acceptance it creates resistance.
To change behavior you basically need three things:
1. The ability to master techniques to change your dog’s state of mind or emotional response to triggers or environments.
2. Effectively communicate with your dog: Body language and energy. Different from hand signals and treats.
3. A solid relationship with your dog where your dog fully trusts you. This has to do with parenting not with dominance.
In a nut shell Obedience Training is a method for learning skills, while Behavior Training is a way of being where your dog learns to control him/herself.
Knowing when and how to use and integrate this two different approaches: Obedience Training and Behavior Training is key in order to create and to maintain a harmonious relationship for any family dog.
© Gabriel Riesco, Pawmos Dog Training LLC | All Rights Reserved February 2023