When you are looking at a list of doggie activities and you see "obedience" in the list the term will ordinarily refer to competitive obedience. Competitive obedience is a sport. Interestingly a dog successful in competitive obedience is not necessarily a well behaved well socialized dog. It is more likely to be a pleasant dog, but it is not a given. Similarly it is not necessary to have a rigidly obedient dog in order to have a pleasant friend of the family. Because of the confusion between "obedience" and "manners training" I've chosen to make some comments here, then direct you to either training, behavior and socialization or competitive obedience links for more information.
Every dog should have at least some basic obedience instruction. Wait! Don't go away in disgust, this is a wide ranging subject. If you aren't happy with what you believe is the prevailing thought on training, explore, you just might be surprised.
Training can improve your relationship with your dog. While obedience is a competitive sport there is also practical obedience which is not much different than teaching basic manners and communication. If you are uncomfortable with the formality and, yes, rigidity, of formal obedience you can still become a happy team in practical obedience. There are variations of the obedience game to suit every interest and personality. Rally is kind of the "Simon Says" of obedience. There is heel work to music, agility, schutzhund and drill team.
Obedience, whether the sport or practical, helps you gain trust in your dog. Dog owners have a responsibility to make sure that their dogs are well behaved members of our society. A dog that is taught to pay attention and to follow certain commands is usually more secure, and certainly much safer than a dog that is not well schooled. The goal is to give the dog confidence that you know what is going on so that the dog can rely on you to give it direction. That helps reduce anxiety in both dog and owner.
There are a great variety of techniques involved. A good trainer and a good owner will adjust the training method to suit the dog and the task. If the dog is miserable you are doing it wrong. The dog should enjoy the work. Training social skills is a continuous process. Most dogs thrive on the certainty of routine. Take the time to ask the dog to sit before you open a door or introduce it to a new person, or set its food down in front of it. Be consistent. For example, if you are trying to read and the dog is pestering you don't say "sit" unless you are ready to put your reading aside and make sure the dog sits. Instead use the command "away" and praise the dog the moment it takes a step away from you. Use patience and continue until the dog gets the idea. Use commands only when you are ready and willing to enforce them.
Not everyone needs formal classes but classes help a lot, especially if you are new to dog ownership. Classes help because they provide incentive to work with your dog regularly. There is someone skilled to help with problems, and another person can more easily see things. If you are self disciplined, and are not afraid to ask questions you may make good use of books and videos. If you are going to be entirely self taught at least look around for the occasional seminar, my learning always improved by giant leaps when I had the observations of another person.
OH, yes, an editorial comment. Many people believe that if you can teach only one single command it should be "come".I disagree!. If you can teach only one command it should be some stationary command (sit or down, even stand). If your dog escapes and is on the far side of a street "come" could be deadly. If your command means keep doing it until I tell you to do something different (i.e. also means "stay") you can always go and get the dog. It isn't perfect, which is why you should train your dog, but is better than nothing.
There are some very good informational sites on the web. I have listed a variety of them and tried to identify their focus
Some are strictly sport links, some are a combination of competitive obedience and practical obedience, and a couple of manners sites thrown in.
The rules for competition - includes mixed breeds
A good over view and description of this growing new sport.
Describes some of the essential differences between Novice level obedience UKC and AKC trials. Some very interesting descriptions with some good links for more information.
This is a good introduction to clicker training.
The essence of clicker training is that the dog is guided, not forced into the desired behavior. Many dogs enjoy puzzling things out, and really like this form of training. It takes a lot of patience, but is entirely non-confrontational. If you learn and understand clicker training you will not only be more effective in training dogs, but you will probably also improve your people handling skills. There is a publication called the Clicker Journal that further develops these concepts (by a variety of authors).
More links to other clicker sites and resources.
Most of the sites below also appear on the Behavior, Socialization and Training Links page as well. If you are having behavior problems then go to the behavior page. These links are primarily focussed on manners training.
So you don't want to compete, does that mean obedience is not for you? I completely agree with the author that "An obedient dog is a happy dog." I hope you will take this link and also be persuaded. Written and maintained by Audrey A. Schneider.
Some more links and explanation about manners training. An important point to make is how much fuller is the life of a dog when it is well mannered. It can go more places, do more things and suffers less stress. Should a change of life require a new home for the dog its chances are far far better than one unskilled manners.
I love this site. Lots of articles and real information on different methods of dog training. Includes articles addressing specific concerns in obedience and everyday issues like crate training. Also articles on behavior. In general I very much like the tone of the articles, which try to keep training a positive experience for both dog and handler. A great site for information, even if you are not interested in competitive obedience. Maintained by M. Plonsky
The CGC is the first goal in practical obedience. It simply demonstrates that your dog has good manners in public. It shows that your dog can be approached by other dogs and by people and be neither aggressive, nor offensively friendly.
If you are looking for a quick, simple, trouble free way to train then you might be surprised at what this site has to offer. If you want diplomacy and tact, this isn't it! If you want passion then come right in. Fair warning - I'm not trying to persuade, I'm angry and I'm venting! Still, maybe if you understand why I'm angry you might just set aside some time to train.
An e-mail discussion group discussing normal puppy behavior including
house training, play biting, chewing, jumping up, . . . .
In the Aggressive Behaviors in Dogs group, experienced dog trainers (approximately
300 from around the world) discuss with pet dog owners how to modify the
behavior of dogs which sometimes exhibit aggressive behaviors toward dogs
and/or toward people.
There is no reason a small dog can't be structurally sound, fit and athletic. I encourage people to enjoy dog sports with their small dogs. Might Mite Small Dog sports Forum is a message board for all dog sports open to handlers of dogs 16 inches at the shoulder or smaller. International focus, all breeds welcome.
Includes most of the links above, and some additional ones directed toward addressing real problems.
The linked books take you to Dogwise.com. There are a lot of places you can buy good breeding books and videos. So why do I link to Dogwise? Because purchasing through links to the Dogwise website helps support Dog Play. And I picked them because they are good folks. If you order by phone I probably won't get the credit, but what the heck - they are dog people too, so nice to talk with.
Rally-O: The Style Of Rally Obedience, by Charles 'Bud' Kramer
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Copyright © 1997-2003, Diane Blackman Created: January 17, 1997 Updated November 21, 2010