Training is vital, both for the dog and the people who have to care for it. There is much controversy about the most effective way to train a dog.
Positive reward edit
Many modern dog trainers, such as Victoria Stilwell, are said to be 'positive trainers' as they mostly use encouragement and rewards. This approach is particularly used to treat aggressive behavior in dogs that may result from traditional training techniques. Many people use a 'clicker' or handclap just before giving a puppy a food reward - later on, the click or clap gives the dog the same reward without the food treat!
Traditional training edit
Traditional trainers, such as William Koehler and Diane Baumann, who encourage the use of punishment, often a physical stimulus to make the dog pay attention to commands. However this can degenerate into mistreatment that may provoke agressiveness, especially in older dogs. A recent variation on this is dominance training, promoted by Cesar Millan, who believes that all animals have an innate desire to dominate others, and that this dominating behavior needs to be overcome by uncompromising leadership. That means corrective discipline and praise rather than punishment.
Practical training edit
The best sort of training will combine elements of all of these methods according to the breed and temperament of the dog and the purpose for which it has been selected. In fact, it is important to select the breed of dog according to its proposed role and to prepare a training schedule that fits with the owners' particular personality and probable future needs.
Problems, problems edit
Some breeds of dog need a single master, others are more suited to family life. The choice will always be a compromise, which is why some trainers insist that there are no bad dogs - only badly trained owners who have not got the right balance between affection and discipline - dogs need a bit of both!
If things do go wrong, and a dog behaves in a way that is inappropriate, then professional help can usually correct the situation. However, appropriate puppy training with expert guidance is much less distressing for the dog and far happer for the owner, as well as much more expensive. The advantage of a dog-school is that the dog learns to socialize with other dogs and with humans outside its usual circle. Because the trainer can split the fee between several owners, and they can share their experiences, school is really much cheaper and more sensible for humans as well!
Joys, Joys edit
Owning a dog should be FUN! OK it is not fun to have to exercise with an animal for half-an-hour three or four times every single day even if it is blowing a blizzard or 'raining cats and dogs' (an English expression for rain forceful enough to wash dead animals along the streets of medieval towns). But dog owners do have to walk and run regularly, and so tend to be healthier and stronger than other people. Hospital patients can also benefit from 'pet visits' and some hospitals now provide training and other facilities for dog-owners who volunteer their time and their pets.
Walking, cycling and playing edit
And walking is not the only option: most dogs have some hunting instinct, and will chase a stick or a ball as if it was prey. Dogs are easily trained to walk or run at the side of a pedestrian, athlete or cyclist. Putting a dog in a cycle basket is a very bad idea because the rider is likely to fall if the dog moves. Dogs love to run and jump, and are easily trained to do something special (party trick) such as balancing a biscuit on its nose, waiting for the command, and then flipping it into its mouth without dropping it on the ground. Almost all dogs can be trained for a sport known as "dog agility" in which a handler directs a dog through an obstacle course of tunnels, slopes, seesaws and hoops, whilst running alongside.
Dog Agility edit
These dog agility courses are races or demonstrations for the public to enjoy, as they are visually exciting competitions for timing and accuracy rather than speed or power, and there are many different tactics and strategies - not all successful, of course! The competing dogs run free with no food or toys as incentives, and the handler must not touch either the dog nor the obstacles. Dogs are controlled by voice commands, body movement, and of course previous training, which can start as young puppies around six-weeks or as late as middle age (which for a dog is seven or eight years old). Some animal rescue organizations use 'agility training' in order to help resettle lost dogs in new homes!
Sheepdog Trials edit
Sheepdog trials require very special training, and a ready-trained dog and handler training is very expensive. They are great fun to watch, but it is really a sport for professionals. A small herd of a dozen sheep must be driven around a circuit of a kilometer or more by one or two dogs, with the shepherd giving instructions simply by voice or whistle. His only other action is - at the finish - to close the gate of the capture pen!