Part 1: Why have a framework?
When I first got a dog (my beloved Max) I knew that he needed to learn the everyday commands like sit, stay, and come. I knew he needed exercise and food and a cozy bed. I knew he could probably learn some cool tricks like shaking a paw or catching a frisbee. We went to a basic puppy obedience class graduated with 5 paws! I believed all was on track…
However, as Max grew up problems started to show themselves that I didn’t see coming and that certainly couldn’t be solved with basic commands. The low point came when I stopped leaving my condo because he was barking too much– I remember sitting in my living room and crying. I felt stressed, alone, and hopeless.
I did get help from a trainer and things got better. But Max and I were now in the position of having to unlearn and relearn, which is just so much harder. I was taking the approach of waiting for a problem to arise, and then trying to fix it. There had to be a better way!
Looking back I now realize that, even after completing a puppy class and having a few problem-solving sessions, I didn’t have nearly enough knowledge about dogs to be fair to Max– and myself. But what did I need to know? How could I have made sure I wasn’t missing something important in my training plan? How could I have prevented problems before they began?
To answer these questions, I decided to organize my thinking about a dog’s life into six categories. While there is no perfect training plan, and not all problems can ever be prevented, this framework gave me a foundation around which to plan training, find resources, and see where I need to focus.
These categories are:
Over the coming weeks, I will examine each of the six areas in more detail and provide some examples of how each one contributes to a comprehensive training program. I hope you find this helpful.