What does it mean to you ? Do you often look at other peoples well behaved and compliant dogs and wish yours was 'just like that'. We often label our dogs and 'naughty', 'disobedient', 'difficult' or 'stubborn' but are they really ? ......
Are we asking too much of our dogs ?
Almost certainly !
Dogs behave like, well, dogs ! They sniff, they forage, they run, they bark, they dig, they chew. A lot of these natural behaviours are frowned upon. We want our dogs to sit quietly by our sides in busy streets and restaurants, lie down all day apart from going on a walk where we expect them to walk by our side to heel and come back immediately if called.
Complete obedience is taking choices away, taking curiosity away and putting our dog's mental health at risk. Sure, we all want a dog who will listen to us but we need to think about why we are asking our dog to 'sit' and if he really needs to be walking exactly to heel ? Can't he just wander along next to us sniffing, as long as the lead is loose and everyone is relaxed that's all that really matters, does it matter if he's sat/standing or lying down as long as he is relaxed and calm ? Should we really expect our dogs to lie still for a long period when in a busy environment say when we are eating out? It's better to offer your dog something to do to keep him occupied such as a filled kong or, if your dog finds it stressful for whatever reason leave him at home instead.
Resilience, Social skills, Calmness and Focus
These are the skills your dog really needs !
Teaching your dog how to cope, be relaxed and calm and thus be able to focus on you when needed and enjoy new experiences is so much more important than an immediate Downstay. These are the tools they will need for every day life. Thinking about what your dog is getting out of any experiences is also imperative. Is your dog happy to go out shopping and to the coffee shop with you ? He may be but he would probably rather go running around in a field and then have a snooze... it's all about compromise and making sure your dog's needs are fulfilled too - that's the main ingredient in a great relationship with your dog - not how good he is at dropping to the floor in a down when told to.
Of course training can be a fun way to bond with your dog, teach him new skills and get him thinking...Just don't get bogged down in the detail. If your dog doesn't walk exactly by your side, doesn't bring the ball back every time you play fetch it doesn't matter. He is an individual with different thoughts, feelings and emotions. He will have 'off days' just like we do !
There is a place for teaching your dog basic obedience, Sits, stays, recalls etc and they are useful tools to have but if your dog doesn't immediately sit the minute you ask him to, every time then that's fine. It doesn't mean you have failed at training or that your dog is a 'bad' dog.
Enjoy your dog ! Embrace his own unique personality and remember, if he is happy, healthy, confident, trusts you and feels safe with you then you are a winning team ! :)