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What training should I do with my dog?

Norwich Dog Training School – What training should I do with my dog?

Norwich Dog Training School Retrieve Training

I often get asked, what should I train my dog for or what would be appropriate? The thing is – do something you’ll both enjoy, but please be sensible about it and use a little logic.

When purchasing a dog, find a breed or type that is appropriate to your needs and lifestyle, not your Ego. It’s really not clever to go out and blindly purchase a dog based on what your ego desires, and to then sit back in the cold light of day and have to think about what you should do with your dog? – this is clearly not rational.

Unfortunately however, these days, so many people seem to lack any form of common sense when it comes to buying a dog.… You should remember that the Kennel Club categorised breeds for a reason – ‘working breeds’ were developed to do a job (they were not bred to be pets); Gun dogs were developed for hunters and so on…. Think about the breed and its history very carefully, before you go out and acquire a dog (please read our article ‘Guide to buying a dog’).

The following are just a few examples of where people have asked us for guidance or advice regarding their dogs training:

“I’ve got a Labrador – I want to send him off and get him trained up as a gundog….”

My response was “Have you got a gun – and do you go shooting?” The person replied “No, why?” I tried to explain that perhaps they should consider training for something that is more relevant to their needs – something they could both enjoy and do together.

A person with a German Shepherd, said she wanted to train her dog to round up sheep. I asked her whether she had a farm – and importantly did she have any sheep? Her response was similar to the above – she didn’t have either. Once again, I tactfully suggested she should find a more appropriate form of training for her dog.

I often get some quite ‘scary’ calls from people who buy a dog, then for some strange  reason want to train it up for protection work. What’s even more surprising is that so many of these individuals have never owned or trained a dog before, and yet they wish to embark on training for one of the most complex, demanding and risky activities you can do with your dog. In essence, they are novices with a desire to weaponize their ‘pet’ and flow the lead offered by their ‘Ego’ and seem quite unaware of the real risks protection work offers to themselves, their ‘pet’ and potentially to innocent ‘victims’. When I’ve questioned them “Why?” their responses have often been absurd, irresponsible and even dam right stupid. In my opinion, YouTube and the film industry has so much to answer for with regards to attracting very ignorant people to want protection dogs.

Several people have commented ‘Well that’s what they are bred for’ or ‘the dog would benefit from the training’, even though their dogs have clearly come from puppy farmers, who couldn’t care less about what they are breeding or who they’re selling dogs onto. These immoral people will virtually say anything to make a sale, so its not surprising that very few of these dogs, actually carry the genetics one would hope to find in a sound, well balanced and healthy working dog.

Many of these ‘would be protection dog owners’ don’t have a clue as to why they really want a protection dog – it’s just that they want one. They’re often guided by someone’s flippant comments or something they have seen on the net. So often these individuals have little understanding of the effort and risks involved should their ‘pet’ be trained in this role.

We have received calls from people saying they’ve been in the military or seen police dogs working (often on YouTube), and they want their dog to be trained up just like these for protection work. The caveat here is that both the military and police have dogs trained to bite for a reason – ‘they have a job to do’ – they’re not pets. One guy who has been pumping out so called ‘Belgian Malinois’ said he wanted his unregistered dogs to do protection work for a ‘sport’- even though he had no intention to enter a trial or had any concept of why pedigree, registered working breeds undertook similar training (it’s to prove their dogs have the genetics worthy of breeding – not just to train dogs to bite someone for ‘fun’). Neither did he have a clue as to what ‘Sport’ he was actually referring to – he was clearly just  someone who wanted to weaponize his pet to bite people, and to breed poor quality animals to make some money. This reminded me so much of the thoughtless XL bully owner, who asked if I would teach his dogs to be protection dogs having no clue about the implications of the Dangerous Dogs Act. Or the Cane Corso owner who arrogantly thought she could let trained attack dogs run around her unoccupied industrial unit at night to bite trespassers. Really scary stuff, especially if you consider what could happen if some poor innocent child climbed over the gate to retrieve a ball or indeed if the Fire Service turned up to put out a fire! – Apparently some ill informed security guard had told her that ‘it would be fine’. It constantly surprises me of how careless some people can be when it concerns ‘protection dogs’ – so often what is proposed is both illegal and very dangerous.

When I’m not provided with credible reasoning for ‘protection work’, my response will always be ‘No’. The owners either don’t care or have no conception about the legal implications, especially in connection with the Dangerous Dogs Act and the Guard Dogs Act – or perhaps they may simply have ‘dubious’ ulterior motives (may be they are drug dealers).… My fear is, and has always been – if their dog bites someone, and the authorities question where they have trained; my reputation could be damaged in an instant (if they were  negligent). Nonetheless, there are countless people out there, who will breed, train and sell dogs on – who simply don’t care about the potential harm they could cause – and of serious concern here is that some of these individuals have criminal records! At NDTS we would rather turn business away, than risk teaching thoughtless people protection work, as after all hindsight is a valueless thing in the aftermath of a disastrous incident. 

In this day and age, dog owners need to be very selective about what they train their dogs for and why. Make no bones about it, the Government is watching the dog attack stats very closely, and I fear that it won’t be long before other breeds are added to the banned breeds register. Or the Government finds itself being ‘forced’ to introduce yet further legislation to try and curb the situation. Personally, I feel that it is now is the time for the Government to introduce some real controls on protection work training – possibly along similar lines along to those required for a firearm certificate (which makes some sense, as the dog could be used as a  weapon) – to prohibit people with a Criminal Record from owing or training protections dogs. With the ever increasing levels of dog attacks in the UK, something really needs to be done to protect both the public and the ownership of certain breeds by true enthusiasts – not irresponsible dealers who couldn’t care less about the repercussions. It’s now about time we had some robust Dog Licensing to protect everyone. 

Dog owners must remember that dogs in real life, do not behave as they do in the films or on YouTube – where much of which is being shown has been ‘carefully doctored’, choreographed or utilises trick photography – Dogs are not film stars and they do not rationalise in the same way as we hope a ‘sane and balanced’ human would.

If you teach protection work, then your dog is no longer a ‘pet’ – just think about the potential risks and what harm could occur, if a good friend or stranger surprises you and ‘pats’ you on the shoulder or accidentally trips and falls on you (or your dog) …. You could end up in jail for a long time and the future for your ‘pet’ will be far from rosy.

Whether you train your dog for fitness (CaniSports, agility…) or other Sports (if you are competitive) – you should train because you enjoy the relationship it helps you to forge with your canine pal – while appreciating that the obedience learned and achieved gives you freedom to do more things together. Maybe you want to train your dog for a job of work (herding, security, police etc) or other hobby (shooting…) or perhaps you require help with other things (retrieving, finding lost things or people). But whatever training you undertake, we would strongly urge you to find something that you will both find rewarding, interesting and relevant and doesn’t cause harm to others.