Lots of people think that pet dogs, especially small dogs, do not need to be trained. I once held this view, but because I thought it was human arrogance to want to control the behaviour of another living being. That it was humiliating for dogs to be doing tricks, just for our amusement.
Training, I’ve come to believe, is essential for every dog, regardless of size and age. Why?
Every dog should know at least the basic obedience commands of sit, stay, down, come, and heel (or at least walk on a lead). I would also add leave it. Having a set of understood commands allows dialogue between you and your dog to carry out everyday activities, as well as for the safety of your dog and those around you.
A dog who is trained has more freedom. He is more welcomed in social settings, and not relegated to the kitchen when guests visit. He can accompany the owner around town and have varied interactions. Dogs are, after all, social beings and being outside is stimulating. Having exposure to different surroundings, situations, and people help a dog be more confident and well-balanced. Knowing what is expected gives the dog a sense of place and security.
Training beyond the basic commands is fantastic. This may include agility, tracking, or just tricks. I love the clicker for this! Advanced training continues to build the bond between human and dog and is a great way to keep your dog engaged mentally. An energetic dog who is bored will look for his own entertainment, which humans usually find less than amusing. Having extracurricular activities will help take that edge off and can often “correct” behavioural problems.
Studies show that most dogs (in the States and probably applicable here in Singapore) will not live their entire lives in their first home. Dogs are not always given up due to the irresponsibility of the owners (such as from a lack of research into the breed or dog ownership in general). Sometimes there are unavoidable circumstances that make rehoming the only option. Rescue groups and the SPCA are already at capacity with available dogs for adoption, never mind the more unofficial channels. Competition is stiff for a suitable home. A trained and housebroken dog is definitely easier to rehome. (It also stands to reason that fewer dogs will be abandoned if they were trained in the first place.)
While training is essential for every dog, it needs to be positive and fun. Positive reinforcement means that the dog is not learning out of fear, which is both cruel and dangerous. A nervous and fearful dog can become unpredictable and may develop undesirable habits and behaviours. So why not just do it right from the start and use positive training methods!