What our Obedience Assessment Forms teach us about you, your interaction with your dog, and how much you may know about canine care
We’ve created a form for clients to answer a series of questions if they are inquiring about enrolling their dog into our obedience training or hunting dog training program. We would like to explain the purpose behind this somewhat tedious Obedience questionnaire, and why we feel that it has been very helpful to our training programs.
First, just glancing at the 3 page multiple choice, fill in or y/n questionnaire can seem time consuming! Well, yes, we would say that it is. BUT, isn’t it actually time consuming to raise a dog? For those people who are truly interested in our services, and who equally would like a well-trained dog, we both have to put in our efforts. We cannot magically train your dog and expect him to be perfect for you upon going home when often you created, nurtured or allowed the behaviors to occur in the first place. Our goal is to learn as much as we can about you and your dog so that we can best tailor a program to fit into your lifestyle as well as the needs of your dog.
The first part of the forms tells us about you, how many family members are involved as well as gives us information about where you are from and how we can best reach you. Pretty simple!
The next portion asks about your canine’s information and back ground. All of these questions have meaning to us. For example a pup that came from a reputable breeder with a stable, balanced beginning is often going to better prepared to enter a basic training program. However, many of our client dogs come from pet shops, back yard breeders, puppy mills or the shelter. This usually means that the pup was often born into a stressful environment, lacked early socializing, and is more prone to health problems because they often have an already stressed immune system. We often identify health issues right away (that were never declared by the seller and may have gone unnoticed by your vet) such as structural unsoundness, allergies, digestional issues, parasites, jaw/bite alignment, eye issues, and more. This is part of our job and we want to be honest and open with you, because a dog that you bring to us with a crooked leg or bad hip often is in pain and we do not want to force obedience exercises if their health is compromised. Behavioral issues can stem from underlying health issues, and we want to make sure to take into account potential health issues that could affect training.
This section also goes on to ask about the human interactions with our dog. Not only do the questions help to learn about your dog’s specific human handling and reactions, it helps us to understand why you may be having training issues in the first place. For example, many people will say that they rough house, wrestle and chase their dog, they leave food out all of the time (free feed), they do not confine their dog or use a crate, they have a doggy door with a fenced in yard, the dog is allowed on the furniture, and sleeps in bed with a family member. This quickly tells us their dog has no rules, the owners may be interacting with sibling type play not leadership, and more often than not the dog ‘owns’ the house and yard, will growl, bark and be in charge simply because that is the role that the owner is allowing. We would expect a dog like this to bark a lot, be dominant, busy therefore not able to relax well, potentially aggressive with people, pushy, and often has an attitude. When the owners try to train, the dog can be stubborn, defiant, not willing and react aggressively. We would expect this behavior from any dog where the owner is nurturing their dog’s leadership; we just see the dog is doing his job well! He is a GREAT leader. If you want your dog to behave better, then you must change YOUR rules!
With the situations that I have explained above, I would like for you to think about the dogs. Will training help? Will boot camp solve the problems? Will the dog ever change? In my opinion, YES, to all three questions as long as the dog is stable. Stability to us means that they actually think, act and speak dog language. Dogs often show us that they are truly stable when we put them in with other dogs and they can act normal and ‘play nice’. Rough play, dominance behavior, growling, chasing, etc. are all normal dog behaviors! Dogs that show extreme over reactivity, dog to dog or dog to human aggression, show fear or mentally shut down around any stressors become a rehabilitation case, not just a training case. We cannot teach your dog basic obedience if they lack stability.
So, we wanted to give you an insight to the reasoning behind our dog assessment forms. Our mission is to do the very best we can with every dog and every client. The more that we know about you and your dog, the better we can do our job!