When people think about dog training, it is typically associated with obedience. So, the skills taught at obedience school are things like how to walk properly on a leash without pulling or tugging, sit, down, stay, etc. The application of those skills help solve human issues that owners might be having with their dog, but they aren’t helpful to the dogs themselves. They are not skills that dogs can associate with being natural for their kind and thus, leave the dog unfulfilled.
When we started Doglando, we knew that obedience was not going to solve the issues for dog behaviors. What they needed was training through activities that create optimal wellness for them.
What Does Canine Skill Building Look Like At Doglando?
The answer of obedience school was not fair to dogs. We couldn’t justify that dogs needed training alone. That’s not the only element needed to make for a better companion dog. When we began building our Canine Skill Building program at Doglando, we wanted to support dogs holistically. So, we began to ask, “What are a dog’s most crucial needs, that a holistic program must support, to enable a dog to thrive?”
One Answer: Give Dogs The Opportunity to Thrive
What is the benefit of training dogs? In our minds, it’s to create more opportunities for them to be, to thrive. If you have a well-trained dog, then maybe you are more likely to do more with your dog. You are more likely to enjoy them in a variety of situations and conditions with ease, because it’s not difficult to take your dogs places. With a foundation of skills under your dog’s imaginary belt, it would be easy and enjoyable to take them on a hike or let them roam without a leash because you know they will come back.
If it is true that by training dogs owners would change how they interact with them in a way that will enhance the dog’s living experiences, why weren’t we seeing that happen through obedience schools? People were spending money to train their dog but they weren’t giving the dog a better lifestyle.
Our second question became, how can we encourage owners to enrich their dog’s life?
Second Answer: We Can Offer Training
By asking that question we realized there was a massive gap in offering training. Training alone is not giving dog owners the ease they need to do more with their dog. When dog parents take what they learn in a class and generalize it in the real world, the absence of skill and knowledge in the dog’s life becomes noticeable. In obedience school, we are not helping solve the real problems.
Dogs learn through patterns, and if you teach them to take these patterns and apply it to real world situations – a scenario they would have to use the skill in – it’s so much quicker to train them.
What Canine Skill Building Looks Like
At Doglando, we take every present moment as an opportunity to teach dogs the skill we want them to learn long-term. As we guide them through the process we are helping dogs build skills, not obedience, and through these skills dogs are able to coexist, cooperate, and connect with their owners.
We teach dogs how to sit, lie down, and walk on a leash, but we reinforce those skills by applying them to a lifestyle their owner may live. So, how do we reinforce those skills to become something practical for owner’s and that will make them want to do more with their dogs? Well, let’s take the command “sit” for example. After a dog learns the command, we begin creating experiences where they can put it into practice. We might take the dog out on a canoe ride and show them how sitting makes the experience pleasurable for them and for the owner.
We take our dogs out on Colonial Drive to get them accustomed to being in public with other people. We ask dogs to sit at every doorway and to follow human body language when walking on a leash as a guide for how they should move. We take dogs off-leash on our 6-acre, fenced-in area to practice recall.
In all these activities, we are training the dogs to have authentic experiences and build strong bonds with humans which translates to having a meaningful connection with their owner. But more than that, dogs are living their best life. They are swimming, hiking, canoeing, being groomed, socializing with other dogs – all things that are essential to a dog’s happiness. While at Doglando, little Fido won’t feel as if he is listening to a trainer bark orders at him all day, but instead he will be attentive and have a desire to follow human lead and respond to it because of the enriching experiences they get out of it. Skill Building Leads to Canine Enrichment.
Enrichment is one of the more important experiences a dog can get to be complete. It gives them the freedom of choice, space, and expression. If owners can’t control their dog, they will be wary about taking them to the farmer’s market or the beach and will instead constrain their dog to only their homes.
We want dogs to have the skills to enter any environment and be successful. We are giving owners permission to trust that their dog can be safe because they have the skills to behave. We want to bring the joy back to humans and the dog, so they can live a harmonious life together.
Want to learn more about Canine Skill Building and how it can help your dog thrive? Schedule a visit to our 6-acre, nature-rich campus to truly experience Doglando, and witness for yourself the freedom that the dogs in our care get to have everyday.
Teena Patel is a Certified Dog Trainer and Behavioral Counselor who works with pet owners and owners of doggy daycares to bring her philosophy of Enrichment to the canine population. After almost two decades of successful dog training under her belt, Teena has done away with the standard doggy daycare “warehousing” of animals in kennels and runs. In place of an industrial model, she focuses on what is right for the dogs as living beings, providing experiences that improve and enhance their behavioral health. Coupled with a program of careful training, the Doglando experience results in companion dogs who are better-behaved, better integrated into their families, and above all, much happier. True to her passion, Teena Patel gives dogs the freedom “to be dogs”.