What makes a “good dog”?

I ponder this question often. What makes a “good dog”? I am yet to meet a pet owner who does not want their dog to be a “good dog”, but finding someone who can describe what that might look like is a little more unusual.

There’s a good reason for this. I believe that a “good dog” should look different to each individual person or family. When you bring a dog home you will have your own specific ideas about what that dog should be able to do, where he’s welcome in your home, and how he should behave in different situations.

When my husband and i brought Wilbur home we had some pretty clear ideas about what he needed to do to be a “good dog” in our household. There were some common things on that list, such as go potty outside and walk nicely on lead, and there were some that mattered more to us than they might to other families: settle when the parrots are out of their cages, stop and wait outside the main bedroom to keep dog hair to a minimum (stupid dog allergies), and stay off the furniture.

29634_10152163791301743_919993744_n
Wilbur learnt early on how to behave around his parrot brothers

Why does this matter? It matters because it means the things we needed to teach Wilbur were not necessarily “sit, drop, stay”, and it matters because our training goals were not necessarily the same as the next dog-owning family.

When we take our dogs to training classes we often end up focusing on traditional, bog-standard obedience. Sit, drop, stay, come, heel. These behaviours are important to some people, but not to all. At Treat. Play. Love. the focus in classes is on what behaviours make dogs more pleasant to own, and will help dogs remain family members for life. Can “sit” and “drop” be part of that? Sure! But you might find it more helpful to practice “sit to say hello” and “settle on your mat” than just 5 minutes of obedience training each day.

Most importantly dog-owning families need to start defining what a “good dog” in their home will look like. By talking about and planning what your dog needs to know to fit into your lifestyle, you can be proactive with training the things you do want your dog to do, rather than waiting until things start going wrong.

If you have a new dog, or need help teaching your dog to be the “good dog” of your dreams, contact Treat Play Love today and ask about our group classes or one-on-one training sessions. It’s never too late to start training!