discovering obedience in your puppy

Choosing the best puppy for obedience work is not an easy task. There is no one who can guarantee that perfect puppy for the work she may be intended. Just as all human siblings are different with different abilities and coping levels, so are dogs.

Deciding on a puppy’s future before she has had time to develop her own personality, her own gifting, coping
Nicole Mackie
skills, her relationship with her pet parent, is setting yourself up for possible disappointment. It is best to allow the puppy to make her own choices in life and decide whether or not she is able to cope with obedience training.
Sometimes the hardest thing to do with our dogs is not to do anything and just let our dogs be dogs and enjoy it. Our dogs prefer a good relationship with us where both owners and dogs can live in harmony together.


If we want to understand exactly what a dog is going through when doing obedience training, try pretending to be the dog yourself. You don’t have to be on all fours to do this, just stand on your two feet with a partner. Both of you hold a different end of the lead each, start walking together.
The one pretending to be the dog has to look at the human. You must continue to look at the human and stay exactly at their side without looking where you are going and without moving away. The human can move in different directions just as in obedience training.
Can you keep this up for long without laughing, without losing place, without getting a sore neck, etc? Can you imagine how it must be for your dog to have to do this, often for long periods of time? How is your dog expected to cope if you find it hard to cope? Can you imagine the development of muscle on one side of your dog and not the other as she has to walk on your left, causing an unbalanced dog and the possibility of skeletal problems after excessive or long-term training?
Can you imagine the pain your dog may be in after the training of having to keep her head turned to look at you over a prolonged period of time? If you cannot pretend to be the dog by keeping looking at your partner without laughing, how do you think your dog feels. Your laughing may only be displacement behaviour for you. You may not be coping so well or feeling uncomfortable, so you laugh. We all laugh because we feel silly doing it. What can your dog do to express herself? She cannot laugh and she is not allowed to do anything else because she is supposed to be under control.

The side effects…

The dog also needs to express how she is feeling and this could come out in other behaviours such as lead biting or pulling, barking or lunging. This may not happen during training since it is in his best interest to behave in these times but it may happen directly afterwards. Stress creates many problems for dogs and often a stressed dog has a short life due to stress related illnesses.

Understand the canine signals…

One of the best things we can do for our puppy or dog is to learn canine language also known as ‘calming signals’. It is only then that we can really understand what our dog is telling us, what our dog needs and whether or not she likes something or if what we think she may like is really stressing the dog. These skills don’t come natural to us humans and they have to be learnt. Learn what to look. Once we learn these skills, we can develop a very good relationship with our dog living in harmony

the way it should be.

(Nicole Mackie has over 14 years of experience in handling, exhibiting, training, observing, studying and sharing her life with dogs, gaining many qualifications, such as canine behaviour, canine psychology, general animal science and experience veterinary nursing. She is a radio speaker and writer for magazines, works with behavioural problems in dogs and runs socialising groups for dogs with social problems).