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 Shih Tzu with Toys

Do we teach, or train our dogs?


Training and teaching, is there a difference?
Do we teach or train for behaviour in differing circumstances?
Dogs have emotional similarities with us, albeit child or adult. They experience fear, frustration and confusion, alongside massive communication difficulties, in the same way as young children do.


Much of the time, our dogs are helpless, completely dependent on us, and powerless to alter their circumstances; the language or social difficulties they experience is often overlooked or not acknowledged. It is completely normal for a dog to growl when scared or threatened, this is a simple form of communication for them, which us humans often misinterpret. Training our dogs, or teaching them, is another form of communication, both different ways to help out dogs learn; however, training often does not require emotion, whereas teaching does. We are constantly teaching our dogs though emotion, and the type of emotion required or acceptable. Constant excitement, and reward for this, is certainly not natural and may easily become emotionally and physically damaging for our dogs.

The best way for any student to learn, either human or canine, uses tools and techniques in a way that they can comprehend. In the same way that children are different, as are dogs, not to mention differing breeds, which as we know often look and act like a completely different species altogether!


Whether your new arrival is either very young or an adopted adult, communication and understanding is extremely important, from the outset. Training, communication, or indeed punishment without understanding, only increases the possibility of developing anxiety. Dogs may be easily confused without consistent, and knowledgable teaching; they simply cannot learn in the same way as children. Dogs, like children, cannot rely upon 1 hour of schooling per week in order to achieve behavioural success, they learn constantly from us whether we like it or not. Few owners commit to a learning programme and ongoing home schooling (both indoors and out) with their dogs for any great period of time. Dogs are amazing learners, and many will, if not taught otherwise, make up their own rules according to their culture or environment around them, settling on behaviours socially unacceptable for us. A potential problem when reaching adulthood, or following a few months of adoption. A solid relationship takes time, commitment, consistency and excellent communication, which in turn is less stress for all concerned.

Believe it or not, dogs do not transfer behaviour very easily; rescues are as susceptible to learning as any younger puppy in a new environment, any may learn new rules and regulations very easily, or of course, adopt undesirable behaviour. I believe all dogs deserve the very best start in life, especially if this is a new life in a different environment.

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