What Can Dogs Be Trained To Do?

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Introduction

Training your dog to perform new behaviors and tricks is a very rewarding experience. Not only is it a whole lot of fun, but it's a paw-some way for you and Fido to spend some quality time together and to give your dog's brain a workout. From the humble "sit" and "stay" to rolling over, fetching the newspaper, and even working in all manner of challenging and highly specialized jobs, our canine companions can be trained to do some pretty amazing things.
To find out just what clever and inspirational things our pets can be trained to do - and how you can start training your dog today - read on!
Introduction of What Can Dogs Be Trained To Do?

Signs Your Dog Needs Training

It's not difficult to pick out a dog that's received little or no training and, unfortunately, these poorly trained pooches are an all-too-common sight at dog parks around the country. 

A dog in need of training is one that doesn't respond to its owner's commands and instead simply does whatever it feels like doing. Rather than knowing that doing whatever their owner says will lead to good things, these dogs view instructions from their master as mere guidelines to ignore or occasionally follow as they see fit.
Instead of greeting new people in a calm and polite manner, an untrained dog will jump all over them, leaving dirty paw prints and, occasionally, one very shocked person in their wake. Instead of walking in a controlled fashion on a loose leash by their owner's side, these dogs will yank you this way and that, leaving onlookers to wonder exactly who's walking who.
Some untrained or poorly trained dogs don't even know basic commands — you say "sit" and they run off following a smell, you say "stay" and they rush to your side. Not only is this incredibly frustrating and often inconvenient, but it can also expose your dog to any number of dangerous situations, such as if he's heading towards a busy road and doesn't heed your calls to stop.
If any of the above scenarios or behaviors sound like your dog, it's time to start obedience training 101 for your furry friend.

Body Language

There are also plenty of body language cues that could indicate your dog needs to brush up on his training, including:
  • Barking
  • Digging
  • Chewing
  • Jumping up

Other Signs

Other signs that your dog needs training include:
  • Ignoring your commands
  • Failing to obey you
  • Lack of understanding of basic commands
  • Jumping up
  • Pulling on the leash

The History of Dog Training

History of What Can Dogs Be Trained To Do?
While there are few records explaining dog training methods and techniques prior to World War 1, it's most likely that the earliest training of our furry friends was targeted at making them more efficient hunters. Dogs were able to offer much-needed assistance to hunters tracking and receiving their prey, and teaching dogs to be the most capable hunting assistants possible would have produced significant benefits for us.

However, it wasn't until the last couple of decades of the 19th century that dog training really began to take off. Most methods at the time focused on correction and punishment for undesired behavior, but there were some forward thinkers, calling for the use of a much more positive approach to training. 

For example, in the 1880s, S.T. Hammond wrote a book called Practical Dog Training: Or Training vs Breaking, in which he advocated the use of positive reinforcement methods (giving a piece of meat) instead of punishment to foster desired behaviors.
However, training practices based on punishment remained the norm and continued through World War 1, when dogs were trained to perform a variety of important and dangerous roles for the military. The idea that an owner or trainer needed to establish dominance over the dog and become the pack leader was born, and was to dominate our thinking on training for many decades to come.
It's only in recent years that positive reinforcement methods have come to the fore and become the most widely accepted way to teach desired behaviors. By using gentle, positive, rewards-based systems to teach our dogs what we want them to do, we can set our canine companions up for the best chance of success.

The Science of Dog Training

Science of What Can Dogs Be Trained To Do?
The body of scientific research into dog training is growing all the time. We now know that:
  • The dominance theory is outdated and can often cause behavior problems.
  • Dogs trained using positive reinforcement are less likely to show aggression and fear than pets trained using punitive methods.
  • Dogs trained using rewards-based methods show higher levels of obedience
  • Dogs trained using positive reinforcement are better at learning new tasks.
There are also abundant examples of the truly fascinating things dogs can be trained to do. They can become guide dogs for the visually impaired, drug or explosives detection dogs for law enforcement, search and rescue animals for emergency services, and perform a wide range of essential tasks for the military. Our furry friends can even be taught to hunt for truffles, sniff out cancer in humans, and perform hundreds of tasks as assistance dogs for people living with disabilities!
So if you're preparing to start training your dog and you're wondering what Fido might be capable of, the sky really is the limit.

Training Your Dog

Training of What Can Dogs Be Trained To Do?
The best time to start training your dog is as a puppy. You can start teaching basic commands like "sit" and "stay" with pups as young as seven or eight weeks of age, and the experiences your pet has in puppyhood can play a huge role in shaping the way they react to new situations for the rest of their life.
The most important thing to remember is to reward your pet with treats or praise whenever they do the right thing. If your dog comes to associate doing the right thing with receiving a reward they value highly, they'll be more than happy to do whatever they can to please you.
It's also important to remember that puppies have short attention spans, so don't expect your pet to be able to last all the way through a marathon training session. Instead, providing a few brief sessions throughout the day will make sure training remains fun and interesting for your furry friend.
If you're struggling to teach your pup the right way to behave, ask a reputable dog trainer for help. He or she will be able to give you the advice and knowledge you need to start training your pooch to become a happy and well-behaved member of the family.

Dog Training Tips

  • Keep it short and sweet. Training sessions should be fun, enjoyable, and challenging for your dog. Make each session short to prevent boredom setting in, and end on a high note every time so your dog is happy to come back for more.
  • Be patient and calm at all times, and only use positive reinforcement training methods. Getting angry will only confuse and frighten your dog, and punishment of any kind should never be used.
  • Old dogs can learn new tricks. Don't believe the old cliche; dogs can learn new skills and behaviors at any age.

We Want to Hear Your Story About the Amazing Things You've Trained Your Dog to Do!