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What is Dog Obedience - The ATP theory

When talking about dog obedience, we are sure that everyone will have different opinions - views on dog training and what obedience mean. In this article, we will be sharing about our personal views on what dog obedience is and how it benefits owners as well as their dog.

Do note that this article reflects on our personal opinion and experiences throughout the years, our theories differs from most trainers by a far margin and some might not be able to accept our views, therefore if you are sensitive to harsh opinions, we will advice you to stop reading this blog.


Introduction
If you have seen or attended Obedience classes at general dog training schools, you might have the concept that dog obedience is about commands - Sit, Stay, Down etc. In our opinion, to achieve obedience in a dog, commands alone are not enough, the most important part of dog training is actually earning the dog's respect, simply being able to follow commands is not obedience. That being said, commands are one of the most important things you will need to communicate with your dog effectively, together with body language of course, without these two, there is absolutely no chance that your dog will understand what you are trying to tell them, which in return will cause confusion and frustration between your dog and you.

With respect, you are training a dog to treat you as the owner, not a play mate, not its pack, but an owner who is in charge. The owner is the one who chooses when the dog eat, sleep, play and work, even when you do not understand about the idea behind dog training, you should come to learn that all of your dog's routine are set by you whether you like it or not. Proper routine and rules are the key to making a dog happy, giving them the feeling of fulfillment dogs need - a leader, someone who is able to lead and provide them the rules to survive. Contrary to popular beliefs, human gestures like buying a shirt for the dog or hugging does not make dogs happy, it can even produce negative results, these actions are actually meant to fulfill the needs of the owner and not the dog, just think about it. Some may think that being strict and firm is harsh and not humane, however dogs are not human to begin with, they do not appreciate human treatment, leadership ability is actually the only thing that can keep them safe in the dangerous world out there, one mistake from the leader and the whole pack will be in danger, which is why dogs love having someone to lead them, they feel safer and will entrust their life with the person/dog, creating bond that is so strong that none can break. No matter how people like to label them, wolf, canine, dog or pet, there is no doubt that dogs are social animals, they survive better in a team/pack especially with someone that can lead, without a pack a single dog have much lower chance to survive in the wild, unless human interferes (providing them food and shelter), now this is a fact we need to understand.

In dog treatment, we try not to be selfish and look to them as a human being, instead we see dogs from the perspective of another dog and communicate with them using what they already have, dogs do not talk with their mouth, they do not do mind reading, instead they use their body to communicate every single second, even when they are sleeping. If you are constantly talking to your dog thinking that it will learn to understand what you want, then you probably need to study more about dogs and change for the better.


Why training your dog is so important
Have you ever asked yourself why a dog needs training? Why can't a dog sleep the whole day just waiting to eat and play?

1) Dogs are very smart
Not as smart as primates or humans, but still very smart, this intelligent mind can actually put your dog in danger if not utilized well! There are tons of danger dogs can put themselves in especially when staying with humans, eg. a simple action of trying to get to the piece of chocolate on the table can kill/injure your dog badly, not only because chocolates are toxic to dogs, what if the table topples or if other objects land on your dog, or even your dog falling off while jumping? To us, everyday objects around us may seem very safe, however when it comes dogs, these objects are never safe because dogs do not know how to utilize them, hence if your dog is well trained, the chances of accidents can be greatly reduced!

2) Dogs need to go out just as much as you do
This reason alone is enough to start training them, with a pet that is constantly going outdoors, accidents are bound to happen especially if they are not well trained. If you walk your dog everyday, you may feel the leash tensing up every now and then, whether your dog is busy finding a spot to pee, when it sees something interesting or even running away from something they find scary, this puts them in great risk of accidents happening. We are not saying it's wrong to have your dog pulling once in awhile, we do not expect them to be a robot, but training a dog to understand commands, hand signals and walking beside owners can be very beneficial, we have seen a lot of cases about dogs running away or getting knocked down by vehicles during walks, and most of these incidents could've been prevented with proper training, our human nature prevents us from being alert at all times, therefore a sudden dash by your dog can actually surprise you, possibly running off even if the leash is on.

3) Dogs love to have someone guiding them
Sure there will be obstacles owners and dogs will face during training, however when problems are solved together, it creates greater bond between the both of them. Dogs enjoy challenges and learning new things, they enjoy having someone to lead and guide them through life, to have someone protecting and giving them answers, not the other way round which is to let the dog do whatever it wants and protect their owners, this is selfishness. Dogs when not guided will be frustrated, hence behavior problems will surface, a lot of irresponsible owners like to make excuses, saying that their dogs misbehave (barking, aggression etc.) because they are born to do that, no it is not, your dog is always waiting for you to teach them something, if you don't stop teaching, your dog will not stop learning.

4) It makes us happier
Now before you start to make assumptions, think about it, why would people get a dog instead of other animal as pet, we know that there are people who get everything they can get their hands on, but what makes dog different from other animals? There is no doubt that most people buy/adopt dogs because they are highly trainable to begin with, they are bred throughout the years to enjoy human companion especially if the owners are willing to teach and train them, when owners start teaching their dogs, the humans themselves will feel happy too. Remember the feeling when your dog did it's first "Sit", or the first pee/poo on the pee tray, we feel happy, we reward our dog and they become even happier, it's a win-win situation.


What defines a dog obedient?
Well, how do we know if a dog is well trained enough, when should we stop training our dog?

In our theory, there are no such thing as a perfectly trained dog, just like there isn't a perfect human being! Every dog has its strengths and weaknesses, the key is to first target the weaknesses, then polish on the strengths of your dog, therefore there isn't such thing as to stop training your dog, dogs do not like to stop learning. That being said, we will explain more below to let owners have a better gauge on the things a well trained dog should and shouldn't do.


Commands
Being able to understand the 5 major commands will be more than enough to keep a dog safe.

Sit, Down, Wait, No, Name

Most owners do not understand about the less is more logic, commands should always be kept simple and short, blindly increasing the number of commands will only confuse the dog further and weaken on useful ones, owners might also confuse themselves and use the wrong commands at times. The key is not how many commands the dog knows, but how well it can react with major ones. We have seen owners telling us that their dog already knows the major commands, but when asked to perform we can clearly see that the dogs have not mastered them, some do it based on mood, some cannot perform when there are noises, others need food, this is not wrong but it actually means that there are still a lot of room for improvements!


Barking
Dogs bark, that is normal, but excessive barking isn't. Our ancestors kept dogs for a reason, most for the sake of keeping humans safe, and barking is a good way to notify and protect owners when there are intruders. If you trained a dog to bark at the door but is able to stop it as and when you like, you have successfully trained a guard dog to work for your sake, however, have you ever considered if the barking dog is really happy doing that? I have seen dogs barking so intensely that their eyes are red and tearing, they clearly hated doing that but cannot control due to the lack of training! Why don't you try sitting at the door and start screaming whenever there are strangers, 1 hour, 2 hours, how about 24 hours a day for 365 days? The dog is actually doing the job of a security guard but without rest, now doesn't this equals to torturing them?

Dogs should not be barking at every passerby, they also should not be barking when they want something. We get dogs not for the sake of protecting our belongings (this again is very selfish), we get dogs because we want to love them, and love does not mean to just let the dogs go crazy, love in our opinion is taking our personal time to spend with them, not just hugs and kisses, but also quality bonding time - Training, Exercising, Playing!


Aggression
People always ask us this, "how do I know if my dog is aggressive?". Aggression means that the dog has intention to hurt others, be it other dogs, humans or animals, a well trained dog should never attack another living thing unless cornered, we call this self defense and this belongs to another subject. There are no excuses when your dog bites someone, if you are the rightful owner you should have the ability to command and stop your dog from unwanted behaviors, especially aggression.


Housebreaking
A well trained dog should be able to do business on the designated area, it should not be peeing and pooping all over the house, this includes marking. No owners enjoy entering their home with pee and poo everywhere, when this happens they might start to have negative thoughts about their dogs, then their relationship will start to deteriorate. No matter how much one claims that they love their dogs as much even when they pee and poo all over the house, there is no doubt that they will love their dogs even more if they can be housebroken.


When is it too much?
As we mentioned above, you should not stop training your dog no matter how old it is. That being said however, there are times when owners go overboard with training, consistently training and over-stressing a dog are two different things. Dogs learn best when taught one thing at a time, never try to confuse your dog by mixing in different things into one session, it is much better to spend weeks/months working on a couple of things than incorporating everything into one session, always remember the less is more theory.

Other than household dogs owners, dog trainers have the most tendency to overtrain their dogs, one of the main reason is because of fame, there are too many people claiming themselves as dogs expert but only a few actually knows what they are doing, therefore having a dog with exceptional bloodline is very important to these people, they just want to win and be famous. With good bloodline, their dogs may learn much faster and be better than others, however when everyone start doing the same thing, someone definitely needs to stand out, which is to train their dogs much more than their competitors, then stress starts appearing in these dogs, people do not notice this, but I have seen many competitors who's dog are not happy doing what they do, they are trained in such a way that everything becomes a norm, the dogs perform perfectly, there are no flaws, they can win tons of championship, but they'd just look like robots to me.

Now some of these dogs have a sickness called IBS (irritable bowel disease), they look fine during performance but behind closed door they will start to show these symptoms - loss of appetite, diarrhea, unable to sleep at night etc., medication and supplements are needed and most would still be forced to continue their strenuous training to keep up with their competitors. Animals are never meant to be used to compete in our opinion, when dogs (or any other animals) win in a competition, the one that benefits the most, if not all is the owner/trainer, they get the fame, the reward, the medal, the fulfillment, their dogs doesn't even know what's happening except waiting to get treats, and then more vigorous training sessions continues the next day. We take human competition as an example, in sports the athletes usually have to showcase abilities that exceed others, and this ability is not just from talent, it is created from years of strenuous training to surpass what the average human cannot do, it does look from the outside that they look healthier than the us, what they are doing is actually stressing the body and mind to surpass expected limitations, most of them faces problems like ligament tear, injuries, mental and heart problems as years passes, sometimes they have no choice but to maintain daily medications, which some may lead to drugs. However, these people have a choice, they do it for their own reasons be it fame or money, but dogs do not have a choice and there is nothing out there for them after winning, they not understand even if you hold a party for them. This is an example of over training a dog.

Understanding and admitting flaws
Recently, I stumbled onto an article by a trainer from another country, he was somewhat popular with blogs and lots of videos on dog training, he mentioned a few behavior problems portrayed by his dog, but wasn't planning to fix it as he thinks that his dog was happy misbehaving. For example, he allows his dog to bark at strangers because it seems happy doing it, he also do not mind his dog whining at meal times, plus a few other problems like digging the garbage and barking when left alone for 5 minutes, and he is happy with that because his dog could do many other things that most dogs couldn't. Although I agree that looking at the positive side of things is a good idea, it seems as if the trainer is not admitting that his dog had problems that needs to be fixed, using "my dog is happy" is just an excuse to be lazy. Now why I used this as an example is to emphasize that it is NOT wrong to have a dog with behavior problems even if you are a professional, dogs are not supposed to be robots and follow every single order, the important thing is to admit and start finding a solution to solve the problems. We update Amber's behavior every couple of months and you will never see us saying that she is perfect and have nothing to work on, there will always be strengths, flaws and also an explanation on what we are deciding on improving next!


In closing
We hope that this article can enlighten owners who wish to understand dog obedience from our point of perspective, just remember that your dog is an animal with emotions, it is not born to serve your needs, we train dogs because we want to keep them safe and happy.

Dogs enjoy learning but remember to keep it short and simple.

Lastly, the only one that can stop training your dog is yourself.


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