Opinion: Dog Training Doesn’t Have to Look Like Obedience
“Dog training doesn’t have to look like obedience”.
This was the response of a dog trainer friend when I commented on her Instagram Reel the other day.
Her Reel was about the importance of training small dogs and I commented,
“I admit I never trained my first Dachshund, but he was also a pretty chill guy so there wasn’t an urgent need.
I’ve worked to train my younger Dachshund and am now an advocate for training little dogs. Even if you’re lazy and do the bare minimum like me.”
My friend’s comment gave me pause.
I only started consciously training my dogs when I brought home a Dachshund puppy 4 years ago.
I know more about dog training now and the importance of it.
Also, starting with a puppy who was a “blank slate” gave me hope that I could have a perfectly trained Dachshund.
This article is a departure from my norm where my aim is to provide specific, useful information.
Today, I’m just musing about training small dogs, and my Dachshunds, and my real vs percived effort level.
Taking an Honest Look at My Dog Training Efforts
I wear these things like a badge:
- I’m not a dog trainer and don’t know much
- I’m too lazy to train my dogs (I don’t enjoy it and am not consistent)
- My dog training efforts are just one step above doing nothing
- I don’t have the patience to train my dog
But are those things really true?
My dog trainer friend went on to say,
“Even just setting boundaries in the home, like getting off the furniture or not running out the door, is still a form of training.“
The examples I’ve seen of dog training these last couple years – especially on Instagram – have been focused on teaching them a lot of specific obedience skills.
I admire the dedication it takes to train a dog that way.
I admire a well trained dog that does exactly what you say when you say.
I thought, “that could be me” but then found out quickly it may never be.
While I love the results, I don’t live a structured life. Very few things in my life occur every day.
Dog training was not something I wanted to, or even rememberd to, do for 5-10 minutes for 1-3 sessions a day like recommended to have a perfectly trained dog.
Honestly, I am both a positive example of:
- Training your small dog
- Not putting a lot of effort into training because my dogs are small enough that I can physically control them if needed
Not in a punishment or negative way but, for example, instead of continuing to teach my anxious Dachshund Gretel how to politely interact with other dogs, I can just pick her up to reduce the potential for negative interactions.
But those statements I wear as a badge, and use to constantly diminish my efforts, are kind of lies.
What a Well Trained Dachshund Looks Like to Me
When my Dachshund puppy Summit first came home, I wanted her to be one of the best trained Dachshunds ever.
That looked like obedience to me – sit when I say, lay down quietly when I say, stop barking when I say, stay in one place until I say, etc.
In the past 4 years, my goals and vision of the perfectly trained Dachshund have changed.
Given my own limitations with time, patience, and interest in training my small dog, I realized that perfectly trained wasn’t my goal anymore.
I wanted a dog that would fit in with my lifesyle and knew the routine – that knew what was expected of her.
One that didn’t frustrate me because she never did what I needed her to do.
One that wasn’t obnoxious to other dogs or guests.
Honestly, I don’t expect perfect bahavior from them. I’m not very structured in my life so I don’t expect the same from them – to perform like little robots.
While it’s true I feel a lot of pride each time someone comments on how well trained my Dachshunds are, the important thing for me is that they have been trained just enough to be pleasant life companions.
Life Lessons: Casually Training My Dachshund
Unconscioiusly training my first Dachshund
I often proclaim that I never trained my first Dachshund.
Looking back, that isn’t true either.
I didn’t train him to be obedient in the traditional sense.
I did train him to sit. Sort of.
He would half sit sometimes when he wanted to.
My boyfriend taught him how to roll over, which was a fun party trick but not a useful in the sense of obedience.
But he learned a solid “wait” (stay) command.
He learned to stop barking when I said to be quiet (most of the time anyway).
He learned how to adapt to, and stay calm in, a lot of different situations.
How did he learn these things? By living life with me!
That’s right. I didn’t set out to formally train him but he learned what he needed to know for us to live harmoneously together just by doing the things.
I used to run with him. When we would stop to cross the street, I would say “wait” and put a little backwards pressure on the leash.
I didn’t know I was training him but eventually I could get him to stop and stay in one place simply by saying “wait”.
Training my next Dachshund on purpose. Kind of.
I have taught my third Dachshund, Summit, some obedience commands like:
- Lay down
- Lay your head down
- Leave it
- Lay down to wait for your food
- Come back when called
Note: By the time I tried to train my dogs even semi consistently, my second Dachshund was 12 years old. I train her a little but don’t hold her to the same standards as Summit.
But I do taught her those commands because they serve a purpse for me, they help keep her safe, or because I wanted to for fun (the head down command is a good trick for photos).
I rarely work on any of these things every day around the home during distinct dog training sessions though.
If I feel like it, I do. But most of the time they are just things I work on teaching Summit when the mood strikes me.
Casual training as we go about daily life
I primarily train my Dachshunds as we live our normal life by putting certain commands, or words, to specific actions we’re already doing anyway.
Putting a harness on
I started asking Dachshunds if they “want to go bye-bye?” when I’m getting ready to put their harnesses on and head out the door.
It was kind of just for fun, casual “conversation”.
Now, one of mine will now go stand by the door when I say that.
My other one takes a few extra cues to get past her anxiety about having the harness put on (she used to run and hide from me) – like the door being open so she can see outside and me pointing at the door – but she will go stand by the door now too.
Minimizing barking outside
Although I am not under the illusion that I will ever be able to get my Dachshund to stop barking at everything outside, I try to minimize any disruption to our neighbors.
Since she was a puppy, when Summit started barking I would say “no barking” and bring her inside.
She caught on that every time I would pick her up and carry her in I would say “let’s go inside”.
Eventually, I could just point to the door and say “inside” and she would go in the house.
But you know what is funny now?
Sometimes when she is having a barking fit, I head towards the door to tell her to come in only to find her running through the door toward me.
She barks and puts herself inside!
Training my dogs to come back when called
When we go for hikes or walks, and it’s safe to do so, I may drop the end of my dogs’ leash and reinforce recall by letting them run up ahead and then asking them to come back to me (for a treat reward).
Every experience can be a teaching moment
I rarely go anywhere with my dogs these days without wearing a treat pouch.
That way, I can use every situation as a training moment if I want to because I’m always ready to reward my dogs for doing the right thing.
If they show an undesired behavior, I can ask for the desired behavior instead and reward them for doing it.
For example, if I see that Gretel is looking intently at another dog while out on a walk, and she seems to be getting ready to bark or lunge at them, I can ask her to leave it (look at me) or come and sit instead.
Casual dog training is still valuable
So I guess you could say I’m a casual dog trainer.
I’m the type to take advantate of daily dog training opportunities rather than set a specific time aside for it.
Using this method, I think I may put equal, or more, time into dog training than a lot of people do.
I know I spend more time on training my Dachshunds than the average owner (as evidenced by a Dachshund’s bad behavior and owner complaints about behavioral issues).
While my Dachshunds are certainly not perfect, they are pretty well trained in the way that works for our lifestyle.
Final Thoughts on Obedience vs Casual Dog Training
So I guess this article is a reminder to me – and you – to train your dog when you can, as much as you can, and train the commands that are important to you, but don’t be too hard on yourself.
Training your dog doesn’t have to look like obedience or purposeful training sessions.
It’s your dog. Dog training – both what you train and how you do it – can look like whatever works for you.
If you do anything consistently, or out of habit, your dog may already be learning without you trying.
Making a little effort to train your dog is better than nothing and more than a lot of people do, especially when it comes to small dogs (it’s known that small dogs are generally less trained than larger dogs).
But do remember that works both ways – you may inadvertently training them beneficial things to know but could also be training bad habits.
Some behavior issues, whether they are simply undesired or dangerous, does take purposeful training to overcome.
One may even need to consult with a behaviorist, or work with a profesional dog trainer, to corect the issue.
About the Author
Hi, I’m Jessica. I’ve been studying the Dachshund breed since 2007, owned 3 of my own, and shared in the lives of thousands of others through their owner’s stories. When I’m not sharing what I know on this blog, you can find me hiking, camping, and traveling with my adventurous wiener dogs.