obedience or good behavior?

As a pet dog owner, you want a well-behaved dog that both understands and follows the rules you have set. You want a dog that listens to you when you give directions, but also makes good decisions on their own. That’s all fine and good, but you should also ask yourself what kind of owner does my dog need me to be. Your dog needs stability, consistency, and dependability. Your dog needs a stable owner who consistently enforces rules, boundaries, and structure, while also being dependable about feeding, giving love and affection, etc. 

How do we achieve this goal? How do I get my dog to listen to me when I give directions, but also make good decisions on their own? How do I show my dog that I’m a stable, consistent, and dependable owner? 

Many people will tell you that you need to obedience train your dog so they will listen to every command you give the first time you give it. Make your dog sit and wait at the door before going for a walk. Make your dog walk next to you in heel while on a walk. Make your dog wait before you put the food bowl on the ground. Put your dog on place while people come into the house, or when you’re eating dinner. The list goes on and on. 

But, there are plenty (I would argue the majority) of people who have behaved dogs that have never done any obedience training. Would these people still benefit from teaching their dog obedience commands like sit, down, place, etc? Absolutely; they could benefit from obedience training! The difference is that they wouldn’t need to depend on obedience commands to have a well-behaved dog. 

A well-behaved dog and a well-trained dog are two completely different things. 

A well-trained dog will follow any obedience command you give no matter where you are. You tell them to sit and wait at the door, they do it. You tell them to stay on their place (cot, bed, etc) while the humans eat dinner, they do it. You tell them to heel, and they heel while on a walk. Virtually any dog can be trained to follow obedience commands, and it doesn’t take that long to do when you have a good communication system in place. 

A well-trained dog is always being told what to do in every situation, so they don’t ever have to think about it on their own. The obedience commands are the reason the dog is behaving. Dogs that are taught solely in this manner become robots, and don’t learn how to make decisions on their own. Absent of these obedience commands, the dog doesn’t truly know how to properly behave. Without being told to sit and wait at the door, the dog will bounce around and rush the door when it opens. If your dog isn’t told to go to their place when people come into the house, your dog will jump and be a nuisance. 

A well-behaved dog makes good decisions without needing input from their owner. They don’t need to be told to sit and wait at the door, they just know not to rush through it. They don’t need to be in a place command when people come through the door, they just know to be polite and respectful. They don’t need to be in the heel position in order to walk, because they know not to pull on the leash or bark at strangers. Any dog can be taught to be well-behaved and to make good decisions, it just takes much longer than standard obedience training. 

A well-behaved dog does not need to be told what to do in every situation. Rules, boundaries, and structure are the reason the dog is behaving. The dog has a clear understanding of what is acceptable and what is unacceptable behavior in any given situation, and makes good decisions. The dog knows how to be calm naturally without us taking charge of the situation. Once your dog understands these things, obedience training is a piece of cake. 

The ideal dog for many people is both well-trained and well-behaved. A dog that understands how to make good decisions absent of our input, but also follows our directions without issue. A good blend of these two methods will assure a happy and harmonious life between dog and owner.