Every once in a while, I hear someone ask, “Do I HAVE to correct my dog?” This is usually a newbie trainer who is concerned that corrections will spoil their dog’s attitude or worries that corrections need to be physically harsh in order to be effective. (Neither one is true, by the way).
More than likely, they don't understand the role corrections play in developing a dog who understands his job and how to do it in a variety of environments.
No. You don’t HAVE to correct your dog. You can try ignoring the incorrect behavior or you can start the exercise over again or give second commands or whatever. But what’s going to happen when you’re in the ring and need to do it right the first time? And your dog feels like he’s been abandoned because the support system he’s relied on to perform the exercises is gone?
Personally, I feel if you don’t make fair, well-timed corrections part of your training you’re setting yourself up to go into the ring with a dog who will probably do as he pleases once he realizes no tangible rewards or additional handler help are coming. Depending on the alignment of the planets, this may result in a qualifying performance or it may not.
Let’s put it this way, if you care enough to actually enter an obedience trial, it means you want more from your dog than just a minimal understanding of household basics. You’ve probably taken some classes or lessons and logged a fair amount of training time on your own.
Let’s do the math for a show weekend. These numbers are pretty generic and are probably on the low end. They’re obviously for a trainer who drives a very fuel efficient vehicle, stays in cheap motels and doesn’t eat much when she’s on the road!
Entry fee: $25 for 1 class x 2 days = $50
Tank of gas: $50
Hotel for 2 nights: $100
Meals for 2 days: $40
I don’t know about you, but $240 per weekend isn’t pocket change for me, especially if I’m going to show a couple of weekends a month and enter both Open/Utility each day. Plus, by the point when you decide to show, you’ve probably already written checks for classes, building fees and lessons, so there’s another couple of hundred dollars you’ve spent getting ready. Not to mention taking time off work and “abandoning” your spouse and family for the weekend.
Why in the world would you go to this effort and expense, yet hesitate to take a necessary step that will definitely increase the chances of turning in a successful performance? When I commit that amount of resources, I want to know my dog and I are reasonably prepared. I’m perfectly happy to leave some things to chance but not when it comes to my dog understanding his job.
Tomorrow, Phoenix and I are off to the Laura Romanik seminar at DMOTC. I am TOTALLY looking forward to 3 days away from the real world!