January Is National Train Your Dog Month (Part Two)

This is the second part of John Sparks’ guest post on an “Obedience First Approach for Behavior Issues” for January’s National Train Your Dog Month. Read Part One here.

Teaching a dog to choose “right action” in situations where he is tempted to do otherwise should be our objective with training. The dog will learn important skills like impulse control and having regard for other members of his social group. A dog that lacks impulse control and that has an overinflated sense of “self” tends to do as HE pleases, which can be a dangerous thing.

Building a Solid Foundation That Can Handle Pressure

When I train dogs and students, I do my very best to make the training motivational, enjoyable and fair, which includes making it easy for the dog to “get it right.” While we have to use some stressors and pressure during training, I make a solid effort to avoid intense pressures. The “real world” is full of surprises and realities that can’t be avoided, and that can be dangerous or deadly to our dogs if they are not properly prepared to deal with these pressures. Corrections and punishers, as part of a well-thought-out and -executed training plan, can be essential to the success of many dogs.

If we have done a good job at peeling back layers of stress, building a proper relationship, and teaching alternatives, then our dogs will be prepared for a fair correction or punishment for failing to take right action when the situation dictates. 

“Obedience is like insurance. It must be acquired before the moment of need.”– William Koehler, The Koehler Method of Dog Training


There are plenty of dogs out there that don’t really require an obedience first approach; these are the kind of dogs that will listen up and straighten out with one leash pop or stern “NO.” Even with this type of dog, I would rather reduce his stress, build a relationship with him, and teach “right action” through obedience training first. 

To me, there is a difference between teaching a dog to be “under control” and teaching a dog to be “in control.” The difference in my opinion is TRAINING, as opposed to FORCING. 

When a dog is forced to be under control, his choices have been made for him. When a dog has learned to be in control, he is making decisions for himself, decisions based on experiences that he has had through proper and consistent training. When a dog has learned to be in control, he needs very little input from his handler, and has very little to worry about in his day-to-day life. 

Earning your dog’s trust, respect and loyalty through an obedience first approach can make the struggle of dealing with your “difficult” dog a thing of the past. It isn’t easy work; it takes time and effort; there will be times of frustration and times of elation. But in the end, it can get you what you have always wanted: a dog that will listen to you! 

In order to be heard, you must first prove that you are WORTHY of being heard. You must show your dog that there is value to be gained from listening to you.

Thanks again to John Sparks of Sparks K9 for this informative guest post! You can learn more about Sparks K9’s dog training and socialization services at www.sparksk9.com. For more information on the Sparks’ pit bull rescue, Balanced Bullies Rescue & Rehabilitation, visit www.facebook.com/BalancedBulliesRescueAndRehabilitation.

Note: Photos provided by John Sparks; please do not use without permission.