Training Aptitude

Sunday, January 29, 2017 12:30 AM | Bob Self (Administrator)

“Good” temperament is a misnomer. Dogs vary a great deal in their temperaments and hence in their training aptitude. A good training aptitude changes with the task the dog is being trained to do. A guide dog for the blind needs different characteristics from a dog for the deaf.  Similarly, sentry dogs in the army require traits that would be undesirable for a messenger dogs. What is “good temperament” for one type of training is often detrimental to another.

An excellent obedience dog is a dog that is willing to please, will accept corrections well, is quick in its actions, agile, has a medium to low threshold of pain, is environmentally sound, has a great need for acceptance, is a natural retriever, has a high chase instinct, is assertive with good endurance, and is structurally sound. The dog should have a good rapport with all people and exceedingly so with its trainer. A dog possessing many of these characteristics will be easier to train and very proficient in performing obedience exercises. Given this dog, many methods of training will produce a well-trained product, one that can be highly competitive for all honors associated with obedience training. Like good students this type of dog seems to learn in spite of its teacher or the methods and techniques used in teaching. Most trainers rarely get to posses a dog with all of these traits. The majority of dogs that are trained will have several good traits, but flaws of character in others. These are the dogs most trainers acquire.

In most cases the training procedures given in this series will produce top working, competitive obedience dogs. More importantly the techniques will bring out the best in a dog that is not a natural prospect. None of the techniques, if properly applied, are detrimental to a dog of any temperament.

Excellent obedience dogs are born with a natural aptitude and are often outstanding in spite of their training. Their strong character allows these dogs to accept training and corrections that would ruin the average dog. Top dogs are not trained with cruelty, but they do tend to be more forgiving of training errors than the average dog.


No two dogs learn the same way nor at the same rate, even if they are of identical breeding. Each is an individual and should not be expected to react the same as another.  This simple concept is commonly misunderstood by rookie trainers and often by advanced handlers alike.  Individuals inspired by the performance of one individual dog often find themselves trying to hedge their bets by seeking an identical breed or even a litter of the same breeding.  Such attempts are often met with disappointed handlers, and perhaps more so because expectations are driven by the initial object of attraction.

Because of individual differences the training program must be tailored to suit each dog.  Even if one were to acquire cloned genetic duplicate dogs trained by cloned genetic duplicate humans, it would be impossible to reconstruct all of the environmental conditions in rearing, social exposure, and training.  Simply said, one handling team would end up outperforming the other.

Good training techniques will work for most dogs, but even these will be altered in many ways by each trainer. It is impossible to set a training program on particular corrections, number of training sessions, or length of time. What works for one dog-trainer team could be a disaster for another. Training is not a scientific mechanical process but more of an art.

Like most living organisms dogs are continually changing beings.  However once exposed to a new training experiences, it can become permanently changed. If a dog has learned an unwanted action this unwanted response becomes a part of the dog’s behavior pattern. To eliminate a problem the trainer may have to first un-train or at least control the unwanted behavior before the dog can successfully learn the desired behavior.

Should difficulties arise when training a specific act, the trainer is urged to stop training and end the session with an exercise the dog does well. This procedure ends the session on a note of success with the dog displaying a good attitude and the trainer in control of their emotions. The trainer then has time to analyze the problem and to decide on a course of action to follow during the next training period. If the trainer attacks a problem without a thought out plan, they are likely to cause more problems than they will solve.

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