During my first trip to Switzerland, at restaurants and on trains and boats, I was amazed to see dogs sit quietly by their humans’ side. Even my mom, who is petrified of dogs, didn’t mind these well-behaved babies around her.
Years later, in 2021, when I got my first dog, I wanted him to be like those Swiss dogs. I too wanted to take him with me to various places, make him meet family and friends and have others say: what a well-behaved dog! So, we sent him for two months’ residential training.
In due course I realised that training a dog has many more benefits than just having him sit peacefully by you at a restaurant. It is, in fact, a must – especially for city dogs. You don’t have to send your dog for residential training, of course. You can also have a trainer come home or learn to train the dog yourself. No matter how, it's imperative that you do it. Here's why.
Communicate with your dog
Training your dog to sit, stay, and wait is one of the most basic, yet best ways to communicate with your dog. He knows what is expected out of him when, which avoids several unpleasant and awkward situations, especially in public.
Trains humans to read a dog’s body language
A big component of canine training is to learn to read your dog’s body language. They can’t talk, but they definitely do express themselves. For instance, when your dog becomes stiff and his tail is upright in the presence of another dog, he is most likely challenging the other fellow. If their staring-match continues for a little longer, it could end up in a fight between the two dogs. But if you and your dog have gone through the training process together, you will be able to avert the situation as soon as you see the tell-tale signs.
When you train your dog, especially with positive reinforcements, he learns to trust you. He knows you will save him from any harm or danger and that you will have his back. It also establishes you as a pack leader, which means that your dog will follow you and not run amok.
I have seen so many dogs pulling the leash, dragging their walkers to the middle of the road or near a garbage bin. These situations could be dangerous for not just the dog, but also the walker. The only way to avoid these is to train your dog not to pull the leash.
Keep him safe
Before my dog was trained, he ate two dead rats in the dog park. Thankfully, he was fine, but what if he wasn’t? Today, even when he is off leash he won’t eat anything, not even his favourite piece of chicken, if I tell him to leave it. It’s important to train your dog to keep him safe.
Creates a stronger bond
When your dog understands your commands and you his body language, when you can tell if he is sad or unwell, and take remedial actions accordingly, you will definitely be able to connect with him better and create a stronger bond.
Mentally stimulates the dog
Training your dog is also the best form of mental exercise for him. We train with our dog every day for 15 minutes. It not just reinforces what he has learnt at his trainer’s kennel, but also exercises his mind, keeping him engaged, intrigued, smart and confident.
Makes them confident dogs
You and your dogs will encounter new people, new dogs and new situations almost every day. It could either be sounds of dhols or crackers or a loud bike or a huge, intimidating-looking truck. All of these can be pretty scary for your dog. But with the help of your commands, it can navigate these situations, making him a confident dog.
Teaches your dog to behave
Bringing up a dog in a city can be challenging. He must not jump on delivery agents, bite co-passengers in an elevator, scare little children away, or pee all around your building. These are unacceptable behaviours. Training your dog will help you avoid all of these. Also, a well-behaved dog is welcomed at a friend’s house, in a café and a resort. So, if you wish to travel with your dog, training is absolutely must.
Teaches him to socialise
You can’t have your dogs picking fights with other dogs or be aggressive to humans. Training will teach your dog how to behave with other dogs and humans. I know of dogs who haven’t been socialised and are today either muzzled the whole time or abandoned as ‘problem dogs’. You don’t want that for your pup.
Grooming and vet visits are easier
A dog is like a child. You have to bathe him, force medicines down his throat, cut his nails, get him vaccinated, take him to the vet for blood tests or regular check-ups and stick a thermometer into him to check his temperature when he is sick. If a dog is not trained, any of these can become dangerous situations, especially if a dog bites you out of fear. Training helps your dog become comfortable and accepting of your touch, which makes grooming easy and fun. Dogs who are not trained often have to be muzzled up and taken to a grooming parlour to even get their nails cut. These services are not cheap, nor are they always hygienic.
If you are the adventurous kind like me, you would want to take your dogs on treks and trips and let him explore the world as well, of course, off leash. But to do so, he needs to have excellent recall. When you call him, he hast to come back to you immediately, no matter what he is doing. And that takes training.
Riddhi Doshi is a Mumbai-based independent journalist, Kathak student, and first-time pet parent