When it comes to relationships, its hard to overstate the importance of communication. Whether you’re talking about friends, lovers, family members, or co-workers, it may be possible to imagine a relationship in which one party never intentionally communicates with the other, but to actually participate in such a relationship would be absurd.
Effective communication expands dramatically our understanding of another’s internal thoughts and feelings. This heightened understanding unconsciously deepens our feelings of empathy and attachment towards the other and helps us to modify our behavior in furtherance of our relational goals. We often take all of this for granted until we’re confronted with a breakdown of communication — a mother whose rigid belief system won’t allow her to appreciate her daughter’s differing values, an overly-emotional husband whose anger prevents him from considering his wife’s legitimate complaints, a desperate tourist in a far-away place whose pleas for help are ignored by uncomprehending passers-by — at which point we suddenly become painfully aware of how fundamentally important communicating is to relating to other people.
At this point, we’d forgive you for asking what does all this have to do with dog training? But the answer is a lot, actually. Even the most vocal pooch is not much of a conversationalist. And even the braniest one will never understand the overwhelming majority of symbols that you use to make sense of the world. But your ability to communicate with your dog nevertheless enhances or detracts from your relationship with the animal for many of the same reasons that the quality of your communicating shapes your human-human relationships. The better that you understand what your dog is thinking and feeling, the better you can provide him with what he wants and needs. And the better your dog understands what you expect from him, the better he will be at shaping his behavior to meet your expectations and keep you happy.
Keep all that in mind when you consider whether and how to incorporate behavioral training into your relationship with your dog. Too often we think of training as a chore (for both dog and handler) that is necessary only to achieve certain behavioral goals. But it can be so much more than that. Particularly, behavioral training can be a fun way to deepen and enrich your on-going relationship with you dog.
Communication and motivation are the two fundamental principles upon which an effective training regime is built. In essence, you must be able to communicate your desires to your dog and you must be able to motivate the dog to indulge those desires. Accordingly, if you engage in effective training activities you will spend a lot of time communicating directly with your dog. This means that you will spend a lot of time thinking about how to behave in ways that your dog understands and you’ll start to think about and learn how your dog’s brain works. In turn, your dog will spend a lot of time thinking about what your behaviors signify and how to behave in ways that please you.
All this knowledge will help both you and your dog act in ways that make each other happy. Additionally, over time, all your eye-gazing and communicating with each other will involuntarily deepen your emotional bond. So, in addition to teaching your dog to behave in a socially-acceptable manner and engaging in an activity that can be genuinely enjoyable for your dog, you’ll emerge from a behavioral training regime with a closer, more truthful, and more meaningful relationship with your dog.
In other words, you owe it to the both of you to give it a shot.