Obedience Training usually refers to the training of a dog and the term is most commonly used in that context. I like to think of Obedience Training as Leadership Training for human and dog. Basic Obedience Training teaches the dog to reliably respond to basic commands such as “Heel,” “Sit,” “Down,” “Come,” and “Stay”. Obedience implies compliance with the direction or verbal command given by the handler. For a dog to be considered obedient rather than simply trained in obedience, it must respond reliably each time its handler gives a command. Training a dog in obedience can be an ongoing and lengthy process depending on the dog, the methods used, and the skill and understanding of both the trainer and ultimately, the owner. While I find Obedience Exercises to be a beneficial part of creating a solid and rewarding Leader-Follower relationship and it provides the dog with a set of compliance behaviors that should predict a positive outcome, or reinforcement, I do not see Obedience Training as a viable or
effective solution as a remedy to truly troublesome behaviors.
Obedience Training “tells” the dog what to do in any given situation, via a verbal and/or visual command provided by the owner/handler/trainer.
Behavior Modification refers to behavior changing procedures based on methodological behaviorism, where
overt behavior is modified with presumed controlled consequences, including applied positive and negative reinforcement contingencies to increase Desirable Behavior, or administering positive and negative punishment to reduce Undesirable Behavior.
Behavior Modification provides the dog with the opportunity to learn for himself, which behaviors will “work” (reinforcement)
and which behaviors will “not work” (punishment) in any given context or situation.
So, how does it make sense to hire an Obedience Trainer or sign up for Obedience Training
to solve a Fear-Aggression or problem? It doesn’t.
Will training a door-darting dog to Heel on Command prevent him from running through open doors in the future? No, it won’t.
However, this does not mean that Obedience Training is a waste of time…it’s not a waste of time. Obedience training is a great way to build a solid working bond with your dog built on compliance exercises. It’s just not the type of training you would be looking for to provide a successful remedy to your dog’s behavioral issues.
If you work long enough and in countless different environments, over time an accomplished Trainer could potentially get their dog to Sit on Command BEFORE the dog bites someone… but how does this modify the dogs underlying emotional feelings that are fueling the actual fear-response? It simply doesn’t.
Be sure to understand what you are “shopping” for when seeking assistance to help you with your
dog’s behavior or are you looking for good leadership?
In My Opinion: In my experience, when dogs (and humans!) figure out “which behavior works best” for them in any given situation – they tend to repeat that same behavior each and every time they are in a similar situation in the future. After all…they figured it out “on their own”.