by Mayno Blanding
Argument #1: Obedience training takes too much time. I guess that depends on what you want to accomplish. Yes, if you want an OTCH (Obedience Trial Champion), it’s going to take a serious time commitment.
The reality is that if you set your goals a little lower – say a CGC (Canine Good Citizen), a CD (Companion Dog), or even a CDX (Companion Dog Excellent) it takes very little time. You can squeeze training in at mealtimes, before leaving for work, while you are taking Fluffy for his walk, when you are fixing dinner (yours and/or his) and even while you are watching TV. It will be fun for you both.
Argument #2: Obedience training will ruin his wonderful spirit. True, if you train your Bichon with a heavy hand, it will break his heart. My own heart breaks whenever I see people disciplining their dogs inappropriately.
The reality is that modern training methods are fun! Fluffy’s favorite thing will be training. Why? He’ll get lots of positive attention. He’ll learn that you are a benevolent leader. He’ll feel useful and important. He’ll get hugs and kisses and COOKIES. What could possibly be better?
Argument #3: Teaching my dog to sit (or to heel or whatever) will ruin him for the show ring. There is a concern that Fluffy won’t be able to tell the difference between the conformation and obedience rings.
The reality is that Fluffy will learn the difference between gaiting and heeling. He will learn that when gaiting, he moves out smartly with proper reach and drive, and that when he stops he must do a free stack. He will know that he never sits in the conformation ring. Conversely, he will learn that heel means he must adjust his gait to yours, stay close to your side, and sit when you come to a stop. Additionally, he will have so much fun doing these very different behaviors that he will look forward to both the conformation and obedience rings with great enthusiasm.
Argument #4: My dog could never learn that stuff! Well, I have to admit that I did have one Sheltie(!) that was mentally retarded – literally – but she was the only dog I ever owned that couldn’t learn any more than to be housetrained (sort of) and walk nicely on a lead.
The reality is that as a breed Bichons Frises are very intelligent and love to please. If the dog is having a problem, handler mistakes are usually the reason.
Argument #5: My dog is happy enough and I don’t have any interest in obedience competition anyway. Owners of small easy-to-live-with dogs often feel this way. Fluffy seems happy enough. When you want him to do something he doesn’t want to, he’s so little that he can be forced. Rarely do our Bichons bite, so that is usually not a concern either.
The reality is that any training is a great way to strengthen the bond between you and your dog. Competition isn’t for everyone, but interaction is taking place all the time you are with your dog, regardless of whether it is formal obedience or just hanging out around the house. Dogs are pack animals and need to know their place in the world. They want to be loved and directed in their lives. Think about how you interact with your dog during any given day. Is he being told how wonderful he is – or is he being yelled at much of the time because he is misbehaving? Well-trained Fluffy will be such a nice dog that he’ll be able to accompany you pretty much everywhere. You will be so proud of him that you will want to show him off to all your friends.