Is your dog well trained or well behaved? Is there a difference?
In short, yes there is a difference. Let’s take a closer look at these to ideas and why it is important for pet dog owners to know the difference.
There are many well trained dogs in the world. Service dogs, police dogs, trick dogs and sports dogs. All these dogs undergo rigorous training to learn their skills. These are dogs who have learned a skill. The signal that communicates when to do it and then they’ve taken that skill to new heights.
A well behaved may not know how to sit or heel on cue but they’re a pleasure to be around. These are dogs who regularly make good choices and behave appropriately in the home, around people and other dogs. They do not jump up on people, steal food off the counter tops, dig up the yard or bark incessantly at passers by. These behaviours can absolutely be taught, the big difference being the absence of signals. My well behaved dog chooses not to do these things and engages in what I’ve encouraged as appropriate behaviour. I do not signal my dog, or follow them around waiting to stop them. I trust in the choices they will make.
It is possible to have a dog who is well trained, responding consistently to cues but runs amok in the house. It is also possible to have a well behaved dog who is not well trained. A dog who is a pleasure to be around and hang out with but does not know many, if any, skills on cue.
“A well behaved dog is well trained”
Many will argue that a well behaved dog is well trained. They are simply well trained in being a pet dog. And this is a valid point. However, my point here is not to argue semantics but to highlight a key point. A dog can learn all the sits, drops, spins, jumps that you want and this won’t mean they are well behaved in the home or social settings. Teaching skills can certainly help but it comes down to teaching your dog how to behave appropriately in a human world. Teaching them how to make good choices.
A puppy who can spin, sit, shake, down, leave it but who barks at the door, jumps on guests and chases the cat would be a prime example of a dog who is being well trained but not being taught how to behave.
Teaching a dog to be well behaved
I have three tips for those pet owners seeking to have a well-behaved dog.
Manage their environment
Firstly, manage their environment so they cannot practice undesirable behaviour. This creates boundaries that helps to communicate acceptable behaviour. For example, puppy chasing the cat around? Having baby gates up that the cat can move through away from puppy or high place for them to perch, takes chasing off the table. Instead, puppy can watch the cat, or sniff through the barrier or sleep on the ground while kitty is perched up high.
By no means is management a magic solution, but it is a key component. It makes bad behaviour less likely by making other behaviours easier to do and more fun for the dog.
Enrich their lives
Tip two for the well-behaved dog is to meet their needs for a nutritious diet, physical exercise, mental stimulation and social interaction. This is the foundation for a happy, healthy and calm dog. Many behaviours we consider annoying and destructive happen out of boredom, dogs seeking to entertain themselves and meet these needs.
Taking the time to put together a well thought out activity plan can have huge impacts on overall behaviour. Digging, licking, foraging, exploring, chewing, playing and learning are all typical dog behaviours which you can provide outlets for.
My final tip comes from the great mind of Kathy Sdao, a protocol she calls SMART 50. See Mark And Reward Training. For this protocol, you simply count out 50 treats or bits of kibble and place them somewhere accessible to you. Each time throughout the day, you SEE your dog engaging in a “good” behaviour, MARK it and REINFORCE it. Your goal is to observe them 50 times throughout the day. It sounds like a lot, but you’ll be surprised how often our pups make good choices when we look for them.
As you get better at observing you may refine your own skills by reinforcing specific behaviour. For example, you are managing your puppy around the cat, you’ve placed toys and activities around for him to engage with, that’s fantastic! As a final piece you would then SEE, MARK and REINFORCE your puppy for sniffing the cat, looking at the cat, laying down in the room and not harassing the cat, for chewing a toy and leaving the cat alone. Basically, any behaviour that is calm, appropriate or just useful when the cat is also around.
So, there you have it, the well-behaved dog. It is the learning that happens outside of those 10 minute training sessions. It happens all day long, each day of the week. Be consistent and try out these tips. If you find yourself getting stuck, reach out to a professional trainer.