Obedience vs Free Behaviour

What if I told you that I really don’t care if your dog knows the obedience command “sit”? I tell clients this every day and as you can imagine I get a few funny looks. So many trainers these days will focus on tightening up a dogs obedience in order to resolve behaviour issues. If you approach them for help with your dogs resource guarding, they will tell you to join their group class and work on your dogs obedience.

There are a few different reasons why this wont work. The biggest reason is that obedience is simply a command to put your dog in a physical position. However, just because the body is in that position it does not mean that their mind is there as well. Often I will see these jacked up dogs in a sit (usually after the owner has asked them 10 times) and the dog is still struggling to hold the sit with their mind all over the place.  Obedience (usually) does not change state of mind. Another reason that I don’t focus on obedience is because I want the dog to learn how to navigate this human world without constantly needing to be told what to do. This is where free behaviour comes into play. Free behaviour is what your dog would choose to do if no one told him what to do. For example, greeting people without jumping. I don’t want to have to tell him “off”, nor do I want to have to tell him to sit. I simply want the dog to calmly approach, and greet without jumping all over them.  That is free behaviour. I used to teach the “place” command quite a bit. Place is when your dog has all four feet on an object (in most cases a dog bed), and learns to chill out. Essentially “calm on command”. I have been moving away from this recently as I want to teach the dog to be more calm without having been told to be calm. I am focusing a lot on using an exercise called “Sit on the Dog” created by the late Margot Woods which teaches the dog how to be more calm without being told to do so. Again, an example of free behaviour instead of a command.

So if you hire me, and I come and tell you I literally do not care if your dog knows “sit” this is why. Now, don’t get me wrong, if your dog knows sit that is great. I don’t want you to think that you cannot teach him commands. Just know, that it is not my focus and that we will most likely not be working on that (unless you hire me specifically for obedience training). My specialty, my focus, my passion is in teaching dogs how to be calm, well-behaved family members who can navigate this world with as few commands as possible. Once you see it in real life you will understand how this is completely different than having a robot of a dog who is spot on with commands but completely lost when you haven’t told him what to do!

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