We've all seen the Legally Blond version of a dog - a tiny Chihuahua named Bruiser carried around in a purse. This cute little bundle weighs less than 10 pounds and is usually carried
most places. It certainly doesn't look like dog training was part of his life.
Now think about Beethoven - the 150+ pound Saint Bernard.
This gentle-giant is a breed that holds an opposing image to the aforementioned Chihuahua.
Comparing these two creatures side-by-side, it's easy to see how dissimilar they are. There is, however, one glaring similarity and that is that they are both dogs!
There is a great variety in dogs that is not just limited to size and coat type. Dogs range in their physical abilities and instinctual behaviours as well. Sporting dogs are bred to lure, point and retrieve game. There are spaniels that specialize in flushing birds and retrievers that bring back game for their human.
Herding dogs are bred to move livestock. Some move the with strong "eye" and intimidation. Others move them with noise and speed.
Despite their differences, they are all dogs. They all have different "personalities" and are shaped by their different life experiences, base instincts and what they were bred to do, however fundamentally, on a core level, they are one and the same.
Are there dog training limits?
All too often we see people limit themselves and their dogs based on preconceived notions. A Sighthound can't retrieve. A Herding breed is a manic dog by nature. A little dog can't be obedient - they're too small to learn. Never say never and never say always! While they are motivated by different things, there is no reason that any dog can't rise to meet the expectations of their handlers.
We often see people let small dogs walk all over them - allowing them to get away with behaviours they would never allow in a bigger dog. Is it safety? The fact that a 10 pound dog will do little damage if they are pulling on leash or if they bite? Is it because in our human nature we see a 10 pound dog ruling the roost as endearing or cute?
Whatever the reason, a nuisance dog is a nuisance dog and that is both dangerous and unacceptable. A 10 pound dog can run out onto the road and be hurt just as likely as a 100 pound dog if they aren't trained. Be they Chihuahua, Border Collie or Rottweiler, a well trained dog who has a solid foundation of basic skills is a pleasure to own and any dog is capable of having good respect and good manners.
How do you ensure good dog training?
Don't limit a dog with human notions! In this video, 6 month old Skye, an Irish Wolfhound is learning to retrieve to her owner, Steve. Skye was bred to chase large game. Retrieving is not a natural skill to a sighthound, but that doesn't mean they can't learn and enjoy games and skills that may be contrary to their nature! Would Skye be well served if Steve had limited her by her breeds natural instincts only?
As avid dog sport enthusiasts and dog trainers, we all look for dogs with high drive and lots of natural energy, but we should never use that as an excuse to let that energy go unchecked. Instead, we work hard to develop a good "off-switch" for down-time in the house. We always work hard on manners with our dogs, regardless of their breed. Just because they are bouncy, happy dogs, doesn't mean they can jump up on us or others without permission. Manners are crucial for all dogs. Border Collies are a favourite in the dog world because of their energy and intelligence. Often, when people haven't put in the work, they blame the dog's bad manners on its breed. It's an easy out and an easy excuse to not have to dig down to the core of the problem. It is far easier to excuse bad behaviour than to fix it, especially if we don't understand it or don't want to put in the work. The description of energetic should never be used to excuse away poor manners, but teaching good manners requires an honesty some aren't willing to face when they own a dog who is a handful.
It is also very much a human tendency to assume a problem can't be fixed. After all, if its out of our control, it's not our fault that it continues to occur. This shortsightedness allows bad behaviour or lack of skill to continue under the guise that nobody could fix it, therefore it must be okay. Humans find it comforting to think that the dog is the problem, not them. They like to think that their dog is not fixable or not trainable because it lets them off the hook. In reality, the right knowledge and effort can almost certainly get the job done.
There are no limits in dog training!
In the end, if you don't try you have failed yourself and your dog. It may not be the easiest accomplishment to teach a Chihuahua to have manners or to teach a Border Collie to be calm in situations. It may take extra work and innovation, but in the end every dog is quite capable of ordinary measures and most are capable of the extraordinary - all this despite breed predisposition.
I leave you with this thought - Can you imagine how well trained Bruiser truly was?!?