Am I a Bad Pet Owner If My Dog Won't Follow Basic Commands?

Lab doing down command
Mikkel Becker knows that training can be daunting, but teaching your dog basic commands like sit, down and come isn't as hard as you might think.

Dog training can feel daunting, even if we're just talking about teaching simple commands. Many pet owners set dog training goals that are too consuming and complicated, rendering them unrealistic and difficult to sustain long term. Some pet owners, on the other hand, feel so overwhelmed by the idea of training that they delay it — and then never do it at all.

In addition, your dog’s problematic behavior may make you feel guilty, embarrassed or ashamed; this, in turn, may cause you to put off seeking help, hoping the behavior will resolve on its own. Unfortunately, seeing your dog’s behavior as a personal failure can deter you from getting the help you and your dog need.

So, are you a bad pet owner if your dog doesn't recognize basic commands? Not necessarily.

I’m not going to scold you for being a bad owner if you aren’t actively working to train your dog — the vast majority of people with whom I work love their dogs and want to do what’s right for them, they’re just not sure where to start. Successful training starts with getting past the guilt. After that, it’s just a matter of recognizing how easily positive-reinforcement training can be incorporated into your everyday interactions with your dog, and how helpful simple commands like stay and come can be.

New Things Can Feel Extra Hard

I’m sure you’re thinking, Well, of course, Mikkel thinks training is easy — she’s a trainer! But, I understand how overwhelming it can be to learn something new. The feelings some pet owners have about dog training are similar to my feelings about domestic tasks. Basic things like laundry, cooking and cleaning were all foreign and terrifying to me when I first left home. If you asked me to make pasta for dinner, I would panic, call my grandma in a frenzy and desperately ask, “How do I boil water?”

I love having friends around, but I am challenged as a hostess. I always forget to serve food because I’m too busy chatting with my guests. I even managed to show up late to a dinner party at my own home! I arrived halfway through the evening to find my gracious friends serving the food themselves, while they waited for me. They still tease me about it.

Yes, in the domestic arena, I am desperately flawed. My talents and passions, without a doubt, lie in other areas. Luckily, I’ve found grace and humor in the learning process, and I’m OK with making imperfect progress. Most importantly, I’m aware that my end goal isn’t outward perfection, but living out my love for the people around me. I’ve made peace with myself, where I am at the moment, knowing I am on my way to where I want to be.

I share this about myself because you may feel similarly when it comes to training your dog. I know that training can be daunting, especially if you don’t know where to start, but like learning to boil water, teaching your pooch a few basic commands can be an easy beginning.


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