Does everything we train our dogs have to be an instinctual attribute?

In this podcast Joanne Perrott, Founder of The Ladies Working Dog Group, and LWDG Group Experts Claire Denyer of Family Dog Services, Jemma Martin of Whistle and Wag Dog Training, and Samantha Thorneycroft-Taylor of Languedoc Gundogs deep dive into whether we can only train our dogs in a breed specific way.

Podcast Episode: Innate vs Trained Behaviour Podcast

The Natural Instinct

There’s a lot to be said for using your clever canine’s genetic nature when training them to carry out certain tasks and job roles.

A Malinois has strong territorial and protective instincts, a Spaniel has a Very good nose (often ‘too’ good!), a Collie’s herding instinct comes naturally and a Labrador is pretty much born with the desire to have something in its mouth… You get the picture.

When you do your research before taking on a puppy, or even an older dog, make sure that you look into not only the breed traits but also certain lines within that breed. Different pedigrees will have different strengths and weaknesses, and the drive, desire and style of particular breed lines vary immensely too.

Having carried out your research, have a vision in your mind as to where you want to be with your dog in a year or two’s time; use this vision to help mould your puppy into the being that you want them to be.

It’s all too easy to forget what our dogs’ talents are and this can often end in frustration. If you’re the proud owner of a Spaniel, there’s little point in trying to stop it from ever using its nose.

A Dogs’ Heritage

Way back when, nearly all dogs had a job role to carry out and their pay packet was their board, lodgings and meal tickets. Dogs were bred to fulfil a specific need of their owner and that is how many of the breeds we know and love today were originally formed.

It’s well known that every dog on the planet today needs something to keep them mentally and emotionally satiated but the truth of it is that we haven’t enough job openings for every one of them.

The good news is that the modern dog is more than capable of gaining that satisfaction by training and spending time learning with you, their owner – they don’t actually need to ‘work’ in order to receive their pay packet.

Is There Another Way?

As long as you can tap into what your dog finds rewarding, you can use that to train them to do all sorts of wonderful things, to carry out tasks that may not come naturally but can be nurtured and grown over time.

We need to be sensible about the tasks that are asked of our dogs; your average Chihuahua may not have the ‘presence’ to move a large herd of cows to their next grazing field, and it’s not likely that a poodle would have the jaw power to bring down a criminal.

But there’s no reason that you can’t train your dog to execute roles that are not necessarily within their genetic makeup; a Labrador could be trained to point in a specific set of circumstances – upon finding a bird, the trained behaviour/response is to stand, as an example.



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Finding Your Balance

When a behaviour is second nature to your dog, it’s important to not let it run wild with enthusiasm and self-reward. Ensure you have boundaries instilled and the ability to start/stop the behaviour that you’re working with.

It’s mentioned above that you should understand your dogs’ talents and have an end goal in mind, but we also must acknowledge that not all square pegs will fit into round holes so sometimes our vision of our dogs future will need to be adapted to better suit their abilities.

Always remember that if your dog has a particularly strong innate desire to do something, then not allowing them to fulfil that desire in some way may well lead to cracks in your relationship – using the Dachshund as an example here; If you find yourself tearing your hair out because it chases everything in sight and lacks recall, it’s easy to assume that your dog is simply being naughty but they may well just be trying to use their natural abilities given that they were originally bred to be scent hounds, flushing smaller prey out of their warrens.

In Closing

Whilst it’s often ‘easier’ to nurture a behaviour that comes naturally to your dog, he will love the journey of learning something new with you whether it’s a genetic instinct or seemingly rather alien to him at the beginning.

A trained behaviour might not be as ‘stylish’ to watch (think Bulldog in the beating line) but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable. Knowing that you’ve spent the time to teach your dog; you’ve broken down the chain into several smaller links, you’ve trained each little part and then pieced
them back together – to achieve that goal is incredibly rewarding!

In short, be sure to embrace your dog and all of its qualities whether instinctual or taught and have the best of times with your faithful companion.



What’s Your Gundog Goddess Style?

Who’s ready for some extra fun? Discover your unique approach to training with our “Which Gundog Goddess Are You?” quiz. You don’t want to miss this one

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