A surprisingly large number don’t pursue higher education for their canine pals.
You wouldn’t send a child out into the world with no education or pull him out of school after kindergarten.
Yet, when dog owners were asked about how often they provide formal training for their canine companions, nearly a quarter of them admitted that that’s exactly what they do. Twelve percent said they stopped after puppy class and 11 percent said their dogs were “autodogdacts,” a canine spin on the word for a self-taught person, autodidact.
Self-teaching might be effective for some humans, but only among the most highly intelligent and motivated. The word usually refers to someone who demonstrates brilliance in a given field but received no formal instruction in it. People like Orson Wells, who dropped out of film school, and William Shakespeare, who never attended a university, spring to mind.
It’s unlikely that any of these extraordinary individuals took the reins of their own education early on, although there are extremely rare cases where a child has grown up without adult or expert guidance. The most famous of these is Victor of Aveyron, a feral boy found wandering in the woods around Paris. French filmmaker François Truffaut told his story in the 1970 movie The Wild Child.
Feral children never master communication skills, have no understanding of manners, and ordinary day-to-day situations, such as using a toilet, can be terrifying to them. They just don’t fit in with other people.
The same may be said of puppies whose owners skimp on education. A poorly educated dog can end up unable to live in a world among humans. The vast majority of dogs in shelters have had no training at all.
In a 2013 study from the School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis, Jennifer Kwan and Melissa Bain spent about a month at shelters, trying to find out the why dogs were losing their homes. Sixty-five percent reported a behavioral reason for relinquishment.
In another study, Dr. Mary Burch, director of the CGC program for the AKC, presented a poster at the Animal Behavior Society conference, in Princeton, New Jersey. Her survey of 1445 owners whose dogs had passed the CGC test, revealed that 99 percent had their dogs a year later. Even more significant, in Dr. Burch’s study, 70 percent of CGC graduates went on to more advanced training, rally, obedience, agility, and therapy work.
Fortunately, the majority of people surveyed for our infographic fell into the group that recognizes the importance of ongoing education. Nearly half (48 percent) of respondents said they gave their dog some formal training more than once a week, another 22 percent said once a week, while a small percentage (7 percent) said two or three times a month.
That’s good news, because while an untrained human child may make for a fascinating movie, there’s nothing entertaining about life with an untrained dog.
To learn about pursuing higher education for your four-legged student, visit our Canine Good Citizen web page.