Life at Doglando: Pet Dogs vs. “Ready, Willing, and Able” Dogs

Two Kinds of Dogs: Pet Dogs and Working Dogs

There are two types of dog out there: The casual pet dog, which is the most common, and the working class dog. We like to call them the “ready, willing, and able” dog.

While both can be great companions and will love us unconditionally, one can be more challenging to work with… and it’s not the one you might think it would be.

Are working dogs difficult to handle, or is that just a myth?

So often we see these awesome videos of trainers with working class dogs doing every command given to them flawlessly. Naturally we think, “Man that must’ve been so hard to teach the dog.” I had this mindset. The mindset that said that the working dog would be difficult to handle.

I was woken up really fast.

Our pet dogs are great in the home. They enjoy casual lives and can be “off” when they feel the urge. These dogs don’t mind the lazy day here and there. What can happen, though, is sometimes our dogs can become unmotivated to work and learn for us. They may think the reward isn’t worth the effort, or that it’d be much more productive to do nothing.

When we compare these pet dogs to the ready and willing dog there’s a wide chasm of differences!

Francette, a trainer we have on staff, has some awesome dogs. The four she owns are always ready to work and learn with her. She doesn’t have to put much effort in to see these dogs become motivated. When she’s working with dogs in our skill building experiences at Doglando she frequently experiences the opposite — it can take a lot of work to motivate pet dogs.

The difficulties of training pet dogs

The other day I overheard Francette talking with Teena about this exact challenge. She had just spent twice the amount of time she wanted to spend working on obedience with a particular dog, just trying to get them excited to work. We sometimes use tug toys and games to achieve this goal, but the dog just wasn’t responding the way Francette had hoped for.

Had her dogs been the ones working it would’ve been a different story. Her working dogs are generally ready, willing, and able to work with her on whatever training exercise is on the agenda for the day. They have an innate and internal motivation to work.

Training pet dogs can take more time than training working dogs

As trainers, the staff at Doglando have to be mindful of the class of dogs we’re working with. While Francette can teach one of her dogs a new trick or command fairly quickly, it may take us more time with another dog.

Learning will still happen, but it’ll take a bit more time.

On one hand you see a low rate of work on our part in exchange for a large reward (like when the ready and willing dog gives us the desired behavior). Inversely, a lot of work yields little reward when we’re spending most of our time getting the dogs excited for the process.  

There really isn’t a perfect formula or way to get our casual pet dogs to achieve this “ready, willing, and able” mindset. But, there are things we can do to help steer our dogs in that general direction. We’ll get to cover this a bit more in next week’s segment. Until next time!