What is Functional Obedience – Real World Dog Training

What is real world dog training as opposed to other training.?

I receive many phones calls daily and the most common comment i hear is that my dog  is great at home but when i take him for a walk he changes into the beast from hell. Doesn’t listen , pulls and tugs the owner along on the lead,wants to stop and every tree and bush to pee ,not even a semblance of taking notice of the owner , let alone when it sees another dog or person.

real world obedience

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A lot of trainers will say the best thing is to change the dogs enviroment for example not walk your dog when there are other dogs or people walking. Rather than teach your dog to walk calmly and attentively to you. A dog is a dog. Thinks like a dog and does what is natural for a dog.It is up tou you as an owner to teach your dog  that its rules and behaviours are different to the ones you require.

Most pet owners today are only interested in the”tricks and tasks”. Sit, stay, down, walk on a leash, potty training, not jumping up on people, etc are tricks and tasks. They may even be labeled Canine Manners. But they do nothing to change how the dog interacts with the world. They do not teach coping skills, or stress management.

Functional Obedience – Real World Obedience

The theory around this type of obedience is to teach the dog real world skills:

Questions to ask yourself .


  • Can I control my dog?
  • Can my dog control its own actions/reactions?
  • Can I have my dog stay but keep an active mind?
  • Does my dog mirror my body movements when we are walking?

Most people’s mistake is to give an obedience command value in relationship to their end goal.  “I don’t want my dog to pull.” So they take a basic obedience course in a sterile environment, with ‘high pack’/’low drive’ dogs. The dog learns to heel in a straight line, and make a couple of turns. The dog doesn’t learn:

  • What to do when another dog rushes you
  • What to do if your dog is afraid of another dog
  • To stop when the owner stops, and walk when the owner walks
  • To pay attention to the owner, not everything in the surrounding environment

Basically, most dog training obedience classes do not teach a task in relationship to its real world function.

Functional obedience teaches the behaviors needed for the dog to reliably complete all commands and expectations without a) being micromanaged and constantly corrected, b) in a calm and focused manner, c) teaching the dog to be responsible for its own behavior.

Most people ignore their dog’s behavior and temperament until the dog gets older. They let it practice primal survival skills, and then wonder why they have a dog that is aggressive and won’t listen. At 9 months old, when the dog’s behavior gets worse, then they want a quick fix.

There is an onslaught of new trainers who promise to ‘fix’ problems in 2 or 3 sessions, without ever considering the consequences. How will this effect the dog’s behavior? Will it make the dog more stressed, or fearful?  Will it break the dog’s trust in people?

None of these matter. The owner is happy, and for the most part the owners never ‘see’ the damage done to their dog, until it develops more behavior problems.