With the proper care, all dogs are trainable—but some may fit particular situations better than others. “A lot of dogs have the ability to learn the same skills, they just have to be taught correctly,” Layton Kelly, a professional dog trainer who runs All Dogs Unleashed in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, tells Mental Floss. Kelly has been in the dog training business for nearly a decade, and he’s shared some important tips.
What to Consider When Choosing a Dog
Many people get a dog based on the temperament of a breed. According to Kelly, those who are looking for an easy-to-train or more convenient dog breed may have luck with breeds like golden retrievers and labs.
But it’s important to consider your own lifestyle. If you spend long hours each day out of the house, you probably shouldn’t get a puppy. Take note of how active you are and try to find a dog that matches your energy levels. A breed like a German shepherd, for example, wouldn’t be a great fit for someone who prefers a more sedentary lifestyle. Also keep in mind that every dog has its own personality—just because a certain breed may be known for certain traits, that doesn’t mean an individual dog will share those characteristics.
How to Identify a Good Dog Trainer
A dog trainer should use reward-based training to positively reinforce good behavior. In practice, this usually looks like using training treats or some kind of food as motivation for the dog. “Training has to be positive. I would hand feed my dog around a lot of high energy distractions to desensitize him to those things,” Kelly says. “You want to make the experience very positive, very fun. That’s why people can teach their dogs to sit and lay down quickly because the owner is into it and it’s fun.” Kelly also emphasizes training for obedience, such as teaching dogs to come when called, to sit, and to reduce or eliminate unwanted behaviors such as barking, chewing, and begging.
But just because a trainer identifies as a reward-based trainer doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re humane. For the best results, make sure to ask about their training methods. Do they use electric shocks? What about prong collars?
Ask potential trainers a lot of questions about their methodologies and training philosophy. And be sure to carefully read their reviews, too.
Here are four dog breeds Kelly has identified as easily trainable, based on their common traits and personalities.
Doodles—though technically mutts and not a purebreed dog—are known for being loyal and wanting to please their owners. They’re often quite outgoing, intelligent, and loving dogs. “From my experience, I would say that any kind of doodle, including the Goldendoodle, Labradoodle, and Aussiedoodle make things pretty easy,” Kelly says. “They’re sweet, they’re fun, they’re goofy.”
2. Golden Retrievers
According to Kelly, golden retrievers are known for being able to handle a lot of stress, which makes them fantastic service dogs. Golden retrievers are notoriously trustworthy and determined to please their owner. It’s one of the reasons they’re a great candidate for learning specific tasks.
3. Labrador Retrievers
Kelly says that Labrador retrievers, like golden retrievers, have many traits that make them good candidates for task-specific training: “Labs make fantastic service dogs because of their temperament and demeanor,” he says. “They can handle high-stress situations.”
4. Bernese Mountain Dogs
Although they are a large breed, Bernese mountain dogs are typically easy to train. Kelly says they’re gaining notoriety as a very smart and unique breed. “I think Bernese mountain dogs are like the modern age golden retriever,” he says. “They’re super smart, and they have great temperaments.” However, he cautions that the breed may not be a fit for everyone because they require so much space and exercise.