In the first of this three part series, I talked about choosing the right dog for your family and your life stage. In the second, I talked about why your dog hates being alone and what you can do to help. Today, I want to talk about training.
Dogs need direction both when they’re with you and when you’re not there. There was a time when I shied away from training our family pet. He was a member of the family and didn’t need to know tricks or how to behave like a show dog. A sit and a stay were all we really needed, or so I thought.
Then, along came Rosa. Rosa was the result of an accidental breeding. She was the last of her litter, being given away for free in the Walmart parking lot. My soft-hearted husband brought her home for the kids. From the very being, she was very fearful, which later developed into aggression. Knowing what would happen if our dog bit someone, we went out in search of training, which really changed my perspective on dog training.
Now that I’ve trained a therapy dog, I know that the more you train your dog, the stronger the bond between you gets. Dogs love to have a job, and they love when they get your undivided attention. My dogs LOVE training time. They get me, and they get treats. It’s a concentrated hour of heaven for them.
I’m not suggesting that every house dog needs the level of training my dogs get, but I would recommend that every dog owner invest in a basic obedience class with a local dog trainer. It is truly a gift you give your dog. Not only will it strengthen your relationship with your dog, but it gives your dog a sense of his place in your pack and a clear understanding of what you expect from him.
If you want your dog to come with you on family outings, I definitely recommend not only the basic class but also investing in an AKC Good Citizen class. The Good Citizen class gives you and your dog the skills to handle being in public with lots of distractions. No matter how well behaved your dog is at home, unless you’ve taught him how to behave when confronted by distractions, you’ll be very disappointed in the behavior you get in public.
Imagine taking a 3 year old child to a toy store for the first time and teaching him in that environment how to spell his name. How much success would you expect to have? Bringing your dog to public places without preparing him will produce similar results. Part of your responsibility as his caretaker and handler is to set him up for success. A Good Citizen class will do just that.
Every dog I’ve owned has been the best dog I’ve ever had. The dogs keep getting better and better, except it’s not the dogs. It’s me. With every dog, I become a more knowledgeable and skilled handler. Our dogs love us. We’re their whole world, and they love to make us happy. We just have to get better at communicating what we want and understand their responses.
To recap, start by researching what dog (breed, age, etc.) is the right dog for your skills and situation. Be brutally honest with yourself, because you and your dog will be glad you did! Next, be prepared to address your dog’s loneliness and possible anxiety when you head off to work or school. Finally, invest in training you and your dog, which will help you achieve the relationship you want.
Above all else, remember that our dogs use behavior to communicate to us. Happy, well-adjusted dogs don’t tear up the house while you’re at work. If that does happen, your dog is trying to tell you something. Seek professional help for you and your dog, because the relationship is well worth the effort.