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Anyone Can Train Their Dog
By Art Hess
It occurred to me recently that a very large number of the problems I encounter are from people who have a new dog, usually a puppy. This led me to ask “Why do you want a puppy?” and “Are you willing and able to take proper care of a puppy?”
Before you jump to a hasty answer, I encourage you to give serious consideration to a few things:
* Puppies require a lot of time. This includes all of those things that make up care for the puppy. But more importantly puppies need lots of interaction with people and the world around them. Young puppies cannot be left alone for extended periods of time. An hour alone is a long time to a 3 or 4 month-old puppy.
* The early months are extremely important times for the puppy to form bonds with its family, and to become socialized. Behaviorists have taught us that the first twenty weeks (4 – 5 months) are the most critical times in the puppy’s early development. If you cannot be available for your puppy during this period, perhaps you should rethink your decision.
* Good habits, bad habits, and behaviors don’t just happen. They require regular effort on your part. These are part of the “rules, regulations, and limitations” to which the “Dog Whisperer,” Cesar Millan, often refers. If you want your dog to become a well-behaved adult dog you have to spend time with it to develop good habits. If dogs learned these things by osmosis or on their own, they would simply borrow the car keys and drive down to the library and read a good book on dog training.
* The early time spent with people often has a huge effect on the personality development of the puppy. People’s physical and mental characteristics can obviously lead to good qualities or bad in the puppy. A large, loud, and aggressive person, for example, could be very detrimental to a submissive dog, or could turn a potentially aggressive dog into a time bomb. Conversely, the person who finds difficulty with discipline and believes that love conquers all can also wind up with a dog with serious behavior problems. In short, this means that your puppy needs one or more hours a day of your time.
* Puppies need regular and frequent visits to the vet, and for many breeds to the groomer. This takes a commitment of time and of course money.
And don’t forget the “accidents.” Things get knocked over, broken, dug up, chewed up etc. and if you are uncomfortable with these problems, again don’t rush to a mistaken decision.
* Finally, please remember that puppies pee, poop, jump, nip, bark, dig and chew. That’s natural with having a puppy. In short, puppy ownership requires an investment of time, energy, patience, and money, and you can count on some household upsets. Unless you recognize these things ahead of time and are willing to accept them as a part of normal life with a puppy, maybe you should not consider getting a puppy.
I know the above won’t make the people at the animal shelters very happy. But wait -- there’s a great solution! Yes, it’s completely acceptable to adopt an adult dog, and look at all the advantages. Just some include you know what you’re getting, you avoid almost all of the above- mentioned difficulties, but most of all you will provide a home to an unwanted dog who currently sits forlornly at a shelter, waiting to appeal to some prospective adopter. By rough count, there must be in excess of 150 dogs at the three local shelters, so why not take a look at an adult before you adopt a puppy and six months later wind up taking him to a shelter because he becomes “just too much.”