One of my dog training class members came to me yesterday, thrilled that she had been paid several compliments about her dog walking nicely next to her in the street. No jumping, no lunging. She also noted that people were complementing the dog, and not her. They said what a marvellously obedient dog he is, how calm, how well behaved. And yet, how many of us might not credit the owner for their dog’s behaviour and yet be the first to blame the owner when their dog behaves antisocially?
“If only MY dog would do that” or “My arms are pulled out of their sockets” along with shoulder and elbow damage are regular complaints from dog owners seeking help.
As my class member said truthfully to people that commented, she has been training her Labrador since he was a small puppy, regularly coming to class and practising lead walking skills whilst he was tiny, through awkward and noisy adolescence, to now. It took a year of regular effort, every day, to get this lovely calm adult dog.
On the surface these dogs look like they were born biddable, but I know differently. Maybe class isn’t the route all owners take, but they definitely have been teaching their dogs.
For better or worse, your dog is your lifetime friend. You chose the dog, brought them to your home and are responsible for their education too. We all decide how our dogs behave when they are in public. I am sorry to admit there are places locally where people tell me they will no longer take their dogs. It’s a bit like avoiding certain places late on a Friday night; they have seen and heard too many unpleasant dog and owner squabbles to feel comfortable there. The dogs involved in fights need to learn, and need to be taught, but it is so much easier when they are young and physically small. Never delay your puppy’s formal training. Playing is fun, but it has to mix with proper teaching too. Without proper teaching, playing becomes doggy punchups, and practise makes permanent.
Your new puppy needs to mix with his mates, but don’t choose the free pet shop scramble over a proper set of lessons. Start early, before the pup is too old (you need to start class between 12-20 weeks). These times can’t be replaced. Mistakes are hard to resolve.
Let’s start afresh. If you are giving something up for Lent, or deciding that a month without chocolate is your next goal (the horror!), add an aim for your dog. New Dog Makeover Month! 30 days to a new team. Let’s get teaching, kindly, for a change for the better.
For further help with training, my book 21 Days To The Perfect Dog will provide a plan and lots of info on how you can approach this.
– Karen Wild