National Train Your Dog Month: Final Thoughts

Today, the last day of January, is the final day of the APDT’s National Train Your Dog Month.  But that doesn’t mean anyone should stop training!  On the contrary, here’s a whole list of reasons you should get involved in some training with your dog.

Your dog didn’t choose his life, you did.  No one held a gun to your head and forced you to get a dog, and good reward-based training enhances dogs’ lives in ways you can’t imagine if you have never participated in it.  Dogs love learning (when the learning is motivated by fun, play, and treats) and they deserve to get to participate in activities that help them to utilize the unique brain that they have.  If your dog doesn’t like going places due to inadequate socialization (or any other reason) then take an online tricks class, buy a clicker training book, or hire an in-home trainer. Trust me, your dog’s life will be so much better if you teach him things.

The time to fix that bothersome behavior problem is NOW.  It pains me (and other dog trainers) when I get a call about a dog that has been biting family members for years, but has recently bitten a friend or neighbor, therefore forcing the owners to take action.  If your dog growls at anyone, bites anyone, snaps at anyone, is afraid of anyone, or acts in any way uncomfortable with daily aspects of life, call a trainer today!  The longer you wait, the worse your dog’s problem will get, and the less hopeful his prognosis becomes.

You say your dog’s behavior problem is minor?  The time to fix it is still NOW.  If your dog occasionally urinates inside or chews up non-chewtoy-items, you can and should get that taken care of.  Why?  Because it will bother you more and more as your dog gets older and does it more and more.  And it is less and less fair, and more and more complicated, to try to change your dog’s behavior the longer you allow it to continue.  At some point your dog will urinate on your brand new carpet or rug, and at some point your dog will chew something you can’t replace.  Suddenly the dog who had no idea his behavior was anything but perfectly normal and acceptable is in a shelter on death row because no one helped him to be better.  And no one will adopt him, I promise you, because it is those minor problems that cause dogs to meet their death in those places, usually after being returned multiple times.

You would never put your dog in a shelter?  Well good, I commend you.  But I will say this: things do change–usually with the addition of children to the home.  Minor behavior problems become monumental ones when there is an infant in the family.  Which brings me to my next point.

If you are planning to have children someday, train your dog today, not when you or your partner is 8 months pregnant.  Your dog’s behavior problems will be put on the back burner sooner than you think in the whole process of growing your family.  If your dog has a behavior problem, fix it now before you have children.  If you already have children you know how unrealistic it sounds to take on a training program for your dog.  Solve inappropriate urination before your child is learning to crawl, solve chewing problems before your house is full of children’s toys, and please please please solve any and all aggression problems before your dog commits the crime that will most likely send him to his death–biting a child.

If you already have children, get them involved, they might just love it.  Good dog training, especially clicker trianing, is usually easier for kids to pick up than adults.  As long as your child is at least 8 years old (or is exceptionally mature for a 6 or 7 year old), she can get very involved in the dog’s basic training (not in the modification of behavior problems–that is your responsibility only) with supervision.  Check with the dog trainer operating your class, and do not ever plan on leaving a child under 16 at the class alone, and then get signed up.  Everyone in the household should be involved in the family dog’s training, so make it a family affair.

The bottom line is this: dog training isn’t a luxury and hiring a professional dog trainer is not an admittance of failure.  Quite the opposite, really.  Hiring a professional is the biggest act of commitment you can take in terms of dog ownership.  So train your dog today!

If you’re in Northern Colorado visit www.thecognitivecanine.com today to get started!