When it comes to obtaining our new "best friend" should we not then pause to consider the reality of introducing a living, breathing, thinking, feeling creature into our domain ?
We are after all taking on an animal that is as dependent upon us as a child is. Our dog in the early days assumes that we are it's leader and competent enough to understand it's requirements.
Apart from working out which type of breed would best suit our lifestyle, we also need to be aware of how to feed our dog a nutritious diet, how to look after it's health requirements, how to socialise it, set our home up as a safe environment and how to allow it to grow & mature in a safe & stable household.
Importantly, we must also consider if we are up to training our dog. Have we seriously thought about this subject properly ?
Often when I go to a client's home for the first time I am met by a dog which is either stressed, anxious, confused, aggressive or dominant. A vet who I am currently training remarked that she witnesses exactly the same behaviours.
It is said that only one dog in ten gets a permanent home. Most are treated as a commodity & get passed on when they become too big, too boisterous or to much to handle.
What does it take to train our dog ? How much time do we need to dedicate to it ? When should we start ? How much will it cost ? What is likely to happen if we don't train our dog ? These are just a few questions you need to answer before even visiting the breeder, animal pound, pet shop or rescue centre. Otherwise you might be perpetuating the problem of those nine dogs in every ten !
Recently, whilst walking back to a client's home at the conclusion of a lesson, we met one of his neighbours. When she realised I was a trainer she looked horrified and said of the dog "Is he really that bad ?!"
As with the vast majority of people, this lady obviously would not ever consider training a pet dog.
Often, clients remark on how family or friends ask why they are wasting time or money on training a dog which is "Okay". As most of my clients will tell you, I often remark "Most humans are arrogant enough to believe they can introduce a dog into their home & it will just work. Most of the time it does not !"
Training is an education for both dog & owner. It teaches the owner to realise what your dog really requires from you. How it views you, it's place within it's family or pack & it's environment. It also teaches us how we should interact with dogs & just as importantly what we shouldn't be doing & the reasons why. Lets face it; everyone is an expert & has an opinion when it comes to training dogs ! In reality though how many of us actually know what we are doing ?
Training builds a bond, strengthening the relationship between human & dog. Training should be fun. It offers both physical & mental stimulation.
Training allows the dog to respect the owner as a firm but fair leader. After all we set rules & boundaries for the rest of the family !
Training assists in overcoming typical problems such as behavioural issues & bad habits which if left to continue could turn into major problems later.
Training adds variety into the dog's everyday life. Walking becomes more enjoyable. The more walks your dog gets the less likely it is to become bored & destructive around the home.
Training makes you look good ! Everybody loves to see a well trained dog & how it interacts with it's owner. Nobody is impressed with an out of control dog.
Training allows for a calmer dog who doesn't make a nuisance of itself around the home and a happier dog who will be easy to handle at the vet or groomers.
Training is a great way of socialising your dog. It can teach the dog how to react calmly in a variety of environments.
In some cases basic training can lead on to other canine sports & activities such as showing, tracking, herding & competition.
A trained dog is a pleasure to take out in public & to own.
I am regularly invited to give a talk at the conclusion of a local vet's puppy training course. There I talk about this very subject. I answer questions & tell it as it is, warts & all.
Some of those new puppy owners accept their responsibilities & see the sense in early training. Some don't & believe that the negative outcomes will not apply to them & their new "best friend".
Unfortunately, both I & the staff at the vets regularly witness this human failing.
Too often I am informed that I am the dog's last resort. If I can't fix the problem or issues then it's the end of the road for their once beloved pet ! The vast majority of owners call me after the dog has been allowed to drift into a circle of unsociable behaviours and bad habits. It is easier to establish good habits early rather than to undo bad habits later. Most of the issues I deal with need not have become a problem in the first place had the owner known the correct way to go about imprinting acceptable behaviours in the first instance.
The most common problem that my clients encounter whilst walking or training their dog in public is other owners allowing dogs to rush up to theirs and to act in a dominant or aggressive manner and where the owner has no ability to recall their dog or to control it's behaviour of lead. The law clearly makes provision that a dog should not be off lead in public unless it's owner is able to exercise proper control.
Remember, if your dog's behaviour causes harm to another it is you who are legally responsible. Think of training as insurance !
If you have not already done so, how about you as a responsible pet owner live up to your responsibilities & do the right thing in the first place? Train your dog before it becomes a liability both to you & itself.
Every dog deserves to be trained properly & to enjoy the benefits that training provides. Do the right thing & be the leader your dog assumes you are.