Wednesday, January 4, 2012

January is Train Your Dog Month

The number one killer of dogs isn’t cancer or other diseases, it’s euthanasia in shelters. Most shelters won’t be filled with adorable eight week old puppies. Nope, they’ll have 9 – 18 month dogs who have either been turned in by their owners for behavioral issues or found on the streets because their owners dumped them there because of behavior issues (I have one of those!).

In recognition of the newly adopted dogs over the holidays and resolutions being made, January is the perfect time to get started training your dog. You may be thinking that your dog doesn’t need training; after all, you’re not competing or showing your dog. Not so fast. Take a look at the photo below.

Katja & Nikita with Santa, 2007

Were you able to capture your dogs for that holiday photo in just a few minutes OR without getting frustrated? At the time this photo was taken, we only had Katja and Nikita for 5 months. They didn’t start learning basic signals until we adopted them at the age of 15 months.

A little background on Katja and Nikita
They were found living under a house. Best guess is they were around nine months at the time. The lady who found them, fostered them and insisted they be adopted together because of their strong bond with each other. Fast forward 6 months and here come two suckers (my husband and I) who were looking to adopt two adult dogs.

From day one, I worked with them on basic signals and a regular routine. We think they were adopted out at one point and returned. So, they had gone from who knows where, to the streets, to a home, another home, back to first home and finally to their forever home. I needed to quickly establish confidence and security in these two girls. What better way than teaching them stuff to do on cue in a safe rewarding environment?

Back to Santa Photo Shoot
So, when it came time for Santa pictures, all I had to do was tell Katja, Down --> Stay; and Nikita, Sit --> Stay. They knew what we wanted because I had been practicing (aka training!) the cues with them beforehand. We went behind the photographer. He clicked several pictures. And Bob’s your uncle! We were done in just a few minutes. Happy dogs, happy us and a very happy photographer!

The same couldn’t be said for the dogs before and after us.

So, I ask again…think you don’t need any dog training? 
How are you going to communicate to your furry companion what he should be doing (instead of focusing on what he shouldn’t be doing)?

By teaching your dog basic manners (e.g., sit, down, stay, come, leave it, let’s go), you will eliminate many behavioral issues. Because you are communicating what you want your dog to do, he’ll be less stressed and frustrated trying to figure out what you want him to do. Happy dogs, happy people!