Training: Happy Pet, Happy Owner


Training: Happy Pet, Happy Owner

A plea to those of you who are planning to have a pet join your family and those who are considering it.

My plea is pretty simple. It consists of one word:

Train.

That's it. Train your dog, cat, parrot ... whatever creature you decide to add to your family.

Whether babe, youngster or full- grown adult, the animal will require guidance to join your family.

I used to be one of those "I want my dog to be a dog" types, the kind who thought training somehow made dogs less than what they really are, that training demeaned them and forced them to bend to our wills.

Once I realized what makes animals tick, I realized that training isn't some false means of keeping our pets under our thumbs. On the contrary, it's a way of liberating them. By providing guidance as to what's correct and what isn't, we offer our pets a means by which they can live amid us happily, with little to no confusion or the stress that often accompanies it.

There's no absolute when it comes to training. Some people like their dogs to heel, wherein the dog walks on the person's left side, its nose even with the person's knee. Others don't care which side their dog walks on, or whether it's in front of or behind them - they just don't want to have their arms jerked off.

The important thing is less what your pet does than that it does what you want.

How you accomplish this is more crucial. Striking or yelling at your pet won't get you what you want - an animal that willingly does what you ask of it. It will get you a pet that's scared of you. It will make your dog shake when you come home, and it will make your cat hide under the bed.

On the other hand, helping your animal see what you want, then rewarding him for doing it, will forge a bond that will be very hard to break.

That bond is a miracle. It can be just as deep, maybe deeper, than the bond you have with people, because there's no second-guessing. Cats and dogs don't have guile; they aren't devious. They are what they are. What you see really is exactly what you get.

Work with your pet, and the sky's the limit. You can accomplish amazing things together.

Your dog should willingly look to you for guidance?

But, you maybe thinking, it's all so much work. Sure, it's work. But training your pet isn't half an hour or an hour of drills every day. It's two minutes of practice before you leave for work. It's asking your dog to sit before he can have his food, or having him wait 10 seconds before he goes outside. It's a few minutes here, a few minutes there. The payoff is huge.

Don't train, and the payoff is also huge - but in a bad way.

Most of the dogs that end up in shelters are there because they weren't trained by their owners. People obtain cute puppies, then put the pups in the back yard, where they bark, chew and dig. Or they make food available constantly, then wonder why the dog growls whenever the toddler goes anywhere near it. They stick a choke chain on the dog's neck and marvel that it doesn't stop the dog from choking its way down the street, even when they yank on the thing over and over.

And, before too long, they get tired of it all, and off the dog goes to the shelter, where a frustrated staff may or may not have the resources to help rehabilitate it and turn it into a dog that someone would like to adopt.

Training isn't cruel; not training is. Training helps explain the rules to creatures living in a world they don't rule; it helps them make sense of a very confusing species - humans.

So, if you're expecting a furry package, do it - and yourself - a favor. Get some education on what makes your particular kind of animal click. What makes it happy? Learn to reward it with exactly that when it does what you want.

Really get to know your pet, and help it get to know and understand your world. In so doing, you'll make an ally - and one of the best friends you'll ever have.



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