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:
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
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.