Many of you are/have been involved in dogs, and I Follow a number of Blogs that are “dog” driven. On the surface, one would think that we are all “on the same page” but I regularly read comments that really bother me. They bother me because the writer is not only overlooking key factors of dog ownership; not only are they doing an injustice to their dog, but they are potentially missing out on so much of the pleasure that goes with good healthy interactions with their dog.
One of the reasons that dogs are returned to Humane Societies a few days after being adopted is because they are unruly around their new home; they are destructive; they bark a lot etc. In one simple statement “They are not trained!”
Incredible as I find this, there clearly are people who believe that somehow dogs will train themselves, or they will intuitively learn English and become respectful family members. It may well happen in Walt Disney world, but in our world… not likely!
As Ray was my first dog, I guess I had an advantage in knowing nothing about dog ownership. Knowing absolutely nothing is an incredible incentive to ask lots of questions of different people; read lots of books, and hopefully come to some conclusions as to how best to approach this new responsibility. Ray has been here for over 3 years now and I am still in contact with his Humane Society trainers, and still asking questions and getting their opinions.
My two children are now in “middle age” and I am still learning about them. I see many common areas between bringing up children and bringing up dogs. Both species need to know where “the boundaries” are. Both need structure in their lives. Both must be considered as long term commitments. Both can bring such priceless joy.
Bringing up children within a family culture is little more than training. They learn what behavior is acceptable, and they learn what clearly is unacceptable. They learn the family routines and adapt to them. Assuming that they are given much love and attention, they will learn to respect and accommodate certain aspects of their life simply because they wish to maintain the family’s current state.
The mental ability of a dog is generally considered to equal that of a 3 year old child. This is an important perspective to understand when relating to a dog because it means that it may show many traits that are expected from 3 year old children and, as with children, should be addressed.
Knowing that mental comparison should reinforce the fact that all dogs need training if they are to become an integral part of any family. Training should be done by the dog owner as not only will the dog become familiar with the owner’s sounds and body language, but it will provide a golden opportunity for bonding. Trainers that we know all insist on the owner being present during dog training sessions for just those reasons. They do stress that they are in fact training the owners to understand and work with their dogs!
There are a number of training methods “out there” and upon reviewing some, I asked myself a very simple question “Do I want Ray to cooperate because he really wants to please, or do I want him to cooperate out of fear of the consequences?” In my mind the answer was extremely obvious. Another question which came to my attention in the context of training was “If you wouldn’t do it to a 3 year old child, should you be doing it to a dog?” Again, the answer was rather obvious.
Whether planning a family, or adopting a dog, there is so much to consider if a mature and responsible decision is to be made. Committing to either one on an impulse is not only likely to cause much grief, but is totally unfair on the new family member… regardless of species!