The Dog I've Always Wanted

Canine Behavior, Training and Photography

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How Much Training ?

December 17th, 2009 · · Musings

rio-doberman-ottawa-2009

Rio, a well-trained dog

How does one want to live with one’s dog or dogs? Is immediate compliance with “commands” or requests a high priority? And is this a realistic expectation or is it the objective of a power-hungry control freak ?

On the one hand this seems to be a personal decision but on the other hand it’s not. Depending on where one lives and who lives in proximity to us our dogs’ behaviour is likely to impact other people and their dogs.

Having control of a dog is a matter of safety. This is the bottom line. A dog who bolts through  a doorway is vulnerable to a number of hazards and can cause harm to others as well. This also applies to recall; a dog that won’t  come when called puts himself and others at risk of injury and even death.

As far as what goes on in one’s own home and backyard there is more leeway. What is one willing to allow? Dogs on the furniture or not? Counter cruising? A little chewing on the stair railings? Holes dug in the garden? I personally don’t allow any of those things except digging and that is because I am not a gardener and my dogs exhibit such joy when they dig that I allow them that minor naughtiness. My husband, however refers to the holes they dig as a “man traps”. He sometimes fills them in with dirt or even gravel but they only get dug out again. It seems that there are a few spots in the yard that, from the dogs’ point of view, must have a nice hole. They use them to store balls  and other toys and to jump in and out of  when chasing each other around the yard. I don’t have the heart to deny them such a wonderful pleasure. I remember reading somewhere that to be fulfilled a dog needs to do three things every day: run, chew and dig. I suspect for many “bark” would have to be added to the list!

We ask a great deal of our dogs in expecting them to adapt to our environment and live up to our standards. It is true that dogs have been making these adaptations for thousands of years but that doesn’t make it any less astounding. They are brilliant at it. There are people who hold  the conviction that training “breaks” dogs and doesn’t allow them to be dogs. Humans, in the long history of  living with dogs, acheter viagra pharmacie, have always seen fit to train dogs, for example to assist in hunting and herding. The dog is uniquely equipped to learn from humans and work  with us. A dog needs a job. Although it is true that there is new and different work for dogs in contemporary society the principle is the same. Jon Katz does the topic of dogs and their work justice in his book “The New Work of Dogs”. Knowing what to do and when gives a dog a  sense of security.

Way back when, in the aftermath of the sixties laid back zeitgeist, I owned a dog whom I allowed to “just be a dog”. Fortunately for me, she was a sweet-tempered Lab/GSD who did not really exploit the situation. Of course I did house train her and it wasn’t so easy in a third floor apartment with no balcony. She was well attached to me and her recall was pretty good; she got to run with her doggie pals on a daily basis and we played our own version of hand (mouth?) ball in dead-end alley ways.  She was amazingly agile and inexhaustible in her younger years. When she was six our first child was born and she was gentle and patient with him as she was with the other babies that followed. But I had never trained her to walk properly on a leash and it wasn’t until she was about 10 years old that she finally  quit pulling me around. She lived to be sixteen and aside from her famous “garbage day escapes” she was no trouble. The kids loved her. I think that she did a pretty good job of being a dog.

But I wouldn’t do things that way now. For one thing I have three dogs these days. A multi dog household is quite a different matter. I enjoy being pack leader and my dogs seem to be quite happy to be “educated dogs” with nice manners. Times change. In my youth I had such contempt for anything or anyone that smelled vaguely of authority that taking on the mantle of leadership myself was a repugnant notion. Being a parent helped me learn that there is such a thing as benevolent leadership. And besides I’ve grown up somewhat since then.

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1 response so far ↓

  • 1 gpz // Jan 4, 2010 at 12:48 pm

    That is one GOOD LOOKIN dog!

    I often have that debate, how much slack do give, what should I let her get away with… Lily is a good dog, calm, not destructive, doesn’t make trouble. Because of this, I let her have free reign, and basically do whatever she wants. However, I’ve found that if there is a rule, it is important to be uncompromising about it. For a dog it’s either a yes or a no, because a sometimes or a maybe means ‘yes’ too.

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