By Katy Cable-TWR
A 3 min. Read
A GREAT DOG IS MADE NOT BORN
It's the most wonderful time of the year: BACK TO SCHOOL! It seems like life has been taking place in dog years and it’s been FOREVER since the kids were out of the house and back in the classroom. I figured this was a perfect week to address one of the biggest mistakes pet owners make: NOT TRAINING THEIR DOGS TO BE GOOD CANINE CITIZENS.
Several of my close friends are dog trainers and puppy-raisers for Canine Companions. I also have friends who train and handle animals for TV and movie shoots. One important thing I've learned is: a great dog is made not born.
Sadly, animal shelters are full of dogs who didn’t get a proper start in life or the right family to meet their needs. As a result they developed behavior problems. An unpredictable or out-of-control family dog is not only exhausting and difficult to be around, but worse, they can pose a huge danger to property, your family members, other animals or themselves.
AS SEEN ON TV
I learned this first hand when our family was asked to participate in a new TV show for called "Who Gets The Dog.” The concept was three different families compete for a shelter dog chosen as a good match for them. The dog spends an entire day and night with each family while the show documents the visits. Lastly, a team of dog experts chooses who the best-suited family is to adopt the dog. The winning family is awarded the dog and a year's supply of dog food.
My family had been looking for a Pug or small dog that was good with children and didn't need a lot of space. I also had allergies and couldn't have some breeds. No sooner did we get the news from the Pug rescue that we could adopt Raisin (our first Pug), we also received a call from the TV show. I declined their offer to be a contestant, but they pleaded with me to please do them a favor as they needed just one more family to complete the episode. They assured me it was a perfect dog and we would definitely want to keep this dog too! Poor Raisin went right back to his foster family for an overnight and the TV crew came out.
The minute the cameras started rolling, in bulldozed an enormous, shedding, ball of energy named SULLY. After knocking me flat on the ground, Sully proceeded to run upstairs and unleash a good liter of urine on our new white carpet. I took one look at this huge furry dog and realized in an effort to make entertaining television, the producers had pulled a bait-and-switch. Sully went on to ransack furniture, tear up pillows and destroy pricey decor and it just got worse. My then 7 year-old daughter Karley loved the dog and it was too dangerous for us to let her walk or go near him. I wanted this "DOG-GONE " and our new Pug Raisin back.
We were scheduled to take Sully to our local dog beach to play some games. No sooner did we get out of the van when the poor dog went completely crazy tearing down the beach chasing a bird. He darted out into a busy street and nearly got flattened by a UPS truck. He was so out of control it took 5 huge men on the crew to contain him.-And it just went downhill from there. By the end of the day, I looked like a basset hound from allergies and sobbing.
I told the producers we were not interested in keeping the dog. He was not a good fit and it was terribly dangerous. I was so upset at both their negligence and the trauma it put on this poor animal and our well-intentioned family. The final blow was watching the show on TV only to discover they had further manipulated us by editing our segment only showing Sully sleeping or calmly laying down. They filmed our reactions when he had been bouncing off the walls or trying to catch him before he ran out in the road and was flattened by a delivery truck. We came across as manic and Sully looked like a perfect pet anyone would be crazy not to want.
The show was quickly cancelled. However, with the wonderful trend of people seeking relinquished shelter/rescue pets as well as those opening their hearts to senior, special needs or problematic dogs, it's crucial to understand how to rehabilitate and train animals who got off to a “ruff" start. That perfect dog you fell in love with at the shelter, may act completely different once you bring them into your home.
WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU’RE EXPECTING
Regardless of whether your new dog is from a shelter, rescue, or a previous owner, expect some behavioral issues and address them from the get-go. The most common being housebreaking problems but other stress-related behaviors include excessive barking, chewing & destroying inappropriate items, escape attempts, jumping up on people and hiding.
Even a fully trained dog, will need to learn your routine, and familiarize themselves with your home snd neighborhood.
The most important thing to remember when trying to eliminate undesired canine behaviors is that dogs learn desired behavior through positive reinforcement. Simply put, you must reward good behavior and ignore the bad. What DOESN'T work is any kind of physical punishment or yelling. This will simply add to your dog's anxiety and stress plus it can make your new family member fearful of you.
Training should begin the second your new dog comes home with you. Right from the first meeting you should begin addressing your dog by their name and using basic training commands like: "Come", "Sit", "Stay", "Down" and "Off!" If you're lucky you might be surprised to learn your dog can already follow a few. And when they do, give lots of love, praise and perhaps training treats.
BEST IN CLASS
On the other hand, you might find that you need to do a lot more work. If your dog isn't getting the hang of basic commands, take it very slow, and work on just one command a day or for a couple of days (or weeks) before overwhelming them with others. Your dog doesn't speak English and repeating commands over and over and LOUDER and LOUDER won’t make your pooch listen any better or learn any faster. In fact, it will just set-back progress.
I know first-hand how frustrating it can be so if you find yourself having issues, I recommend having your dogs checked out by your veterinarian. A dog with a ruptured ear drum from a nasty infection, may not be able to hear your commands. The accidents in the house may be the result of a bladder infection. Or, even with a clean bull of health, your vet is a great resource for trainers and classes.
Getting the help of a professional trainer who practices positive reinforcement to show you how to communicate more effectively and offer helpful tips. This is also a great option for more difficult behaviors such as incessant barking.
Although I'm a huge fan of group training classes, when it comes to a new shelter or rescue dog, I often recommend having a trainer work with you in your home or one-on-one first to get the basics down. You will have much more success in a group class if you have waited until a trusting bond with your new dog has been formed. This might take more time, patience and work. Remember your dog probably had a life of complete chaos and fear prior to meeting you.
It’s also a good idea to assume your dog wasn’t properly socialized by their previous owners. They might be distracted by other dogs making training nearly impossible.
A SECOND CHANCE
When I rescued Olive she was a frightened little breeder pup who had never lived outside a crate. She had never seen stairs, been on a walk, or had any loving experiences with humans. She was scared to death being put in a harness, driven in a car and led into a brand new home. In an effort not to completely overwhelm her, I enlisted the guidance of top-notched trainers who advised me to gently and slowly begin exposing Olive to all the sights, sounds, smells, and other living creatures in her new environment. When she got scared, I backed off and went at her timid pace. After nearly six years with me she still has fear issues with crates, cars and large crowds but she's come such a long way. She is amazing with skills snd commands, but when she gets in fearful situations, I am extremely gentle and go at a slow pace. I always give her lots of praise and love. I also try and make training fun!
Do your best to make training fun for both you and your dog. Your enthusiasm and energy is contagious so be mindful of your own mood. Training doesn’t stop once your dog stops having accidents in the house snd can “sit” on command. I encourage you and your fog to be life-long learners and continue in classes, refresher courses, agility, therapy, nose-tracking work or other activities. Get suggestions from your vet, or local pet store for fun classes, trainers or clubs to participate in. At the end of the day, you are learning and getting just as much out of it as your dog is.
By addressing behavior issues immediately, most can be corrected and not turn into bad habits which follow your dog into their new life with you. Once you begin and a trusting bond has been formed, your dog is sure to be “Best In Class” and anxious to keep learning . Here’s wishing all you students and dog owners a successful school year!
Pugs and Kisses🐾🐾💕
🐾Katy Cable is a former actress appearing in “Back To The Future” and starring in the TV series: “Safe At Home” & “ Fired Up!” In addition to her dog health & lifestyle blog/vlog: The Weekly Runt, (https://www.weeklyrunt.com/) she’s a contributing writer to numerous publications including Thrive Global, & The Huffington Post. Cable lives at the beach with her husband, Rick and her rescue Pug, Olive.🐾