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Nobody promised me a rose garden, but sometimes I wish someone would have. Life has been stressful lately: teenager issues, running a business, multiple projects with tight deadlines, financial obligations -- you know, the same junk you deal with. But when life is stressful, I put on a happy face, work hard and try not to burden others with it.
However, my wife knows me well enough to tell when I am stressed, and she admonishes me to lighten my load, breathe and stop driving like a moron. But you probably won't know I am stressed unless I reveal it to you because I am clever and have a vested interest (which I like to call professionalism) in keeping myself to myself.
Dogs, however, are more honest than I am. They have no interest in being professional.
Today, I took my dogs out for a romp in a nearby field so that they could burn off some steam. About five minutes into our expedition, I noticed my coonhound, Roscoe, had his nose to the ground behind some weeds. I called him, and he did not come.
Here is a list of phrases I catch myself saying often enough that I thought they were worth memorializing. Most of them are geared towards teaching dog owners to exercise patience when training their dogs. If you have any to add to the list, I would love to hear them.
This article is not about training your dog to stop chasing your cat (although that may be the topic of a future article). It is about whether you really want to train your dog not to chase your cat.
Clients occasionally ask me how to train their dogs to not chase their cats. The question always sends me into a moment of reverie about my home (zoo, really) ...
For tens of thousands of years, humans have bred dogs to accentuate characteristics that are useful for us and eliminate traits we dislike. That is why dogs integrate so easily into our families and are called “man's best friend.” They can help us navigate streets if we cannot see, pick up the phone for us if we cannot reach it, hunt with us, herd our livestock, guard our homes, play sports with us and be loyal friends when we have had a lousy day.
Science regularly sheds light on what we have suspected all along: dogs are brilliant at deciphering our facial expressions, body language and verbal communication. They can follow the point of our finger, which even chimpanzees struggle to do. Sometimes it seems they understand us in an almost human way.
But what does this have to do with training dogs and dealing with behavior issues?
UPDATE:Lucky successfully completed his Level One Obedience Training and was promptly adopted by a very nice family with another black Labrador about Lucky's size. They consider themselves (in their own words) "lucky to have Lucky." A special thanks to the woman who relinquished him. It is sometimes too easy to pass judgement, but it takes a good person to do what is best for a dog.
I find great satisfaction in my work as a dog trainer in Denver, Colorado. There are many things about my job that make me feel like my time has been well-spent.
For example, helping a dog with severe behavior problems stay in its home makes my day worth the hours I spend on I-25. So does watching the human-canine bond grow between my clients and their dogs. However, one of the things I enjoy most is training a raw dog (that is, a dog that knows nothing at all) and watching him grow into a great companion animal for some lucky adopter.
When a client asks me how far I think they should take their dog's training, I find myself in a slightly awkward situation. On the one hand, I am a dog trainer and have some well thought out reasons for giving dogs as much training as they can handle. On the other hand, I am a business man and offer several sequential training packages designed to take a raw/green dog and bring him all the way to off-leash reliability.
Raising and training dogs in Denver, Colorado, in 2012 is a far cry from what it was when I was a child in West Virginia in the late 60's through the mid-80's. For the most part, the changes have been for the better. Here are a few quick comparisons:
Then: Dogs lived most of their lives chained to dog-houses in the back yard. Hunting dogs were kept in kennels down by the woods. Because they lived outdoors, nobody knew dogs could have gas.
Now: Most dogs are indoor dogs. My bird dog sleeps on my bed. My coonhound sleeps on the floor on my side of the bed; he farts constantly.
I just read an interesting article about the discovery of paleolithic dogs being buried with their (chewy) bones. Archeologists theorize the dogs may have been used for pulling heavy objects, such as mammoth carcasses.
Years ago, a mentor told me the best way to learn is to teach. Teaching (both the preparation and the interaction) has a way of triggering creativity and pushing us towards insight. I occasionally experience the reality of this when I conduct in-home dog training sessions in Denver, Colorado.