I’m sure a few reading this might wonder, “Your blog is about cats so why are you talking about dogs?” Fair question. One, I love both cats and dogs. (I also think rats, chinchillas, and many other pets are cool too.) Two, it’s important. Three, it ties in with shelters, which is another topic I frequently discuss on Purry Home Companion. So there you go.
January, among other things, is National Train Your Dog Month, which was created and sponsored by the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT). One crucial aspect of responsible pet ownership is ensuring that you teach your pet (whether it is a cat or a dog) house manners. For a cat, it is using a litter box, not to scratch (destructive clawing), and not to bite (bite inhibition), for example. For a dog, manners can include basic commands like “sit” and “stay,” emergency recall, and how to walk properly on a leash. On a walk, your dog should walk right next to you, not in front and not pulling. (Incidentally, January is also Walk Your Pet Month.) Naturally, APDT developed a program called CLASS, or Canine Life and Social Skills, which you can read about on their website (linked above). Another training test is the Canine Good Citizen program through the American Kennel Club. Therapy dogs, for example, have to go through this training, or something similar, in order to be adequately prepared to perform therapy work.
While I volunteer in the cat room at my animal shelter, I am very pleased to know the volunteers that work with the dogs do teach them basic manners and how to walk on a leash nicely. Many dogs are surrendered to shelters because they are not trained and owners find them too energetic or that they do not want to put the effort and time into training their pet. This is most unfair to the dog, who may be adopted more than once before finding the right owner. By teaching the dogs manners, the shelter has increased the chances of their animals being adopted, dramatically shortened the dogs’ stay in the facility, and reduced the likelihood of those animals being returned–a win-win for everyone. The shelter has also had great success in placing dogs with Starmark Academy, and at least two dogs have since graduated to working animals in K-9 units. How exciting is that?
The point I am trying to make here is that it is vitally important to teach your dog manners so that your pet behaves well in private and in public. This is part of being a responsible dog owner. Do not expect to receive a dog (from a shelter or a breeder) already trained. You must put effort into working with and training your dog. Do you have questions, lack questions, or are you running into issues making progress with your pet? You may want to consider enlisting the help of a professional. Yes, training takes time, patience, work, and even a bit of money, but it does pay off in the long run.
Does anyone really want to have an ill-mannered, untrained dog? An out of control animal can pose a danger to you, your loved ones, and to others, and that is a matter of public safety. A dog that has never received any training poses great risks, even if that dog is not aggressive. For example, a large, unrestrained, hyperactive dog bounding across a yard and into the street can run in front of a car, posing a real driving hazard. This same animal can crash into pedestrians on the sidewalk or children playing next door. An uncontrolled dog poses a very real hazard to working service animals and their handlers, who may be injured or traumatized by this experience. A negative experience with another dog can seriously impair a service animal’s ability to work or even compel early retirement. It’s very serious.
As always, demonstrate your love for your pet by being responsible and doing the right thing. By doing so, you’ll have a happy, well-mannered canine companion that can comfortably interact with others in and out of your home. I, for one, enjoy having upstanding canine citizens! How about you?