I recently saw a great poster that listed some very relevant points on the responsibilities of owning a dog. It was put together by a Melbourne-based company Paw Behaviour Dog Training who specialise in dog training and dog behaviour issues. I liked it so much that it inspired me to do my own version of it!
- Take the selection of your new dog very seriously. Just because you think a breed looks great does not mean it is the right breed for you. Before getting a new dog, research the breed and if it’s a cross-breed, look at all the breeds that might be in it. Make sure you can provide the environment and home life that the dog requires to fulfil its needs. If you can’t meet a dog’s needs you will likely end up with behavioural issues which will make both you and the dog very unhappy. If you are buying a puppy, do your best to meet the puppy’s parents, if not both then at least one of them. Temperament is 100% genetic. If the parents are fearful and aggressive your pup will almost certainly be too. Although you can help to make a fearful dog more confident you can’t change their temperament.
- Once you have brought your new puppy or dog home, immediately sign it up for dog training classes. Dogs learn 24/7. By actively being involved with a dog club and an experienced instructor you will have access to advice and help while learning how to manage your new dog. Then you can deal with issues when they come up before they have a chance to develop into problem behaviours. Dog clubs also provide opportunities for your dog to socialise with other dogs and people in a controlled situation.
- Dog training is a learned skill. I’ve spent the last 20 years training dogs and I am always learning something new. In order to help your dog learn what it is that you want them to do you need to have some idea of what you are doing. Find the right instructor to help you learn.
- Practice what you have learned at dog training classes when you are at home. Don’t go to class thinking that an hour a week is all the time you need to put into your dog. The most common excuse I get for why dogs aren’t improving in my agility class is that people don’t have time. That’s why I encourage people to think outside the square and utilise times of the day such as meal times to train their dogs. Instead of putting your dog’s food in a bowl and leaving them to it, get your dog to work for its meals. There is no reason why you can’t practice sits, downs, stays and heel work using your dog’s dinner as the reward. If everyone spent five minutes a day working with their dogs the improvement that they would see would be amazing. Bottom line, a dog can’t do what you have never taught it.
- Find out from your dog training instructor the best websites to visit and learn more about dog behaviour. There is a wealth of free information available on the internet these days to help people learn about their dogs and why they do what they do. Be aware, for every good website there are plenty that aren’t so good which is why it is important to look for those that are recommended by experts. Just as we have fears and issues, so do our dogs. Make it your responsibility to understand what your dog is trying to tell you.
- It is our job as owners to keep our dogs safe from harm and make sure we provide them with what they need. We should always manage the situations we put them in. If a dog does not come back when called, do not let it off the leash until you have taught it a recall. To do otherwise is to put the dog in danger (or other dogs if yours is not friendly). If your dog does not like other dogs, make sure you allow it to have plenty of space when around other dogs. If your dog is barking and lunging at other dogs it is telling you it is not comfortable. Be aware all the time.
- With time and effort you can create the most wonderful family companion. But remember, just like children, dogs need to learn right from wrong and understand their place in your life. They need your help to guide them. When you take the time to do this they will provide you with a life filled with love, fun, companionship and endless loyalty.
Karen Phillips is the owner and trainer of Riot, the beautiful Border Collie that is the Better Pets and Gardens mascot. Karen has had immense experience and success with her dogs, all border collies except for Cassie, the very fast papillon, and is currently involved as a trainer with the Agility Club of WA. Karen is also a regular expert on our Facebook page on Monday nights.