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Dog Training Articles

Preparing For a New Pet

If you’re considering a new pet, it’s very important to make sure that both the children and the adults in the household know what to expect before making a final decision.

For example, when children visualize a puppy, they often imagine themselves snuggling and petting the cuddly bundle of joy. What they don’t realize is that the puppy will also be jumping, scratching, nipping (a lot) and chewing their toys!

Parents also frequently underestimate the amount of work a puppy requires. Between feeding, walking, training, supervising, keeping the floor cleared of toys and shoes, veterinary appointments, cleanup and more, getting a puppy can seem like having another child.

Although children should have some responsibilities for taking care of the pet, parents need to realize that the majority of the pet care will fall upon the adults. If you already feel inundated by responsibilities, then a new pet, especially a young one, can significantly add to feeling overwhelmed.

If, after carefully considering the above, you all still agree that you want a dog or puppy, then your family is truly ready. The best course of action is to be prepared in advance so your new dog will make as smooth a transition as possible into your family. Following are some tips and resources to help you choose a dog, become educated and be prepared:

  • Consider adopting an adult dog instead of a puppy. No matter what age dog you decide on, there are rescue organizations in your area to find both mixed and pure breed dogs. Contact your local animal shelter, or visit http://www.akc.org/breeds/rescue.cfm to find pure breed rescue groups.
  • Get your child some books about dogs so they’ll know what to expect. An excellent choice is “Dogs and Puppies,” an Usborne First Pets book. In spite of it mentioning a cardboard box (I’d recommend a crate instead), the rest of the book is so fabulous that I recommend it highly. From choosing a dog, to feeding, training and brushing, it’s appropriately informative for kids of all ages. Other First Pets books include “Cats and Kittens,” “Hamsters” and “Rabbits.”
  • Some books that can be invaluable to educate adults include: “Choosing a Shelter Dog,” by Bob Christiansen, “Childproofing Your Dog” and “Good Owners, Great Dogs,” by Brian Kilcommons and Sarah Wilson and“Everything You Need to Know About House Training Puppies & Adult Dogs,” by Lori Verni.
  • Have all of your supplies ready before bringing your new pet home, including: Leash and collar, food and water bowls, crate, brush, cleanup supplies, chew toys, money for vet care and food, a gate or two and plans for training. For great prices and selection on all of these supplies, visit here.

Whether you decide to get a dog now or wait until your family is more ready, some advance planning will benefit all of the family members… including your pet!


Should You Get a “Movie Star” Breed?

Kids and adults alike usually enjoy the antics of the dogs who have graced our movie and television screens for years. Most of us remember Lassie, Benji and Rin Tin Tin from our childhoods. In more recent years, dogs have starred in movies such as “Air Bud,” “101 Dalmatians,” “Beethoven” and in the sitcom “Frasier.”

While enjoying these movies can be a lot of fun, problems can arise too. For example, after the release of “101 Dalmatians,” there was a huge influx of people getting dalmatians as family pets. Unfortunately, this also resulted in a huge influx of dalmatians at animal shelters and rescue groups. Why? Because the dalmatian can be a challenging breed to own. Just because they’re so well-trained and cute in a movie, does not mean they will be an appropriate pet at home.

The same applies to any other “famous” breed. It’s important to remember that the dog stars we see in movies are not the average for that breed. These animals have had years of training, usually from birth, performed by professional trainers who specialize in animal actors. Sometimes, the very traits that result in their being a good “movie star” are the same ones that make them not be the best pets! (Such as a strong working drive).

Each breed has its own characteristics, and when it comes to being in your family, some traits are positive and some are negative. For example, the St. Bernard can be a very sweet breed for an experienced pet owner. On the up side, they can be loving, calm family pets who are also good watch dogs. On the other hand, the average St. Bernard will likely outweigh most husbands, will have droopy lips that proliferate giant strings of saliva that get on everything, and will require lots of leadership to ensure that their “watchdog” instincts are kept at appropriate levels so an aggression problem doesn’t develop.

All of the other “famous” breeds have their own traits to be aware of too. Golden retrievers can be loving and wonderful pets, but are also extremely energetic, tend to do a lot of chewing as puppies and can be prone to hip displaysia. Jack russell terriers can be sweet and fun pets, but also tend to be stubborn dogs who love to zoom around and ricochet off of furniture, and will likely  chase small animals for their entire lives.

The next breed that will be a big concern is the bearded collie. The new Disney movie, “The Shaggy Dog” is coming to theatres March 10, 2006. Rated P.G., this seems like it will be a cute family movie in which Tim Allen transforms from being the family dad, to being the family dog (a bearded collie).

There are many concerns throughout the pet community about the potential problem of thousands of people running out and getting bearded collies. Adorable dogs, these shaggy cuties might be the right pet for the right family. However, just like any time a pet is chosen, people also need to be aware of the breed traits that may be difficult. Bred for herding, these dogs may nip at the heels of children and will likely “herd” them when they run in the yard (by running by and knocking into them as if they were sheep). An intelligent breed who is meant to to a job, obedience training is paramount in avoiding behaviour problems, as a bored dog will create his own mischief to busy himself, not to mention coat care which is extensive with this breed.

In short, if you decide to get a new pet for your family, it is very important to research the breed and make sure you’re getting the right dog for your situation. Just because it’s a cute dog in a movie, doesn’t mean it will be the right pet at home. As responsible adults, it’s up to us to make the right decisions for our families, as well as for the welfare of dogs in general.


The Joys of Pets

Whether you have a dog or a cat, bird, fish or hamster, there are many joys our pets can bring throughout the year. Just as grandparents can enjoy the wonders of youth through their grandchildren, so can we all enjoy the silliness of puppies, the business of hamsters or the beauty of fish by looking with both our eyes and our hearts.

With busy schedules often taking over our lives, it can be easy to become complacent with our pets. Feed the dog, walk the dog, say “hi” to the dog when we come and go. Feed the cat, clean the litter box, pick up all the stuff he knocks down. Sometimes we may forget the very reason we got our pets in the first place.

There is no better time of year than Christmas and the New Year to remind ourselves that our pets can be so much more than just another responsibility. Taking time to really enjoy them might be something you need to remind yourself to do at first, but after a few times it will become something you look forward to.

For example, on a cold and windy day, most of us are not particularly in the mood to go outside and play fetch. But once you bundle up and head out with your dog, the joy in his eyes when he play bows, saying “I’ll get it,” is sure to bring warmth that counteracts the weather. For active dogs and puppies, an additional benefit is that he may also be ready to rest and relax when you return indoors after an invigorating game of ball.

Cats can be really fun to watch when you think of them as miniature lions. Take a few minutes to get out your cat’s favourite ribbon and play for a few minutes. It’s quite entertaining to watch how they stalk the string and then pounce on their “prey.”

Even hamsters, which may seem like noisy pets who don’t do much, can be enjoyable and educational to watch. Spend some time watching what they do when you put the fresh bedding and fresh food in the cage. It’s interesting to watch them reorganize their home, hide food and fluff up their favourite sleeping spot.

By taking some time to reflect, most of us will come to the realization that pets are more than just responsibilities. Listening to your bird’s song, enjoying the serenity of your fish tank, laughing at the antics of your ferret and talking to your pets are likely to bring joy to you, your children and your pets all throughout the year.


Getting Rid Of Your Dog

Most people love their pets and feel that they’re an important part of the family. No sooner would they get “rid of” their dog than they would their own children if there were a problem.

Unfortunately, there are also millions of other people who relinquish their dogs to shelters every year… contributing to the approximately 9.6 million animals euthanized in shelters annually.

According to the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy, the top ten reasons for dog relinquishment to shelters in the U.S. are as follows:
1. Moving, 2. Landlord issues, 3. Cost of pet maintenance, 4. No time for pet, 5. Inadequate facilities, 6. Too many pets in home, 7. Pet illness, 8. Personal problems, 9. Biting and 10. No homes for litter-mates.

Upon reading this list, do you agree that most of these problems could have been avoided? After all, why would a person get a dog in the first place if it hadn’t been okayed with their landlord or they didn’t have the time or money to care for it?

Keep in mind, the above reasons were compiled regarding people who relinquish their dogs to shelters. However, there are even more people who get “rid of” their dog through other avenues, such as rescue organizations, giving their pet away or finding him a new home on their own.

One of the common reasons I’ve noticed that leads people to get rid of their dog is problematic behaviour with the family’s children. Issues such as jumping up, play biting, chewing household items and intolerance of the children’s constant affections are common issues.

At first glance it may seem almost justified to give away a dog who jumps, nips and knocks over children. However, upon further speculation we must ask ourselves these questions: Why is the dog jumping, nipping and chewing or perhaps growling at the kids?

Like people, dogs need an education too. If we do not teach them, they do not know that what they’re doing is wrong. Just as children are taught their manners, so do dogs need to be taught not to jump, play bite or chews things other than dog toys… it is not automatic.

When it comes to intolerance with children, it is often unrealistic expectations that lead to this problem. Why are the children allowed to constantly grab at, pick up and continuously manhandle the dog? Would people allow children to do those things to a sibling or themselves? While pets in households with children do need to be properly socialized and tolerant of childish behaviour, at the same time it is unrealistic to expect that a dog would tolerate such constant pestering without displeasure.

The fact is, the majority of cases where dogs are “gotten rid of” could easily have been avoided in almost all of the situations mentioned above. Being a responsible pet owner means planning ahead before getting the pet. Spaying/neutering. Training the pet so manners and behaviour are not a problem. And last but not least, making sure all family members treat the pet fairly so behaviour problems do not develop.


Teaching An Old Dog New Tricks

“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”, says the old wives tale…and many adult dogs want us to think that too!

Actually, puppies and adult dogs are usually about equal as far as dog training challenges. Puppies may not already have many bad habits, but they’re usually so distracted that they have a hard time paying attention. Older dogs may have a few behaviours that need changing, but with their stronger attention spans, they’re often more able to focus on learning.

Dogs are extremely intelligent animals, but without constructive things to think about (such as obedience commands), many pets can become bored or mischievous. “Selective hearing” is a common problem mentioned by owners of adult dogs, along with the declaration, “I thought this breed was supposed to be smart!”

Dogs are pack animals. If there’s not enough leadership in the household, many dogs will instinctively step into the role of family boss. It can actually be kind of funny to take note of the subtle things your pet may have trained you to do. For example: Let dog in/let dog out (constantly), give him a treat when he whines by the cookie jar, make you catch him instead of coming when called, or keep throwing his toy whenever he barks at you.

While it may be humorous to recognize the small ways some dogs train their owners, occasionally there are much more serious problems at hand. Some dogs who step into the role of Alpha can be malevolent dictators…growling when someone comes near “his” couch, behaving possessively over the food dish area, or a multitude of other problems.

Most people find that once they begin some obedience training with their adult dog, their exclamations about him change almost immediately. The former lamenting of “dumbness” is quickly replaced with statements like, “Wow, he is smart!”, or “He’s been pulling the wool over my eyes all this time!” Obedience and behaviour modification can quickly turn an irritating relationship into an enjoyable one between you and your pet.

The truth is, adult dogs are often so smart, they’ve tricked their owners into thinking they’re not, simply so they can get away with things. With the average life span of a dog being 15 years, even owners of a seven year old dog can benefit from eight years of increased enjoyment of their pet. When it comes to dog training, “1/2 hour a day, keeps mischief away”!