Dog Training – A Misnomer

In the United States, an estimated 2.7 million shelter animals are euthanized each year. Sadly, many dog owners surrender their pets to shelters due to behavior problems. Unfortunately, there is no quick fix for altering the way a dog behaves.

By watching an episode of The Dog Whisperer or a YouTube clip of Zak George, you get the impression that dog training is easy.  They imply that in just one hour your dog can go from Cujo to Lassie.  Don’t get me wrong — some of these trainers are very gifted. But despite efforts at training, some owners still feel the need to surrender their animal.

These shows and videos paint an unrealistic picture of dog training, thus leaving the everyday dog owner feeling like a failure. Despite trying the expert recommendations, they achieve little or no successThe reality is that dog training is about 10% training the dog and 90% training the dog owner.  These numbers may be a little exaggerated but you get the picture.  With the magic of TV editing, you don’t see the dog owner’s required time commitment and consistent effort to have the well behaved dog they desired.

No Quick Fix

Most people want a quick fix.  A couple I know felt they did not have the patience or skill to train their pit bull, Daisy. They sent her away to a trainer for 2 weeks, at a cost of almost $2,000. Daisy returned home, wearing a $300 electronic collar, behaving splendidly and obeying commands. That did not last and she quickly returned to her unruly ways.

Daisy, like all dogs, is a very intelligent creature.  She realized her owners were not going to hold her accountable in the way the trainer had done. I have no doubt the trainer was great at getting dogs to do what he wanted. But he did not address the most import component. He did not address the other 90% of training by failing to also train Daisy’s owners.

It is Really Dog-Owner Training

Rose Dybel and Dog Owner

When looking for someone to train your dog, always expect them to require your participation. It may be by joining the trainer as he or she teaches your dog commands. It might also be with written instructions, i.e., “homework,” to do between training sessions. If your dog is going away to a training camp for a period of time, you need to find out how you will be informed about how to reinforce the training. Ultimately, if you are not going to be involved in the training process, your dog’s behavior will not change.

As a trainer, I emphasize that you get what you put in when it comes to training. I’m with your dog only one hour per week; you, as the dog owner, are with your dog the other 167 hours. The more you work with your dog and the more consistent you are with follow through, the more consistent your dog will be in his responses.  If the dog sees that you eventually “give in” to his bad behavior, his resolve will become stronger to disobey your commands.  I teach owners how to effectively use positive reinforcement such as treats, toys or praise to achieve desired behaviors and non-punitive corrections to deter problematic behaviors.

Remember, “dog training” is a misnomer. A well trained dog must have a well trained owner.

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The Dangers of Xylitol

Rose Dybel is an employee of From Wags to Whiskers. She sent me this email. It is an important message to all pet owners.

 Minpin Ted and Rose

Last night I came home from playing tennis and discovered three Orbit gum wrappers torn on the floor.  My 14 lb. min pin, Ted, got into my husband’s computer bag and had eaten the 3 pieces of gum.  I had heard about the dangers of xylitol to dogs and knew it was an ingredient in the sugar free gum that my husband and I chew, i.e. it is in Orbit and Trident gum, etc.

I didn’t really think that 3 pieces of gum could hurt my dog but I immediately took him to the Blue Pearl emergency room just in case, especially considering how small Ted is.  To my horror, not only could 3 pieces of gum containing xylitol have hurt Ted, it could have killed him!!  I was informed by the ASPCA’s animal poison control that if it had been Trident gum, he WOULD have died (astonishingly, there is over 100-1000 times more xylitol in Trident brand gum vs the Orbit gum Ted ingested).  As it turns out, the Orbit was toxic enough and the vet had to induce him to vomit, which was traumatic enough for him, but thankfully no damage had been done to his liver.

I wanted to share this story with you in case you wanted to pass the info to your customers.  For those who don’t know about xylitol, it is a sugar substitute that is being used more and more in foods, especially to accommodate the increasing numbers of people diagnosed with diabetes.  It is now found in some kinds of sugar free gum, candy, peanut butter, jello, no-sugar baked goods, and even in toothpaste!  It is 100 times more toxic to dogs than chocolate, and it does not take much of it to be ingested to cause hypoglycemia, liver failure and ultimately death.   It is supposedly safe for humans and cats, but obviously VERY toxic to dogs.

If this information can help just one dog owner, it is worth it to pass it on.”

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Abby

Having been in business since 2004, many of the animals that I started caring for as puppies, kittens and young animals are now grey, slow and no longer see or hear very well. A large number of them have also passed away.

I was introduced to Alfred and Abby, a Cocker Spaniel and Black Lab, respectively, back in 2006. During the late part of 2013, we said good-bye to Alfred; just a few months later, we were suddenly forced to say good-bye to Abby.

Their mom, Misty Goldman, shared her story of Alfred’s life with her in Pet Tails Magazine. Below she describes her life with Abby.

As pet sitters we often come to love your animals almost as much as you do. In addition to a cat and a dog that share my bed at night, I feel I have dozens of other cats and dogs that are also mine — they just don’t live with me. Over the years I started to take pictures of all “my animals” and use them as my computer’s screen saver. The picture that accompanies Misty’s article is one I took during the very last set of visits I made to Abby last May. I never imagined it would be my last picture of her.


 

Fabulous Abby the Labby
2002 – 2014

By Misty Goldman

AbbyGoldman2

You took the sun with you when you left us.  It rained for days after we said good-bye and even when the rain stopped, the sky stayed a cold slate gray that reflected back the emptiness in our hearts.  It’s such a struggle to write these words, to acknowledge that you’re gone, to accept the void but I have to let you go.

You were such a beauty in your shiny black fur.  Attitude and stubbornness just like a teenager.  You had an angel’s face and a devils mind.  Your mischievous streak was legendary.  From digested checks, shoes and couches, nothing was safe from your jaws as your stealthy 90 lb body would tip-toe behind me.  On our first meeting you sent me home with only one shoe, a clear message that I was treading on your territory.  But I came back the next day and the next and the day after that.  You lost interest in my shoes and you became my shadow, my buddy, my clean-up crew.  Crumbs falling to the floor never had a chance.  A lover of vegetables and the nemesis of toilet paper, you probably thought Abby was your last name since it was frequently preceded by words that can’t be printed here.

Friends and dog people always offered the same advice; “…don’t worry, Labs calm down after about five years”.  Ha!  You were not a dog to be categorized!  I think you were seven years old when you stole the sandwich from that poor guy walking down the street in front of our house.  Nine or maybe 10 when you ran away to the school and got beat up by the neighborhood dog bullies.  And the toilet paper caper went on every chance you got for 12 years!  I’m so glad you defied the stereotypes.  I’m so thankful that you were Abby.

I can still see you there, rolling in the grass with pure joy on your face.  You would always stay just out of sight.  Always seeing me but making me look to find you.  That vision of our happy, loveable pup is all we have left of you now.  I look at that patch of grass everyday and it lifts my spirits.  It made you blissfully happy even when you were in pain.  Now your pain is gone and with it our hearts but the grass is still green so we sit there in your favorite spot, missing you but smiling.  I smile because I bet that you can still see me, even though I can’t see you.

You died just like you lived, on your terms.  It was Abby’s world and the sun and the moon and the stars would bend to your will.  And so would I…every time.  I miss you shadow.

 

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