The fastest and simplest way to have a perfectly behaved companion dog is to buy a stuffed toy. What? You don't like that answer? Well what DO you want? Nothing worth while comes "fast and simple."
If you jumped to look at this page because you thought I was going to tell you how to teach your dog to be a perfect companion in five minutes then we need to talk. If you don't want plain talk, from the heart, then you are in the wrong place. My goal here is to save your dog's life. If I can do that then its worth risking hurting your feelings. It's going to be rough because I care. Oh and if you got here via search engine, I didn't plan it that way, I just forgot how they work and hadn't blocked this from them. So if you are a sensitive soul you may just want to quit while you are ahead. Ahem, now to continue:
If you want someone to tell you the fast and simple way to train your dog then you need to rethink your decision to be a dog owner. Dog ownership is a big responsibility and there is nothing fast and simple about it. The only fair thing to do is confront your assumptions and illusions. If you aren't ready for that then you need to rethink your decision to have a dog. OK let's talk.
If you've got the general idea and are ready to commit time and energy into having a wonderful relationship with your dog then look at some dog training or behavior web sites. Otherwise let's see if I can convince you that you either need to spend time and energy on making your dog into a terrific friend and companion, or you need to consider finding a more caring home for the dog. I'm going to ramble just a bit because I want to hit on a few things that come up from time to time and I haven't quite figured out how to fit them in.
Dog ownership is a responsibility.
If you got a dog "for the kids" then think about what you are going to teach them. Are you going to teach them to look for quick answers and give up if they don't find them? Or are you going to teach them that it takes good work to have good results. Are you going to teach them that responsibility means toughing it out when the going gets rough, or that if something takes effort to just quit? Are you going to teach them that friendship takes work, or that if you don't have instant rapport and understanding that you should get rid of the friend.
Please don't fool yourself about finding your dog a new home. Some lucky dogs do find new homes. I got both of mine from a shelter. Still lots of very fine dogs die every day in shelters. That includes both mixed breeds and purebreds. Large mixed breeds die the most frequently. A lot of teenage or adolescent dogs wind up in shelters because people failed to give them the necessary training foundation, and lack the patience to put up with teenage antics.
A dog is a pack animal. It prefers to be with its companions. Many people assume that the dog wants to be outside in the yard. While some dogs might, and a few will accept it, most dogs want to be with their people. When people leave their dogs outside or otherwise alone the dog is at very high risk. The risk is that the dog will become a nuisance and eventually wind up in a shelter. A lonely dog will do anything to relieve itself of that stress. Typically they will bark, howl, dig, or become destructive. They may bite at people who do visit them, thus causing fewer visits. This biting behavior is often due to the frustration of being kept apart from companionship.
You can successfully keep a dog outdoors, but if you read this to learn the quick and easy way to train I dog I very much doubt that you will spend the necessary time. If you are not allowing the dog indoors then you must set aside socialization time. It is time that you and the dog interact. It should last one to two hours, preferably more. It should include daily grooming of the dog. Go over it with both brush and comb from head to toe. Inspect the feet, toes, teeth and ears. Do it to keep the dog used to it. Rub the dog all over. Play with the dog. Play fetch, or teach it tricks. Make it fun. Then throw in ten or fifteen minutes of training "come" "sit" "down" "stay". Keep it light and happy. Feed part of the dog's supper as treats during this time.
If you got a dog "for protection" then realize the very heavy responsibility you have. Your dog must be safe to have around. In most states there is "strict liability" for dog bites. That means that you are financially liable for a dog bite even if you didn't know that the dog would bite. It means that you are liable even if the dog accidentally escaped. And if you've done anything to increase the likelihood that the dog will bite, then in many states you can be held criminally liable.
In most states you will be held liable if your dog bites a casual trespasser. You may use reasonable force to repel a trespasser. In most states inflicting puncture wounds on a casual trespasser is considered to be unreasonable use of force.
What kinds of things increase the likelihood of a dog bite? Leaving a dog tied in a yard, allowing unsupervised access to a fenced area that fronts on a public street or other place where people pass by, failing to teach the dog to tolerate being handled (especially around food) and of course agitating the dog or encouraging it to become aggressive. Most dogs can protect the home just fine with out being taught to be aggressive. More importantly an untrained dog is highly likely to bite a person who has done nothing wrong. Teaching your dog to be polite and tolerant of other people does not interfere with the ability of the dog to protect you. Actually you are more likely to have the dog around if you can trust it around strangers.
Teaching a dog to be a good companion takes time and effort. People are not born polite, honest, caring and well-behaved. Parents teach children. We can all see the results of children who have not had adequate parenting. Dogs are not much different. In order to have a great dog companion the dog must be around people enough that it has lots of opportunity to interact with people. During that interaction there will be love and cuddling, but there will also be instruction in polite socially acceptable behavior.
Patience, persistence and consistency are the most important concepts in any kind of teaching. Once you have committed to responsible dog ownership you can begin to explore getting the skills you need. Ideally you will take a class. Taking a class is a lot more productive than training by yourself. Trying something new is always a lot easier when you have a skilled coach available. Also a class helps you discipline and focus your training time. If you can't find the time for a class you will find it very difficult to make the time for proper training. You can learn the basic principles of dog training but there is no one right way to teach your dog to do a specific thing. Classes are more flexible than books and videos in adapting to you and your dog.
There are a lot ofgood books out there to help you learn about and understand your dog. I recommend that you go to the library and explore books by Patricia McConnell, Carol Benjamin, and Ian Dunbar. There are a lot of other fine books as well but it is a good place to start to find books that will suit yours needs. Once you find a book you like you can purchase it so that you can refresh your reading of it on occasion.
If you've got the general idea and are ready to commit time and energy into having a wonderful relationship with your dog then look at some dog training web sites. If I still haven't convinced you to take the time to train your dog, and to socialize it, then please find a good home for the dog.
When I sent this text to someone he asked me if I was getting bitter. The answer is yes, but I hope its not permanent, then I told him why I wrote this.
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Copyright © 1996-2003, Diane Blackman
Created: July 20, 1996 Updated: January 10, 2005
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